U.S. players not picky when it comes to pairings

By Rex HoggardOctober 5, 2015, 12:08 pm

INCHEON, South Korea – For once, Jay Haas could use some old-fashioned self-absorbed narcissism, the kind of selfishness professional athletes are known for, and the American dozen want no part of it.

For weeks now Haas, the captain of this week’s U.S. Presidents Cup team, has tried to pick the collective’s thoughts on potential pairings for this week’s matches and more times than not the answer has been less than helpful.

“I’m glad he’s asking and I have a bit of a voice, but I would be happy with anyone,” said Jordan Spieth, the highest-ranked player on the team.

Bill Haas, Jay’s son and one of three captain’s picks (including J.B. Holmes who was a last-minute replacement for Jim Furyk), echoed those sentiments. “You’d embrace that pairing, whatever it may be. I don’t think I’d ever look at a pairing and think, you know this doesn’t suit my eye. I don’t think I’d ever say that,” he said.

While that’s exactly the kind of team attitude one would expect from a group that spends 51 weeks a year playing for the proverbial team of one, Captain Haas was looking for a little more insolence when he began polling players for potential pairings.

“To be honest, I look at it as it’s the top players in the world and I’d love to play with any of them,” Bill Haas said. “I don’t really have a preference and that’s not really what my dad wants to hear. He wants everyone to give exactly who they want to play with. He wants to hear what people think.”

Much of that unfiltered feedback is likely coming from Fred Couples, who captained the last three U.S. Presidents Cup teams, and Davis Love III, the 2014 Ryder Cup captain, who are both serving as Haas’ assistants this week.

Previous team history, either at the Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup, will also be a guide for Jay Haas, but there are limitations to using past pairings.

Bill Haas, for example, has played in two Presidents Cups (2011 and ’13), but of his five partners in those matches just one, Matt Kuchar, is on this year’s team at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea.

Similarly, Spieth went 2-1 at the 2013 Presidents Cup paired with Steve Stricker, who is an assistant on this year’s team, and Jay Haas will likely look to the 22-year-old’s Ryder Cup record to find him a teammate.

“I thought Patrick [Reed] and I had some success in best ball [the duo went 2-0 in that format at last year’s Ryder Cup],” Spieth said. “There’s a chance of [Zach Johnson] or [Dustin Johnson], I’d like to play with any of them.”

Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker also played well together last year at Gleneagles, halving all four team matches and setting the stage for a sequel this week in South Korea.

But the most insight into what Captain Haas may do this week with his pairings could be gleaned from Monday’s tee sheet. Recent captains for both the Presidents and Ryder Cups have used a modified version of Paul Azinger’s “pods” system when crafting pairings and that seems to be the plan this week.

“We’re going to be paired up in kind of like pods in the practice rounds,” Bill Haas said. “If you see practice round groupings you can safely say a lot of those guys will be paired together.”

Monday’s groups in Korea included an early-morning five-some of Reed, Fowler, Walker, Dustin Johnson and Chris Kirk, which given each player’s game and team history was replete with possible pairings.

Holmes, Bubba Watson and Bill Haas were in the day’s second group, a move that could suggest a possible power four-ball pairing of the American bombers in fourball play; and Spieth, Zach Johnson and Phil Mickelson – who joined the duo at the turn – headed out last.

Johnson has a similar demeanor and game as Stricker and would be a potential foursomes partner for Spieth; while Mickelson has been teamed with younger players in recent years and is a regular practice-round partner with Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Walker, who all share the same swing coach (Butch Harmon).

Tuesday and Wednesday’s groupings will likely offer more insight into what Jay Haas has in mind for this week’s matches, but Captain America probably shouldn’t count on much selfish input from his players – at least not this week.

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DJ, McIlroy, Spieth listed as PGA betting favorites

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 1:38 pm

Three majors are in the books, but there's still one more trophy up for grabs in two weeks' time.

While next year The Open will signal the end of the 2019 major season amid a revamped calendar, this is the final year that the PGA Championship will be held in August. The tournament returns next month to Bellerive Country Club outside St. Louis, which last hosted the PGA when Nick Price won in 1992 and hasn't hosted a PGA Tour event since Camilo Villegas won the 2008 BMW Championship.

Oddsmakers at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook published PGA betting odds shortly after the final putt dropped at Carnoustie and Francesco Molinari left with the claret jug. Topping the board are a trio of major champions: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, all listed at 12/1.

McIlroy won the PGA in both 2012 and 2014, while Spieth needs only the Wanamaker Trophy to round out the career Grand Slam. Johnson has recorded four top-10s in the PGA, notably a T-5 finish at Whistling Straits in 2010 when a few grains of sand kept him out of a playoff with Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson.

Fresh off a T-6 finish in Scotland, Tiger Woods headlines the group listed at 16/1, behind only the three co-favorites as he looks to win a 15th career major.

Here's a look at the betting odds for a number of contenders, with the opening round of the PGA just 17 days away:

12/1: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth

16/1: Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

18/1: Justin Rose

20/1: Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari, Jason Day

30/1: Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama

40/1: Henrik Stenson, Alex Noren, Paul Casey

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Webb Simpson

80/1: Adam Scott, Zach Johnson, Kevin Kisner

100/1: Ian Poulter, Thomas Pieters, Tyrrell Hatton, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Daniel Berger, Kevin Chappell, Brian Harman, Brandt Snedeker, Charley Hoffman

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Molinari moves to No. 6 in world with Open win

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:31 pm

After breaking through for his first career major title, Francesco Molinari reached some rarified air in the latest installment of the Official World Golf Rankings.

The Italian's two-shot win at Carnoustie moved him up nine spots to No. 6 in the world, not surprisingly a new career high. But it's also a quick ascent for Molinari, who has now won three of his last six worldwide starts and was ranked No. 33 in the world after missing the cut at The Players Championship two months ago.

A share of second place helped Xander Schauffele jump from No. 24 to No. 18 in the updated standings, while the same result meant Kevin Kisner went from No. 33 to No. 25. Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy both went up one spot after T-2 finishes to No. 2 and No. 7, respectively - a new career high for Rose.

The drama in the rankings unfolded at No. 50, as Tiger Woods moved up 21 spots to exactly No. 50 following his T-6 finish. While some projections had him moving to 51st, Woods was able to sneak into the top 50 just in time to qualify for a return to the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, as the top 50 in the rankings both this week and next qualify for Akron.

That includes Zach Johnson, last year's runner-up who was not yet qualified but moved from No. 52 to No. 49 this week. It also includes Kevin Chappell, who went from 61st to 47th with a T-6 finish in Scotland.

Despite missing the cut at Carnoustie, Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1 for another week followed by Rose, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Molinari is now at No. 6, with McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Jason Day rounding out the top 10.

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Simpson overtakes DeChambeau in Ryder Cup race

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:09 pm

A T-12 finish at The Open allowed Webb Simpson to move past Bryson DeChambeau into the eighth and final automatic qualifying spot in the U.S. Ryder Cup points race with just three weeks to go.

Simpson finished the week at 3 under, five shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. Adding another strong result to his win at TPC Sawgrass and T-10 finish at the U.S. Open, he's now edged in front of DeChambeau by less than 41 points. But with players earning one point per $1,000 each of the next two weeks and 1.5 points per $1,000 at the PGA Championship, the race is far from over.

Jordan Spieth's T-9 finish strengthened his position at No. 6, as the top six players are essentially assured of qualifying automatically. Rickie Fowler held onto his spot at No. 7, while Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner both moved onto the bubble following T-2 finishes at Carnoustie. After a T-6 finish, Tiger Woods jumped from 31st to 20th.

Here's a look at the updated American standings, with the top eight after the PGA qualifying automatically and captain Jim Furyk adding four picks in September:

1. Brooks Koepka

2. Dustin Johnson

3. Patrick Reed

4. Justin Thomas

5. Bubba Watson

6. Jordan Spieth

7. Rickie Fowler

8. Webb Simpson

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9. Bryson DeChambeau

10. Phil Mickelson

11. Xander Schauffele

12. Matt Kuchar

13. Kevin Kisner

14. Tony Finau

15. Brian Harman

On the European side, Molinari was already in position to qualify automatically but is now assured of a spot on Thomas Bjorn's roster this fall. Fellow major champs Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy also solidified their footing with runner-up performances.

Here's a look at how things look for the Europeans, with the top four from each list after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:

European Points

1. Francesco Molinari

2. Justin Rose

3. Tyrrell Hatton

4. Tommy Fleetwood

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Thorbjorn Olesen

Russell Knox

Eddie Pepperell

World Points

1. Jon Rahm

2. Alex Noren

3. Rory McIlroy

4. Paul Casey

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Matthew Fitzpatrick

Sergio Garcia

Ian Poulter

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.