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Spieth-Reed friction looms over U.S. team

By Ryan LavnerOctober 1, 2018, 4:34 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Patrick Reed apparently saved his best shot for after the Ryder Cup.

During a week when “Captain America” seemed to lose his superpowers, going 0-2 before a meaningless singles victory, Reed capped off a forgettable performance by taking a few swipes at his own teammates Sunday night.

The final question of the Americans’ closing news conference was directed at Reed and his longtime partner, Jordan Spieth, who were curiously separated last week despite having an 8-1-3 record together. Sitting on opposite ends of the dais, Reed shot Spieth a look that suggested he was about to go nuclear; Spieth wisely jumped in and claimed that everyone was “totally involved” in the decision to split, which U.S. captain Jim Furyk then refuted, saying that it was “totally my call.” The stories didn’t add up, and the European Tour moderator cut off Reed before he could answer.

An hour later, in a phone interview with The New York Times, Reed unloaded a week’s worth of frustration: He blamed the breakup on Spieth alone (“The issue is obviously with Jordan not wanting to play with me”); suggested there’s a “buddy system” that doesn’t weigh everyone’s input equally; and criticized Furyk’s decision to play him only twice in team matches (“For somebody as successful in the Ryder Cup as I am, I don’t think it’s smart to sit me twice”).

His last beef is misguided – Reed’s play the first two days was dreadful – but he was understandably annoyed. The Americans got smoked, and the Masters champion had been scuffling for months, and he probably wasn’t in the best frame of mind once he learned Spieth didn’t want to play with him and that, to him, the U.S. decision-makers were more interested in preserving friendships than earning points.

Would Reed have fared better reuniting with Spieth? Maybe, but if Spieth was no longer invested in the partnership, then that pairing was likely doomed, too. And besides, Spieth teamed nicely with Justin Thomas, with whom he’s been friends since childhood. It was up to Reed to find happiness after the breakup.

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To his credit, Furyk received plenty of media criticism in the immediate aftermath and brushed off the second-guessing as part of the job description: “I realize that as a leader of this team and as a captain, the brunt of it is going to be on my plate, and I accepted that when I took this role.”

He just didn’t expect the friendly fire from within his own team.

Like Phil Mickelson before him, however, Reed’s harsh commentary can’t be dismissed as merely the musings of a disgruntled team member – at the very least he shined light onto a controversy that was allowed to simmer throughout the week. Furyk, his vice captains and the veteran superstars should have fixed the communication breakdown and squashed any lingering animosity, for the good of the team.

Instead, with one interview, Reed unwittingly offered a glimpse into why Europe is so successful in the Ryder Cup and why the Americans can only try to manufacture camaraderie.

The Europeans, after all, have had no trouble folding polarizing players into the team dynamic – when’s the last time you heard of any discord or petty infighting? That speaks to the effectiveness of not only the captain and his assistants, but also the selflessness of the star players, who every two years put aside their differences for one week and one common goal.

“I just think we all get along so well,” Rory McIlroy said. “We’ve known each other for a long time, and there’s a continuity in our group that maybe the other side doesn’t quite have. … Obviously, we all have our separate lives going on, but once we get together for the Ryder Cup, we all come together as one.”

The Americans seem to understand the importance of that concept – they hung “Leave Your Egos at the Door” posters in the team room – but, according to Reed, have not yet fully embraced it.

“They do that better than us,” Reed told the Times, and thus Europe has won nine of the past 12 Ryder Cups.

Of course, there were no such complaints when the Americans crushed their opponents in 2016, but that cathartic victory looks more and more like a one-off. Hazeltine was tailor-made for the U.S. team’s bomb-and-gouge style, and the Europeans brought six rookies to a road game in what captain Thomas Bjorn now describes as a “transition” year. It’s telling that none of those first-timers made the team again in Paris.

The task now for the U.S. brass – and particularly the mild-mannered Steve Stricker, assumed to be the captain in 2020 – is deciding how to handle Reed’s public criticism. They’d be wise to allow him to air his grievances in full. Still just 28, he is likely to be a fixture on the team for years to come, and the Americans could use more passionate players like Reed, not fewer. If he’s shunned for speaking his mind, then his growing sense that there’s a “buddy system” in place will only be validated.

Reed may have been slightly more tactful than Mickelson’s press-room mutiny in 2014, but the message in both attacks is the same: Issues remain within the U.S. Ryder Cup team, and it’s the next captain’s job to fix them.

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Dunlap, in 'excruciating pain,' shares early Dominion lead

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:29 pm

RICHMOND, Va. – Scott Dunlap and Fran Quinn shot 5-under 67 on Friday to share the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Fighting a left wrist injury that will require surgery, Dunlap matched Quinn with a closing birdie on the par-5 18th on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''Maybe excruciating pain is the key to playing good golf because I'm not getting nervous on a shot, you're just trying to get through it,'' Dunlap said. ''The worst parts are gripping it and getting the club started ... that's when that bone hits that bone.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

The 55-year-old Dunlap entered the week 29th in the standings. Playing through the wrist injury, he's coming off ties for ninth and seventh in his last two starts.

''I think I finally taped it the right way,'' Dunlap said. ''Or maybe it's the pain meds kicking in. I don't know, one of the two.''

Quinn is 64th in the standings.

''I finished up strong last year, too, kind of secured my privileges for the following year making eagle on 18,'' Quinn said. ''I played solid all day. I had a lot of opportunities. A couple hiccups.''

Jay Haas was a stroke back with Kent Jones, Stephen Ames, Woody Austin and Tim Petrovic. The 64-year-old Haas won the last of his 18 senior titles in 2016.

Vijay Singh and Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, were at 69 with Joey Sindelar, Tom Gillis, Billy MayfairLee Janzen, Glen Day and Gene Sauers.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer opened with a 70. The 61-year-old German star won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the points lead. He has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

Defending Charles Schwab Cup champion Kevin Sutherland had a 71. He's 14th in the standings. No. 3 Jerry Kelly shot 72. No. 4 Scott McCarron, the 2016 tournament winner, had a 74.

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Weather continues to plague Valderrama Masters

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 7:55 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Marc Warren helped his chances of retaining his European Tour card by moving into a tie for second place behind Englishman Ashley Chesters at the rain-hit Andalucia Valderrama Masters on Friday.

Bad weather interrupted play for a second straight day at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain before darkness caused the second round to be suspended until Saturday, with overnight Chesters still ahead at 5-under.

Weather delays on Thursday, including a threat of lightning, had kept 60 golfers from finishing their opening round. They included Scottish player Warren, who went out on Friday and finished his first round with a 2-under 69.

He then made three birdies to go with one bogey on the first nine holes of the second round before play was halted. He joined Frenchman Gregory Bourdy one shot behind Chesters.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

''I'm hitting the ball as well as I have in a long time,'' Warren said. ''Hitting fairways and greens is the most important thing around here, so hopefully I wake up tomorrow with the same swing.''

Chesters and Bourdy were among several golfers unable to play a single hole in the second round on Friday.

Warren, a three-time European Tour winner, has struggled this season and needs a strong performance to keep his playing privileges for next year.

Currently ranked 144th, Warren needs to break into the top 116 to keep his card.

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Watch: Is this the up-and-down of the year?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 3:30 pm

Play away from the pin? Just because there's a tree in your way? Not Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Watch him channel some Arnie (or, more appropriately, some Seve) with this shot in the Valderrama Masters:

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Cut Line: Johnny's exit, Tiger's fatigue

By Rex HoggardOctober 19, 2018, 2:06 pm

In this week’s edition we bid farewell to the most outspoken and insightful analyst of his generation and examine a curious new interpretation that will require players to start paying attention to the small print.

Made Cut

Here’s Johnny. After nearly three decades Johnny Miller will hang up his microphone following next year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Miller called his first tournament as NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst in 1990 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and he told Cut Line this week that at 71 years old he’s ready to relax and spend time with his 24 grandchildren.

“I was the first guy with an open microphone,” Miller said. “That requires a lot of concentration. It’s not that I couldn’t do it but the handwriting was on the wall; it would be more of a challenge.”

Miller will be missed for his insight as much as his often-blunt deliveries, but it’s the latter that made him one of a kind.

A long ride to the right place. After nearly four years of legal wrangling a group of PGA Tour caddies dropped their class-action lawsuit against the circuit this week.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in early 2015 in an attempt by the caddies to secure marketing rights for the bibs they wear during tournaments as a way to create better healthcare and retirement benefits.

The district court largely ruled against the caddies and that ruling was upheld by an appeals court earlier this year, but better healthcare options may still be in the cards for the caddies.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies.

Sajtinac told Cut Line that the Tour has offered a potential increase to the longtime stipend they give caddies for healthcare and in a statement the circuit said talks are ongoing.

“The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

It’s rare when both sides of a lawsuit walk away feeling good about themselves, but this particular outcome appears to have ended with a favorable outcome for everybody involved.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A long haul. Tiger Woods acknowledged what many had speculated about, telling a group this week at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach that his season-ending push and his first victory in five years took a physical toll at the Ryder Cup.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

Woods went 0-4 for the U.S. team in France and appeared particularly tired on Sunday following the European victory at Le Golf National.

For Woods the result was worth the effort with his victory at the Tour Championship ending a five-year drought, but his play and concession that it impacted him at the Ryder Cup does create some interesting questions for U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who sent Woods out for both team sessions on Saturday.

Tweet(s) of the week: @BobEstesPGA (Bob Estes) “I spoke to a past Ryder Cup captain yesterday. We both agreed that there should be a week off before the [Ryder Cup] to adequately rest and prepare.”

Given Woods’ comments this week it seems likely he would agree that a break – which may become the norm with the Tour season ending three weeks earlier – would be helpful, but Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts had a slightly different take in response to Estes’ tweet. “I’m afraid a different schedule wasn’t gonna make the fairways wider. On that particular course with how we played, [the United States] had absolutely no chance. Hasn’t more than half the euros played playoffs too?” Colsaerts tweeted.

It’s never too early to get a jump on the 2020 trash talking.

Missed Cut

By the book. The USGA and R&A’s most recent rulemaking hill involved the use of green-reading materials. On Monday the game’s rule-makers unveiled new interpretations on what will be allowed starting next year.

Out will be the legal-sized reams of information that had become ubiquitous on Tour, replaced by pocket-sized books that will include a limited scale (3/8 inch to 5 yards).

While the majority of those involved were in favor of a scaled-back approach to what to many seemed like information overload, it did seem like a curious line to draw.

Both sides of the distance debate continue to await which way the rule-makers will go on this front and, at least in the United States, participation continues to be a challenge.

Banning the oversized green-reading books may have been a positive step, but it was a micro issue that impacted a wildly small portion of the golf public. Maybe it’s time for the rule-makers to start looking at more macro issues.