#AskLav: European RC team better on paper, real life

By Ryan LavnerAugust 28, 2014, 3:00 pm

Even Tom Watson concedes that the European Ryder Cup team is the clear favorite heading into Gleneagles. 

The question then is by how much.

If you’ve strapped on a helmet and read comment sections or social media in the past few weeks, you’ve probably seen predictions calling for everything from a U.S. loss by nightfall Saturday to an upset for the ages. 

Both captains will round out their 12-man rosters in separate nationally televised announcements on Tuesday (both live on Golf Channel!), but let’s be honest – a Hunter Mahan here or a Lee Westwood there won’t swing the outcome of these matches. To paraphrase a line from the great NFL coach Denny Green, these teams are who we think they are.

So let’s break it down on paper (where, you might have been reminded, no matches have ever been won): 

BEST PLAYER 

U.S.: Jim Furyk

Europe: Rory McIlroy 

Advantage: Europe

Furyk has been a human ATM this year and he’s finished outside the top 20 only once since March, but … the aging warrior hasn’t won since 2010, he has a terrible record in this event (9-17-1, including a demoralizing singles loss in 2012) and he’s failed to close out his last eight chances on Tour. Oy. Rory, meanwhile, assumes Tiger’s role as the biggest name at the Ryder Cup. He’s in great form, he’ll be sent out in all five matches, and if he gets on a roll Europe will win in a rout.   


CAPTAIN 

U.S.: Tom Watson

Europe: Paul McGinley 

Advantage: Europe

Watson is worshipped in Scotland and he has the Hall of Fame credentials, but you don’t hear any American team members shrieking, “Let’s win this one for Tom!”, like you might for other legends like Arnie or Jack. Fact is, McGinley is closer to his players – in both age and action. 


BENCH/CAPTAIN’S PICKS (note: three players per side selected Tuesday

U.S.: Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan, Brandt Snedeker, Webb Simpson, Brendon Todd, Ryan Moore, Bill Haas

Europe: Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Stephen Gallacher, Miguel Angel Jimenez

Advantage: U.S.

The best of all these options (American or European) is Mahan, who has three consecutive top-15s, including the Barclays win, though it should be noted that the other Team USA hopefuls have shown glimpses over the past month as well. There are many more unknowns on the European side. Poulter may be a Ryder Cup hero, but he won’t intimidate anyone if he continues to play this poorly; since the U.S. Open, he has three MCs and two other finishes outside the top 50. Westwood and Donald both have struggled mightily as well, opening the door for a player such as Gallacher, a Scotsman with an intriguing history at Gleneagles. 


X-FACTOR 

U.S.: Bubba Watson

Europe: Martin Kaymer

Advantage: U.S.

Bubba knows he’ll be under the microscope after the way he handled less-than-ideal conditions at Valhalla. With a reputation as a fair-weather player, he can sway a lot of opinions if he successfully bashes his way around Gleneagles – with a smile on his face. As for Kaymer, which guy are we going to see: The one who won the U.S. Open by eight, or the one who doesn’t have a top 10 since? 


BIGGEST QUESTION MARK

U.S.: Patrick Reed

Europe: Victor Dubuisson 

Advantage: U.S.

Slowly growing convinced that P-Reed will be America’s best player at Gleneagles. He’s a match-play dynamo (6-0 at NCAAs), he’s aggressive and he’s fiery, and he won’t be the least bit intimidated playing in a hostile arena. In fact, he relishes that environment. Put him with a similarly combustible partner – say, Rickie or Jordan Spieth – and one of the game’s most polarizing talents has an opportunity to win over a lot of fans. Dubuisson also fits in this category because, well, not even his teammates know what to expect in a few weeks.


BEST POTENTIAL PARTNERSHIP

U.S.: Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler

Europe: Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia

Advantage: Europe

Phil and Rickie are frequent practice-round partners and they put on a show Sunday at the PGA, but Watson likely will send out Mickelson with Bradley – at least early. Even their high-fiving, behind-smacking theatrics wouldn’t be enough to stop a Rory-Sergio tag team. It’d surprise little if that duo went 4-0 in team play.


THE OUTCOME

Anything can happen with professional athletes over three days in unpredictable Scottish weather, of course, but we’re unofficially setting the over/under for the Europeans’ margin of victory at 4.5. 


 

 

 

 

What’s not to like about the FedEx Cup playoffs? It is four weeks of elite fields on great golf courses at a time of year when more people are concerned with their fantasy football drafts than PGA Tour leaderboards. That said, enough head-scratching elements remain that keep the playoffs from cracking the crowded mainstream sports landscape:

1.) Points breakdown. How are the playoffs worth FIVE times the points of a regular-season event? By winning The Barclays, Mahan received the same number of points as if he’d also captured the Farmers Insurance Open, Honda Classic, Houston Open, Colonial and Quicken Loans National. Stuart Appleby didn’t have a top 10 since March, but by leading The Barclays on Sunday he was projected to move to No. 1 – ahead of Rory, Jimmy and Bubba. It’s hilariously lopsided. 

2.) No punishment for skipping events. A tough rule to enforce, particularly when there are four events in a row like 2014 (on top of an already hectic late-summer schedule), but there is no deterrent for top players to skip an event. The New England Patriots’ players are probably tired too, but they can’t just skip the divisional round. This is a bad look for golf’s so-called postseason.  

3.) A more compelling Tour Championship. The competition, not the money, should be the point of emphasis. A $10 million bonus might be life-changing cash for you and me, but for the Tour’s superstars it’s merely a cool reward for a nice season. Ditch the monotonous 72-hole format in favor of a 36-hole qualifier, then a win-or-go-home match-play bracket on the weekend for the top eight … with the $10 million on the line. That’d be must-see TV. 


 

 

FedEx Cup titles by Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, Jimmy Walker or Martin Kaymer would make the conversation a lot more interesting, but right now Rory McIlroy leads the race by a rather substantial margin. He’s No. 1 in the Tour’s strokes gained category, No. 1 in birdie average, No. 1 in scoring and No. 3 in the all-around ranking. Everyone remembers the three wins in a row (including two majors), but he’s also been in the top 25 in all 14 of his starts. Compare that to a player like, say, Kaymer, whose only two top-10s this calendar year have been victories. 


 

 

See the top of this mailbag for a 722-word answer. Abridged version: The Americans have a chance, but they’ll have to play out of their minds – and the Europeans will have to sleepwalk. 


 

 

Didn’t specify which side, so here are Captain Lavner’s picks for both the Americans and Europeans:

U.S.: Bradley, Snedeker, Mahan. All three have Ryder Cup experience; all three have shown good form in the past month; and it never hurts to have an above-average (Bradley) and excellent (Sneds) putter on the bench. Throw in the revenge factor for Mahan, given what transpired during his last Ryder Cup overseas, and this trio should inject some passion into the proceedings.  

Europe: Westwood, Poulter, Donald. The first two are locks, but keep a close eye on both Donald (Boston) and Gallacher (Italy) this week. If one plays well and the other falters, that should seal their fates. Gallacher, who lives 40 kilometers from Gleneagles and lost in a playoff there last year, needs a T-2 finish in the Euro Tour event to bump G-Mac for the last automatic spot. If that happens, you can bet Donald will be the odd man out. 


 

 

The rare college golf question! Love it. I’m filling out my preseason top 5 as I type this, and the Longhorns are safely among that company. Texas’ roster is one that every agent can love – a who’s who of can’t-miss junior prospects who comprise the year’s most compelling team to watch. From Beau Hossler (who led the U.S. Open at 17) to 2013 U.S. Junior champion Scottie Scheffler to 2014 U.S. Publinx runner-up Doug Ghim, this is a team with national-title aspirations, and for good reason. Make sure to check GolfChannel.com on Tuesday, Sept. 8 for the rollout of our college preview, including stories, rankings and watch lists.


 

 

Of course! Just giving the (seven) people what they want. 

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”