First of all, apologies for making anyone worry about my absence the last few days. I had to deal with some more health issues and I’m still not 100%, but it’s nothing too serious and I’ll be fine. Thanks for the emails and tweets and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to attend the final round of The Barclays at Bethpage Black (one of my favorite venues bar none).
Well, I heard the Tour watered the greens on Saturday, so the course was “playable,” yet the Black is still one hell of a test. Congrats to Nick Watney on his victory at The Barclays, the first leg of the FedExCup playoffs. Watney, who previously had somewhat of a forgettable season for a player of his caliber, shot a two-under 69 to overcome a two-stroke deficit going into the final round and win by a three-shot margin over Brandt Snedeker.
Watney, who entered the week with only three top-tens and 30th on the American Ryder Cup points, was previously not in the conversation as a candidate for one of captain Davis Love III’s four wildcard picks to round up Team USA, but his name is in the mix now. Another top finish at the Deutsche Bank Championship would make it tough to leave him off. I’m guessing he’d need to place inside the top three and he’d also need some help from other candidates (to play poorly).
“I’m thinking much more now than I was coming in, because you know, coming in here, I didn’t deserve to be in the conversation, because I had not played my way in,” said Watney in his post-victory presser on Sunday. “Someone told me that Davis said he wanted a hot player, and we still have a week to go, but like I said, I’d love to be on the team. But I’m not really concerned with it just because it’s out of my control.”
From Love’s most recent comments, it sounds like he take to select his captain’s picks straight off the points list — the players that finished Nos. 9-12 were Hunter Mahan, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler — that closed at the conclusion of the PGA Championship. As Love basically said at the PGA Championship, Stricker is a lock because Tiger likes to play with him, and I don’t expect that to change.
However, it’ll be difficult for Davis to disregard guys who make a significant case for themselves with strong showings in the first two playoff events (and the last regular season event, the Wyndham Championship). Let’s just say, I don’t envy Love right now…
What if players were earning points up until Love announces his captain’s picks on Tuesday, September 4th, following the second playoff event, the Deutsche Bank Championship? Well, hypothetically, as of today, Mahan would still be ranked in the 9th spot, with Snedeker moving up to 10th and Stricker falling back to 11th. Dustin Johnson, who finished T3 at The Barclays, would be in 12th.
Brandt Snedeker, who finished 13th in the points standings, also strengthened his case for a captain’s pick.
“I’m pretty much on the process of trying to win every tournament I show up right now,” said Snedeker after posting a one-under 70 on Sunday. “I think I’m playing the best I can. Not a big deal. I love doing this, I wouldn’t want to be any place else, so that’s not too much of an issue. Ryder Cup’s definitely on my mind. But I’m not letting it affect the way I play. Try to win every golf tournament, try and press the gap, it gives me more motivation to do it, and if I do that, I know I will make the decision easy for them.
“Davis has an extremely difficult choice with a bunch of guys who did not play well enough over the last two years to be on the team. You can’t go wrong with any of them. I think that it’s certainly helped everybody play well this week.
But that being said, I think Nick is a candidate; he beat one of the best fields we’ve ever had out here and played fantastic golf. Davis has a very tough decision, because he’s got a lot of good friends on the outside, and I think it can’t hurt my chances, I know that. So I’m happy with that aspect, and I still want to win, I need to win to impress the captain.”
Dustin Johnson’s length is always an advantage in four-balls. His three-month absence due to a back injury put him behind the eight-ball a bit with opportunities to earn points, but he did win in his second start back from his long layoff at the St. Jude Classic.
Sergio Garcia was in the mix again obviously, but struggled on Sunday, posting a four-over 75. He still finished T3. Not too shabby.
As we know, Sergio is taking off the Deutsche Bank Championship to rest for the Ryder Cup.
Wayne Richardson, the CBS spotter who caddied for him last week, will remain on Sergio’s bag for the other two playoff events.
The biggest story of the week came on the LPGA. 15-year-old amateur Lydia Ko won the Canadian Women’s Open, closing out in style with a five-under 67 to win by a three-shot margin. Yep, she not only became the youngest winner in LPGA history, breaking the age record set by Lexi Thompson last September, but she kicked everyone’s butts.
After she won, she gave a two-hour press conference. Is this kid for real?
Via the AP:
“To break another record, or being in the history, it’s amazing, and it’s always awesome to be able to play with the pros,” Ko said. “The last few holes, it got a bit nerve-racking, but Stacy Lewis, after my birdie on 15, she said, ‘You know you can do it.’ It was really great to have another player that I look up to giving me that much support. It was really awesome.”
The glove Ko wore in the final round will be displayed in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
“To have something that’s mine to be up there, it’s amazing, and it doesn’t come down or anything,” Ko said. “So it will always remain there, and it’ll be a good memory.”
In January, Ko won the New South Wales Open in Australia at 14 to become the youngest player to win a professional tour event, a mark broken by 14-year-old Brooke Henderson in June in a 36-hole Canadian Women’s Tour event in Quebec.
Ko said she didn’t cry after her victory Sunday, but did two weeks ago after winning the U.S. Women’s Amateur.
“To me, the U.S. Amateur is a big event, and obviously this is a huge event as well,” Ko said. “But still, as an amateur, winning one of the biggest amateur events, I feel like it was a better win — even though this one was awesome.”
Ko says she will remain amateur, finish high school and then attend college, with Stanford being her top pick. Over/under she sticks to the plan? Who knows, but much respect to Ko, either way.
Look out for an edition of “Know Your Asians” featuring Ko later this week.
Tiger Woods shot his worst score of the year on Sunday at Bethpage Black with a five-over 76. After a rollercoaster front nine, he managed to make the turn at even par, but he then unraveled on the back, starting with a double-bogey on No. 12. He was unable to recover and posted a five-over 40 to close the tournament. He declined all media requests and drove off in a rush. Yikes.
The European Ryder Cup team has now been finalized. The ten players who qualified automatically were: Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Paul Lawrie, Graeme McDowell, Francesco Molinari, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Peter Hanson and Martin Kaymer.
No surprise that Captain Jose Maria Olazabal selected
pro-prima donna whiner Ian Poulter and Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium as his wildcard picks. Via the AP:
“It is true Nicolas is going to be the only rookie on the team but we do have an experienced team,” said Olazabal. “Out of the 12 players, 11 have played Ryder Cup. They have proven they can handle that pressure. They have the experience so we do have a very solid team.
“He’s had a very solid season and on top of that he has made the extra effort trying to make the team, and he really showed me that he wanted to be part of that team and that is the reason I chose him.”
Colsaerts was 12th in the European Ryder Cup table, two places outside of automatic qualification. His commitment to the team was evident when he played in the Wyndham Championship in North Carolina and then crossed the Atlantic to tee up in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles last weekend in an attempt to secure qualification.
Finally, Eugene Wong won the Canadian Open Tour Championship by one stroke with a walk-off eagle from the fairway of the 72nd hole. Now that’s one way to do it…
One last thing: I can’t say what a privilege it was to return to Bethpage Black a little over three years after I first attended the U.S. Open in 2009 there. I had just started my blog shortly before the ’09 U.S. Open, so it was symbolic and meaningful to cover an event as a credentialed member of the media. Hard to describe the emotions right now, but it’s been three years of sacrifices and hard work…and it was satisfying to be able to step back for a second and appreciate the journey that’s taken me from outside the ropes to sharing it with the rest of you from the inside.
It’s humbling when people come to me for advice on how to get into the biz. Here it is in short: don’t sleep and don’t even think about a social life; dedicate the next couple of years of your life to working your butt off and don’t stop to think — just do it.
(Getty Images/Scott Halleran; AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck; Getty Images/Andrew Redington)