Watson's captain's picks want redemption in Scotland

By Rex HoggardSeptember 3, 2014, 1:28 am

NEW YORK – Where players like Hunter Mahan, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson see redemption, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson can sense an edge, however slight and subtle.

If the U.S. side is going to end a road game victory drought that extends back more than two decades it will be this psychological distinction that will lift them over the paper lions in Scotland.

An often-repeated sentiment during Tuesday’s captain’s picks announcement from Studio 8H at 30 Rock, atonement, be it for the 2012 meltdown at Medinah or the mudslide in ’10 at Celtic Manor, seems to be a singular focus for players and captain.

“Redemption is going to be a strong word among the players,” said Mahan, who was announced as Watson’s second selection. “Europe has flat out kicked our butt in recent years.”

Simpson, who was a member of the ’12 team that booted a 10-6 advantage heading into Sunday’s singles play, echoed those comments, “It was a week I’ll never forget. It was a week we were playing so well we knew we were going to win,” he said.

And Bradley, whose pain from the last matches ran so deep he has yet to unpack his bag for the week, “We’re always trying to fight and keep it down, but that (loss) is always there,” he said.

Watson played along, fanning the competitive flames in search of an advantage, a spark, maybe even a ploy, to wrest the U.S. team out of a slide that has included seven loses in the last nine matches.

“Every player in this team will go in there thinking about Medinah. They will know, I don’t have to tell them,” the captain said. “I know how it hurt me. I watched it and for three days I had a big hole in my stomach.”

While Bradley, the American side’s answer to Ian Poulter, and Mahan, whose victory at last month’s Barclays likely pushed him over the top, seemed to be the proverbial low-hanging fruit for captain Tom, Simpson’s selection is sure to draw scrutiny in the weeks leading up to the matches.

Watson admitted that he came to the conclusion Simpson was the right man for the final pick over the likes of Chris Kirk, Bill Haas and Brandt Snedeker early Tuesday when he glanced down at the litany statistics from past matches.

“I looked down and saw 5 and 4, and just kept thinking 5 and 4, 5 and 4, 5 and 4,” said Watson, referring to Simpson and Bubba Watson’s Day 2 four-ball victory over Justin Rose and Francesco Molinari.

There were other factors involved, including Simpson’s PGA Tour record last fall and his vocal desire to make the team, but it was that match, which seemed to stem a European rally, that convinced Watson he needed to be on that team.

Armchair captains will question why Kirk didn’t get the pick. The would-be Ryder Cup rookie outplayed world No. 1, and European anchor, Rory McIlroy over the final 36 holes last week at TPC Boston to win the Deutsche Bank Championship and he has gained more World Ranking points over the last 12 months (163) than all of the other potential picks.

“Webb was the toughest of the decisions. He had some good play and some bad play lately,” Watson said. “There were other people in the mix. I even thought about Brooks Koepka. I did a lot of scouting. People have to realize that (Kirk’s play at the Deutsche Bank Championship) is a snapshot. You have to look at the total package and the total picture.”

When the PGA of America named Watson captain of this year’s matches it was clear they were eyeing a leader with an outside-the-box mentality, and one could argue his picks fall into that category considering that Bradley was 13th on the U.S. point list, Simpson was 15th and Mahan completed the automatic selection process ranked 25th.

By comparison, in 2012 then-captain Davis Love III selected Jim Furyk (No. 11 on the point list), Brandt Snedeker (No. 13) and Dustin Johnson (No. 15); while Corey Pavin went with Tiger Woods (No. 12), Stewart Cink (No. 14) and Rickie Fowler (No. 20).

Even Paul Azinger, the maverick who overhauled the selection system in 2008, didn’t color as far outside the lines as Watson when he selected Steve Stricker (No. 10), Hunter Mahan (No. 13), J.B. Holmes (No. 18) and Chad Campbell (No. 21).

But this is, after all, the same captain who made Raymond Floyd and Lanny Wadkins his picks in 1993 when the veterans were 22nd and 32nd, respectively, on the U.S. point list.

If these matches follow the same path as they did in ’93, the last time the U.S. won a Ryder Cup on European soil, Watson’s selections will be remembered as inspired. If not, the second-guessing will likely begin with his picks. They always do.

But on Tuesday in the heart of Manhattan as each player talked about redemption, Watson saw a reason to be optimistic.

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Kang on cheating allegation: 'I did the right thing'

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 1:26 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Three weeks after his playing partner claimed that he “cheated,” taking an improper drop at the Quicken Loans National, Sung Kang insisted Thursday that he did nothing wrong.

Joel Dahmen tweeted that Kang cheated after a lengthy dispute about where his ball had last crossed the line of a hazard. A PGA Tour official ruled in Kang’s favor. Kang made par on the hole, shot 64 and earned one of the available spots in the Open Championship.

Kang didn’t learn of the controversy until the next day, when he received an email from a PGA Tour communications official seeking comment. He researched online what the furor was about, then issued a brief statement through the Tour (which added its own statement, saying that there was “no clear evidence” to suggest that Kang dropped incorrectly).

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Kang said he tried to clear the air with Dahmen before the first round of last week’s John Deere Classic, but they never had the opportunity to discuss their differences.

“I followed the rules official and I think I did the right thing,” Kang told a handful of reporters Thursday following his opening round at Carnoustie, where he shot a 2-under 69 to sit three shots off the early lead.

Kang said he was hesitant to discuss the incident with reporters, because he said there clearly was a difference in opinions. He said he’d already told his side to South Korean news outlets but that “whatever I say, some people are going to trust it and some people are not going to trust it. Then I’ve got to think about it more and more when it’s not going to help my golf game.”

“I really want to say a lot of things about it, the truth about what happened,” he added, “but I’m not going to say anything.”

Kang said that he wouldn’t alter his approach when dealing with rulings in the future.

“No. Why?” he said. “I did the right thing. There’s no point in changing.”

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Kisner (67) enjoying 'frat' life, soccer matches with Jordan and Co.

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 12:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The frat house tradition continued this year at The Open, with a group of seven high-profile Americans rooming together for the week, including early first-round leader Kevin Kisner.

Kisner explained after his opening 5-under 66 that the group – which includes Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler – has spent the week talking about how demanding Carnoustie is playing and enjoying the summer weather.

“We're out there playing soccer at night and hanging out,” he said.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

To be clear, this isn’t a proper soccer match, but instead a penalty-kick situation with all but one player taking turns trying to score.

“I just try to smash [Dufner] in the face,” Kisner laughed. “He's the all-time goalie.”

Although Kisner said he’s always impressed with the athletic prowess of other players, Spieth has proven himself particularly adept on the impromptu pitch.

“Jordan scored when Duf tripped, it was hilarious,” Kisner smiled. “[Spieth] is good until he sends it over the goal four houses over, and we've got to go knock on a neighbor’s door for the soccer ball.”

The group is actually staying in two local houses that are next to each other, one with a large enough back yard and a soccer net, but perhaps not enough soccer balls.

“We’re going to have to Amazon Prime a couple new balls to replace the ones we lost,” Kisner said.

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Van Rooyen continues links run with impressive 67

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 12:27 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For Erik van Rooyen familiarity has not bred contempt.

The South African, like many European Tour players, has been on a links golf odyssey the last three weeks, playing the Irish Open, Scottish Open and this week’s Open Championship in consecutive weeks, and the crash course paid off on Day 1 at Carnoustie when he opened with a 4-under 67 to assure himself a spot among the early leaders.

Although van Rooyen missed the cut last week just down the coast at Gullane Golf Club, he entered the final round in Ireland with a four-stroke lead.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I didn't pull it off the final day,” said van Rooyen, who closed with a 74 to tie for fourth place. “I still think I played pretty well. I was nervous. That's completely normal, and I'll learn how to deal with that. I'll take that experience into tournaments like this.”

Van Rooyen, who was alone in second place when he completed his round, began his round with back-to-back birdies and was bogey-free until the last hole. It was just what one would expect from a player who has immersed himself in links golf for the better part of a month.

“We've been playing nice golf now the last three weeks, so definitely used to the way this course is playing, definitely used to handling the wind,” he said. “So I'll be ready.”