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Despite Price's hope, a(nother) loss looks unavoidable

By Will GraySeptember 30, 2017, 12:07 am

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – As Phil Mickelson was busy hammering the latest nail into the International team’s hastily-built coffin, Nick Price stood just off the green with his arms crossed and offered little reaction.

He stared straight ahead, shielded by sunglasses and flanked by his quartet of assistants, before offering three half-hearted claps of acknowledgement. The reluctant applause was directed toward Mickelson, but it may as well have been to the entire American team.

Whatever chance the International squad had to win the 12th edition of the Presidents Cup – or even to make it a competitive affair – flew out the window Friday afternoon during a U.S. rally that turned the fourballs session on its head. What remains is an anticlimactic close to these biennial matches, with the end result hardly in doubt.

And as that realization became more and more apparent, Price could do little more than sift through the rubble for platitudes.

“Tough day for us, again. Another one,” Price said. “I think we saw the strength of the U.S. team come out today, but in all fairness to my guys, I don’t think they played as well as they were capable of. It was just a tough day.”

The scope of the hole Price’s team has dug for itself is rather daunting, and it’s the product of poor play coinciding with an American buzzsaw that seemed fully operational coming down the stretch.

While the home team got out to its traditional lead during the opening foursomes session, the historical record between the two squads in fourballs is much more balanced. This was the session Price’s team used to spark a comeback two years ago in South Korea, and for a while it seemed they might pull off a similar feat while leading three of the five matches for much of the afternoon.

But that advantage turned out to be a mirage, evaporating like the seaside mist over a 90-minute window that transformed the American lead from comfortable to nearly insurmountable.

What was left is the largest advantage ever after two sessions in the 23-year history of this event, and the not-so-farfetched idea that the U.S. could clinch this thing before Sunday.


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“It’s obviously not the best of moods going through right now,” said Adam Hadwin, who teamed with Hideki Matsuyama for a draw against Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed that prevented a clean sweep. “It’s obviously going to be a tall task. They are playing well, and they are also some of the best players in the world.”

Price tried to lean on the raw math, noting accurately that two-thirds of the total points are still to be contested. But in need of a rally of historic proportions, it’s difficult to discern where the Internationals go from here.

Consider the facts: their top-ranked player, Matsuyama, basically asked Price to be subbed out for the third session after appearing shaky at best in his first two matches. Their most experienced veteran, Adam Scott, is sitting at 0-2, and the indestructible duo of Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen was, well, destroyed by Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler.

In his third stint as captain, Price was expected to learn from his close call in Korea and the thumping administered by the Americans four years ago at Muirfield Village. Instead, he has appeared flummoxed at every turn while Stricker has displayed a Midas touch from the other side of the table.

Perhaps there was a way for Price to crack the code, to overcome all the advantages the Americans enjoy from depth to camaraderie and home-field advantage. But maybe this was simply a fool’s errand.

“It’s difficult. I don’t know what the recipe is,” Price admitted. “This is my third time around, I’m still trying to figure it out. But we got very close to the right recipe the last time, so hopefully we can remedy that on the weekend.”

Still shy of the halfway point, there’s already plenty of opportunity to second-guess Price’s strategic choices. Rather than save the heavyweight pairing of Grace and Oosthuizen for a match where he could dictate their opponent, Price offered them up in the day’s second match and let Stricker decide their foes. The U.S. skipper met strength with strength, trotting out Fowler and Thomas, who quickly transformed the South African duo’s record together from 5-0 to 5-1.

Any International rally hinged on getting a full point from their most dependable combination, and Thomas described the outcome as earning “more than a point.”

Then there were the equipment issues in the opening foursomes session, where Price explained that two of his four teams unraveled because they struggled to control spin with their teammate’s ball while playing alternate shot amid blustery conditions.

While he’s had months to strategize about variables both small and large, Price said that particular issue never came up during early-week practice sessions in calm winds.

“It went past all of us,” Price said. “So maybe that was an oversight on our behalf.”

Perhaps a point or two could have been salvaged, and Price clung to the notion that the 8-2 deficit was in fact not that far from being a 5-5 split. But optimistic rationalizations only carry so much weight.

The inevitability of this week’s conclusion seemed to hit Price when Mickelson buried that final putt, and whatever hope remains will likely be extinguished in short order.

“These guys are trying their asses off. I’m telling you, they’re trying,” Price said. “But it’s hard when you’re trying so hard and you’re 8-2 down.”

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Slump over? Sergio had 'very positive week' in Portugal

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 26, 2018, 8:14 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Sergio Garcia’s late commitment to the Portugal Masters may have given him the boost he needed for the Ryder Cup.

After failing to qualify for the PGA Tour’s FedExCup playoffs, Garcia told European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn that he’d add the European Tour event in Portugal if he were selected to the team as a wildcard pick.

Garcia made good on his promise, and last week he tied for seventh – his best worldwide finish since March.

“I was very pleased the way I played,” he said. “I think I played very, very nicely throughout the whole week, which was nice. It felt like it was a very positive week.”

There hadn’t been many positive weeks throughout the year for Garcia, who has slipped from 10th to 28th in the world rankings. The 2017 Masters champion missed the cut in all four majors and struggled with inconsistency.

Still, Garcia was selected to the European team, and Bjorn often cited Garcia’s intangibles – his familiarity with foursomes, his presence in the team room – in justifying his pick.

Even Garcia conceded Wednesday that his selection had more to do with experience than form.

“That’s probably, to be totally honest, one of the reasons why the vice captains and the captain decided to have me on the team,” he said, “not only for what I can bring on the golf course, but what I can bring outside.”

Garcia may have found the spark that his game desperately needed. Six of his past eight rounds have been in the 60s, and he has shot a combined 27 under par during those two starts.

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McIlroy: Tiger is just one of 12 at Ryder Cup

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 26, 2018, 7:59 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Tiger Woods might be the biggest star in golf, but Rory McIlroy views him as just one of 12 this week at the Ryder Cup.

“We’re not looking at any individuals,” he said Wednesday. “We’re just trying to beat the U.S. team. It’s great what he did on Sunday. But to focus on one player is silly, especially when I might not even see him this week at any point this week because I mightn’t be on the course with him or play against him. …

“We’re looking to beat the U.S. team. We’re not looking to just beat Tiger Woods.”

McIlroy had a front-row seat to Woods’ first victory in more than five years on Sunday. Playing in the final group at the Tour Championship, McIlroy struggled with his driver en route to a final-round 74 and disappointing tie for seventh.

Asked whether there was any element of intimidation at East Lake, McIlroy replied: “That East Lake rough was really tough, yeah. That was the most intimidating part about it. Started hitting a few drives left and right early, and I didn’t actually have quite a good view from the trees on Sunday. I couldn’t really see what was happening too much.”

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U.S. captures Junior Ryder Cup

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 26, 2018, 12:29 am

The U.S. defeated Europe, 12 ½ to 11 ½, in the Junior Ryder Cup at Golf Disneyland at Disneyland Paris.

Rachel Heck, 16, of Memphis, Tenn., clinched the winning half-point on the 18th hole with a 12-foot birdie putt that halved her match with Annabell Fuller, 16, of England.

"It was the most incredible experience of my life," said Heck, a Stanford commit who last week made the cut in her second LPGA major, the Evian Masters.

Michael Thorbjornsen, 16, of Wellesley, Mass., the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, drove the green on the 315-yard 18th hole, the ball stopping within 5 feet of the pin. His eagle putt completed 2-up win over 15-year-old Spaniard David Puig and ensured that the U.S. would retain the Junior Ryder Cup, as the defending champion needs only a tie (12 points) to maintain possession of the trophy.

Singles results

Match 1 - Lucy Li (USA) def. Amanda Linner (EUR), 4 and 3

Match 2 — Rasmus Hojgaard (EUR) def. William Moll (USA), 1 up

Match 3 —  Ingrid Lindblad (EUR) halved Rose Zhang (USA)

Match 4 – Nicolai Hojgaard (USA) def. Canon Claycomb (USA), 4 and 2

Match 5 — Yealimi Noh (USA) def. Emma Spitz (EUR), 3 and 2

Match 6 —  Ricky Castillo (USA) def. Eduard Rousaud Sabate (EUR), 3 and 1

Match 7 – Emilie Alba-Paltrinieri (EUR) def. Erica Shepherd (USA), 2 up

Match 8 — Michael Thorbjornsen (USA) def. David Puig (EUR), 2 up

Match 9 – Alessia Nobilio (EUR) def. Alexa Pano (USA), 2 and 1

Match 10 —  Robin Tiger Williams (EUR) def. Cole Ponich (USA), 2 and 1

Match 11 – Annabell Fuller (EUR) halved Rachel Heck (USA)

Match 12 — Conor Gough (EUR) def. Akshay Bhatia (USA), 1 up

 

TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 25, 2018, 6:48 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).

Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).

Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.

 This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.

 

-NBC Sports Group-