Unconventional U.S. captures Presidents Cup

By Rex HoggardNovember 20, 2011, 9:01 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – It’s called an Aussie “hook turn,” a white-knuckle, precarious kind of thing that somehow produces order from anarchy.

That’s what International captain Greg Norman had in mind when he front-loaded his Sunday card – dart into traffic from the far lane against a red light and beat the odds. Beat history.

He needed points, fast, and more than a little help from the American side of the Presidents Cup draw.

Early on a windswept Sunday the International ride remained unscathed. By the time the trailing matches reached the turn Norman’s grand plan was staying to script. The home side was up big in the first four matches and leading or all square in four of the next eight.

The problem with the “hook turn,” however, is the law of diminishing returns. Despite the Internationals' hot start, despite closing the gap to 14-16, the oncoming American traffic proved too much for Norman & Co.

For the second consecutive Presidents Cup, Tiger Woods secured the winning point for the United States, dismantling Aaron Baddeley, 4 and 3, in his most commanding performance of the week, and becoming the first captain’s pick to clinch.

“A lot of people have asked why I picked him and how he was going to play,” U.S. captain Fred Couples said. “I think he showed himself that his swing is back and he’s healthy, and that’s more important to me.”

Hoggard: Grading players, captains

Match by match: Singles recaps

Couples answered Norman’s quick-start strategy with a more balanced lineup weighted with veterans late in his card in hopes of undercutting any potential International rally. In order American staples Jim Furyk, David Toms, Woods and Steve Stricker closed out the ninth Presidents Cup, a week that began, fittingly enough, with an unlikely pair of American rookies leading the way.

If Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, Presidents Cup first-timers who led the way in team play with a 3-0 start, made a statement at Royal Melbourne, Woods at least made progress.

For the week he was 2-3-0, matching his worst Presidents Cup record since his rookie start in 1998, and opened with the most lopsided loss in match history, a 7-and-6 hammering by Adam Scott and K.J. Choi.

In between he scratched out his lone team win, a 1-up decision in Saturday’s morning foursome session, and left little doubt in his singles match, making five birdies in 11 holes and closing out the Aussie rookie, 4 and 3.

Through three 'seasons' and as many different winds, Woods navigated the classic layout with near-flawless ball-striking and a faulty grasp of the pitched putting surfaces. On Sunday, following a putting tip from Stricker before his round, he added the missing element.

Woods rolled in birdie putts of 4, 17, 21, 17, 4 and 2 feet on Nos. 2, 5, 6, 10, 11 and 15, respectively – nearly matching his birdie total (eight) for the week. The man who played 16 holes without a lead, or a birdie, never trailed on Sunday and halted what would have been the first Sunday comeback in Presidents Cup history.

“I'm very pleased with the progress I've made with Sean (Foley) and it's finally paying off under pressure. It held up nicely last week at the (Australian) Open and it held up nicely this week,” Woods said.

That the Americans entered Sunday’s final frame with a 13-9 lead largely without the services of Woods is only the tip of one of the most curious Cups.

Simpson and Watson played the perfect leadoff men, blanking the Internationals in three consecutive sessions, while Furyk and Phil Mickelson, who had assumed the role of mentor in recent Cups, also opened with a 3-0 week.

“I have a feeling (Mickelson) probably asked to play with me because I felt like he could get a lot out of me,” said Furyk, the only player to post a 5-0 record at Royal Melbourne. “He’s got a great leadership quality in these events. I struggled this year and he kind of took me under his wing and kind of boosted my confidence.”

In Sunday singles Lefty played like he needed a partner, conceding his first three holes to Adam Scott and three-putting from 5 ½ feet to go 4 down. By the time the Australian finally closed Mickelson out, 2 and 1, the Cup was virtually decided.

If Norman’s Sunday plan fell short, Couples’ collection of victories large and small seemed more of the happenstance variety. On Tuesday night Mickelson and Furyk surprised the captain with their request to play together, and sending a pair of rookies out in the first foursome match – as Watson and Simpson requested – blatantly violates every captain’s conventional wisdom.

If Paul Azinger’s victory at the 2008 Ryder Cup was calculating, Couples’ second consecutive Presidents Cup triumph was, by every measure, by committee.

The “players’ captain” was more interested in going with the flow than finding the perfect formula. Note to future captains – this is not brain surgery.

“One thing we have done in the last four years is, you know, I have Tiger and Phil and Stricker and Jimmy, in the team room making every decision,” Couples said. “We're a team. I'm the captain but we are a team all day long all week long. I'm not telling Jim Furyk when to play and what slot to be in. And then they give me all the information on the younger players, too. So it worked out really well in San Francisco, and it worked out well here.”

For the week Couples defied conventional wisdom and the Americans defied the odds on a layout that was billed as a friendly-confines advantage for the Internationals. To play Royal Melbourne, the pundits figured, you needed experience, the one thing the Americans had no way of gaining.

It’s why Norman burned one of his captain’s picks on Robert Allenby, languishing at 69th in the World Golf Ranking and a decade removed from his last Tour title, but the Australian had history at Royal Melbourne.

For the week Allenby didn’t earn a point while the Americans plowed through even more articles of faith.

“I’ve been so impressed with the way the Americans have adapted to the conditions,” assistant International captain Frank Nobilo said. “You wouldn’t think that. This is supposed to be our home course, but they’ve adapted very well.”

It was in Sunday’s second-to-last group where Couples plowed through the ultimate Cup dogma.

With the U.S. just five points shy of victory, some viewed Woods’ penultimate spot on the Sunday card as an attempt to “hide” a player who had struggled mightily on Royal Melbourne’s greens and posted a 1-3-0 record in team play. To Couples he was an insurance policy.

Where the world saw a liability still rediscovering a putting touch that’s been MIA for two calendars, Couples saw a backstop that would stem the tide if need be, regardless of form or recent history.

In Melbourne’s maze of congested streets the “hook turn” works, against all odds and any reasonable regard for personal safety. At Royal Melbourne it was a maneuver of a different type that extended the Americans' hold on the Presidents Cup to seven matches – the U-turn.

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Watch: Koepka highlights from the Travelers

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 21, 2018, 3:30 pm

U.S. Open hangover? Not for Brooks Koepka. The two-time national champion has carried over his form and confidence from Shinnecock Hills to TPC River Highlands.

Koepka began his round with a par at the par-4 10th and then reeled off four consecutive birdies, beginning at No. 11.

And here is the capper at the 14th

Koepka turned in 4-under 31. Here's more action from his opening nine holes.

After a par at the first, Koepka added a fifth birdie of the day at the par-4 second.

A bogey at the par-4 fourth dropped him to 4 under, but just one off the lead.

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Lyle going through 'scary' period in cancer recovery

By Associated PressJune 21, 2018, 12:58 pm

MELBOURNE, Australia – Jarrod Lyle's wife says the Australian golfer is struggling through a ''really scary'' period in his third battle with cancer.

Lyle, 36, underwent a bone marrow transplant last December following a recurrence of acute myeloid leukemia.

''It's been 190 days since Jarrod's stem-cell transplant and we are going through a really rough patch at the moment,'' Briony Lyle wrote on jarrodlylegolf.com. ''I'm typing this blog on his behalf because he's not able to do it. Jarrod's not able to drive, struggles to prepare any food for himself, can't read stories to the girls and is not able to offer much help at all around the house.

''He is also starting to look like a very frail, sick person.''

Briony Lyle added: ''We are both very aware of the amount of drugs and medication that has gone into Jarrod's body over the years but things are starting to get really scary at the moment. It looks as if this recovery is going to be the longest and hardest one so far.''

Lyle has twice beaten acute myeloid leukemia, in 1998 and 2012, and was able to return to play professional golf.

He made an emotional comeback to the golf course during the 2013 Australian Masters in Melbourne before using a medical exemption to play on the PGA Tour in 2015. He played four seasons on Tour, where he earned $1.875 million in 121 tournaments.

Lyle has since returned to Australia permanently to be with Briony and daughters Lusi and Jemma.

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Vermeer wins PGA Professional; 20 make PGA Championship

By Associated PressJune 21, 2018, 12:42 pm

SEASIDE, Calif. – Ryan Vermeer won the PGA Professional Championship on Wednesday, overcoming front-nine problems to top the 20 qualifiers for the PGA Championship.

The 40-year-old Vermeer, the director of instruction at Happy Hollow Club in Omaha, Nebraska, closed with a 1-over 73 on the Bayonet Course for a two-stroke victory over Sean McCarty and Bob Sowards.

The PGA Championship is in August at Bellerive in St. Louis.

Three strokes ahead entering the day, Vermeer played the front in 4 over with a double bogey on the par-4 second and bogeys on the par-4 seventh and par-4 eighth. He rebounded with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-4 11th and also birdied the par-5 18th.

Full-field scores from the PGA Professional Championship

Vermeer finished at 5-under 283. The former University of Kansas player earned $55,000. He won the 2017 Mizuno Pro/Assistant Championship and finished ninth last year in the PGA Professional to qualify for PGA at Quail Hollow.

McCarty had a 68, and Sowards shot 69. Sowards won the 2004 title.

David Muttitt and Jason Schmuhl tied for fourth at 1 under, and 2012 and 2015 champion Matt Dobyns, Jaysen Hansen, and Johan Kok followed at even par.

Marty Jertson, Brian Smock and Ben Kern were 1 over, and Zach Johnson, Craig Hocknull, Matt Borchert and 2016 winner Rich Berberian Jr. were 2 over. Nine players tied at 3 over, with Shawn Warren, 2017 champion Omar Uresti, 2014 winner Michael Block, Craig Bowden and Danny Balin getting the last five spots at Bellerive in a playoff. Balin got the final spot, beating Brian Norman with a par on the seventh extra hole after Norman lost a ball in a tree.

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Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”