Love's picks resemble the past, with eye on the future

By Rex HoggardSeptember 12, 2016, 6:30 pm

“We’re laying the foundation.”

It’s become a common refrain, with Davis Love III telling anyone who would listen that the Ryder Cup – this Ryder Cup – is only the beginning.

This is about the next four Ryder Cups, not four captain’s picks – that’s the mission statement, the marching orders dictated by last year’s task force.

Those who dissect these sorts of things will look at Love’s first three picks and will see a new team that looks a lot like the old team. Rickie Fowler, who was also a pick in 2010 when he went 0-1-2; J.B. Holmes, a ’08 pick (2-0-1); and Matt Kuchar received the nod on Monday.

If some have confused a new outlook for a new team, consider that only Brooks Koepka, who qualified for the U.S. squad on points, has never played in the biennial matches. The task force, which has evolved into a committee, gave Love a blank canvas; but Captain America’s initial picks had the look of a paint-by-numbers project.

There were no double-takes, no surprises on Monday at Hazeltine National. If not the status quo, Love at the least adhered to a familiar formula of taking players that mesh well in the team room and match up with the existing team.

The task force didn’t create an autocracy, and Love is no Bill Belichick, although the captain did spend some time recently with the aloof New England head coach. The U.S. side wanted a players’ coach and got Pete Carroll.

But Love is not just a golf cart driver. According to various sources, the U.S. captain made the final call on the first three of his four picks – you know, leadership stuff that transpired behind closed doors.

“There was not a consensus early,” Love said of Monday’s picks. “We went back and forth on a lot of great players and it was a tough decision.”

For the record, Love went with Nos. 9, 11 and 12 on the U.S. Ryder Cup point list, which ended on Aug. 21. Again, that’s not exactly the outside-the-box dynamic some had been anticipating. But then Love and company weren’t brought together to make headlines in September, they were charged with turning around the United States’ fortunes in the matches in 2016 and beyond.

The U.S. hasn’t won back-to-back Ryder Cups since 1991-93, and is in danger of dropping its fourth consecutive this year, which has never happened.

The 41st Ryder Cup is about changing the culture, not the narrative of a never-ending news cycle.

“We got a new ownership. We changed the front office and started over again,” Love said. “[The PGA of America] gave us a voice. They are listening to the players. Not just for this year, but for the future.”

Love’s vice captains are either former or future captains, not the normal eclectic collection of friends and family; and the focus has been on treating the matches like one would a major. The “next man up” concept has been designed to give every vice captain and player a detailed plan for every conceivable scenario for this year and onward.

“You don't want to get too tied up in the results, but certainly what we're looking at is, are we able to play our best golf,” said Phil Mickelson, who has become something of a de facto vice captain for the U.S. team.

If Love’s three picks don’t exactly have the look of change, know that the real differences this time around will be much more subtle, but if everything goes to plan no less dramatic.

Whether this new culture results in a victory this year isn’t as relevant as what the impact will be on future matches.

“We have a lot more arrows in our quiver than we’ve had,” Love said. “We just need to fix a couple things. Get everyone on the same page, have a little continuity and consistency. We gain an advantage in everything we’ve been doing the last year, year and a half.”

For now, the instant analysis and hot takes must be deferred until after this year’s matches, if not the next five matches. The point of the task force, Love has argued, is to build a winning legacy, not a big enough lead heading into Sunday’s single matches to avoid another meltdown like the one that cost the U.S. team at Medinah four years ago.

But after dropping eight of the last 10 matches to Europe, Love and the Americans should not count on an endless honeymoon.

Rebuilding years may work in places like San Diego – honestly, the Padres haven’t been relevant in October since George W. Bush resided in the White House – but the American golf fan is generally not the patient type.

While Love and his fellow task force members may be taking a 30,000-foot view of the U.S. Ryder Cup team’s transformation, nothing brings out the worst in fans than a loss, particularly a loss after all apparent options have been exhausted.

A member of last year’s U.S. Ryder Cup task force recently asked who should get the credit for the changes the group has initiated? While well intentioned, your scribe couldn’t help but wonder who would get the blame?

At this point, it’s all a matter of perspective. But in three short weeks that subjectivity will be supplanted by results. Judging the task force’s relative success or failure based on a single Ryder Cup will be utterly unfair, and absolutely unavoidable.

In sports, there’s no other way.

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Levy wins Trophee Hassan for fifth European Tour title

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 6:32 pm

RABAT, Morocco - Alexander Levy finished with a 2-under 70 Sunday to win the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco by a shot from overnight leader Alvaro Quiros.

One off the lead overnight, Levy made two of his four birdies in his first five holes to hit the front and stayed ahead for the rest of the final day at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam course.

It was the 27-year-old Frenchman's fifth European Tour victory and he will take winning form to Beijing next week when he defends his China Open title.

Levy ended 8-under 280 overall, one ahead of Spain's Quiros, who closed with a second straight 72.

Full-field scores from the Trophee Hassan II

With his chasers pushing hard, Levy kept his cool after dropping a shot on No. 16. He birdied the short, par-3 No. 17 and made par at the last.

Quiros birdied his last two holes to make sure of second place outright. He needed an eagle on No. 18 to force a playoff.

A group of four players finished in a tie for third, including Italy's Andrea Pavan, who finished with a brilliant 6-under 66. Swedish pair Joakim Lagergren (70) and Alexander Bjork (70) and Finland's Mikko Ilonen (72) also shared third.

Levy had three other top 10 finishes in his five previous events this season and moved up to ninth on the European Tour's Race to Dubai points list.

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(Not that) Jutanugarn shares lead with (not that) Ko

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 1:58 am

LOS ANGELES - A player eager for her first win and a rookie top the leaderboard at the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open. Lurking two shots back is a Hall of Famer.

Winless Moriya Jutanugarn overcame a poor start and birdied the 18th for a hard-earned 1-under 70 to tie rookie Jin Young Ko at 9 under on Saturday at Wilshire Country Club.

Ko shot a 66 in her bid to become the year's first two-time LPGA winner. She won the Women's Australian Open in February, her first victory as an official tour member after a successful run on the Korean LPGA circuit.

''I'm ready for win or top 10, so maybe tomorrow I will really focus on shot by shot,'' said Ko, who added an exclamation point to her golf bag for each of her wins on the KLPGA. ''I won 11 times, so if I win tomorrow, maybe I change to 12. I need more, I need every time motivation.''

Jutanugarn is trying to match younger sister Ariya as a tour champion. Seven-time winner Ariya was tied for 27th after a 72 in the third round.

Usually when one of the Thai sisters is in the lead, the other will watch when her round is finished.

''If she's not too lazy, she is probably going to come out,'' Moriya said about Ariya.

Playing in an all-Korean threesome, Hall of Famer Inbee Park was two shots back in third after a 69. Her birdie putt for a share of the lead on 18 slid just by the hole. The group drew a large contingent of Korean fans.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

''I kind of started off a little bad. I was able to come back strong, so I'm really happy with that,'' Park said. ''I left a few putts out there. The greens around this golf course are just really tough. You just don't know what's going to happen.''

Moriya Jutanugarn's round included a double bogey on the par-4 first hole and a bogey on the par-4 sixth. She eagled the par-4 14th after holing out from the fairway 93 feet away. The ball took once bounce and went in, eliciting a stunned look from Jutanugarn before she high-fived her caddie.

''Today was kind of a pretty rough day for me with not a very good start and like trying to come back,'' Jutanugarn said. ''I just try to play my game and be patient out there I think is the key.''

Jutanugarn, the second-round leader, read the break perfectly on a long putt to make birdie on 18 and share the lead with Ko.

Playing two groups ahead of Jutanugarn, Caroline Inglis also eagled the 14th from 180 yards. She briefly jumped up and down and smiled after three bogeys and a double bogey. She shot a 69 and was four shots back in a tie for sixth with Minjee Lee.

''It was like one bounce and then it like trickled in,'' Inglis said.

Aditi Ashok eagled 14 early in the round.

Ko did some scrambling of her own. Her ball found a sandy hazard on the 17th with a scoreboard and a winding creek in between her and the green 190 yards away. Her approach landed just off the green and she made par. Her round included six birdies and a bogey on 16.

Eun-Hee Ji (70) and American Marina Alex (72) were tied for fourth at 6 under.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng shot a 70 and was in a six-way tie for 12th at 2 under.

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Defending champs Singh, Franco take senior lead

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 12:15 am

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco took the third-round lead Saturday in the windy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Singh and Franco shot a 7-under 47 in wind gusting to 20 mph on the Top of the Rock par-3 course to get to 19-under 145, a stroke ahead of the teams of David Toms-Steve Flesch and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett.

''It was a tough day,'' Singh said. ''The wind was swirling, have to get the club right and we made some putts. Carlos played really well on the back nine and I played really well on the front nine, so we ham-and-egged it a little.''

Toms and Flesch also shot 47, and Broadhurst and Triplett had a 33 on the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course.

''We just paired well together,'' Toms said. ''I don't think either one of us played great. We picked each other up out there.''

Wind and rain is expected Sunday when the teams finish at Top of the Rock, again playing the front nine in alternate shot and the back nine in better ball.

''Make as many birdies as possible and see what happens,'' Singh said. ''That's all we can do.''

Singh and Franco are trying to become the first to successfully defend a title since Jim Colbert and Andy North in 2001. Singh won the Toshiba Classic in March for his first individual senior title.

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Flesch won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic last week in Georgia for his first senior victory.

Tom Lehman and Bernhard Langer had a 34 at Mountain Top to join Spanish stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal at 17 under. Jimenez and Olazabal had a 33 at Mountain Top.

''It's great for me to be able to play with him as a team member,'' Olazabal said. ''We do have great memories from the Ryder Cup and other events, and it's always a great pleasure to play with a great player and a friend.''

Langer took the final-round forecast in stride.

''We've done it hundreds of times before and we'll probably do it again,'' Langer said. ''We'll make the best of it. We both have a good attitude. We're known to play in all sorts of weather and I just look forward to playing one more day with my partner here.''

Wisconsin neighbors Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly were 16 under after a 48 at Top of the Rock.

John Daly and Michael Allen, the second-round leaders after a 46 at Top of the Rock, had a 37 at Mountain Top to drop into a tie for seventh at 15 under.

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Landry shares Valero lead, eyes first career win

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 11:15 pm

After coming up just short of a breakthrough win earlier this season, Andrew Landry has another chance to earn his maiden victory at the Valero Texas Open.

Landry came within inches of winning the CareerBuilder Challenge in January, ultimately losing to Jon Rahm in a four-hole playoff. He struggled to find form in the wake of his close call, missing the cut in each of his four starts following his runner-up finish in Palm Springs.

But Landry took some time off to welcome his first child, Brooks, last month and he made it to the weekend in his first start back last week at the RBC Heritage, where he finished T-42. He made a move up the standings Saturday at TPC San Antonio with a bogey-free 67, and at 13 under shares the lead with Zach Johnson heading into the final round.

"I just did everything really good," Landry told reporters. "I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat, and I had a couple bad putts that I didn't really make. I'm happy with it, it's a good 5-under round. Gets me in the final group tomorrow and we'll see what happens."

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Landry started the day one shot off the pace and in the final group with Johnson and Ryan Moore, and at one point he took sole possession of the lead after birdies on three of his first six holes. Now he'll have another chance in the day's final tee time where he's grouped with Johnson and Trey Mullinax, who sits one shot back after firing a course-record 62 in the third round.

For Landry, it's another opportunity to break into the winner's circle, and it's one for which he feels prepared after coming so close three months ago.

"I mean, I don't want to go too deep into it because I don't want to sound cocky or anything, but I just believe in myself. There's no other explanation for it," Landry said. "You can totally get out here and play with Zach Johnson, Ryan Moore, two top players in the world, and you can go out there and fold under pressure or you can learn a lot.

"Zach's always been a role model to me the way he plays golf, I feel like we have very similar games, and it's just going to be fun tomorrow getting to play with him again."