Fowler ready to board Ryder Cup special for Europe  

Fowler ready to board Ryder Cup special for Europe  

Rickie Fowler is expected to join the USA Ryder Cup teams playing Europe in September (AFP Photo/Mike Lawrie)

Washington (AFP) – If there is one thing better than winning a major, for Rickie Fowler it’s probably wearing the red, white and blue and playing for the USA Ryder Cup team against Europe.

Fowler, known for his fun-loving outlook and fashion flair, yearns for a first major golf title that has eluded him despite eight top-five major finishes, including April’s Masters runner-up effort.

But even more than that, the 29-year-old American is looking forward to the last week in September in Paris when he hopes to be part of a US team beating Europe in their own backyard for the first time in 25 years.

“The team events, they’re the best weeks of the year,” Fowler said. “Getting to be on a team with some of the other best players in the world and being able to throw on red, white and blue and represent your country, it’s special.”

Fowler helped the Americans beat Europe 17-11 in 2016 at Hazeltine after having lost six of seven before that. Now he hopes to help the US squad win in Europe for the first time since 1993.

“It was nice to be two years ago finally on the winning side. It’s something that hasn’t happened a whole lot in the last 20 years or so,” Fowler said.

“(It will be nice) to be on another team potentially later this year, to be able to go overseas and have a chance to win one overseas, which I can’t remember the last time that was done, it has been a while.”

Fowler was on losing US sides in 2010 at Wales and 2014 in Scotland, but has fun memories of playing before European spectators.

“My favorite part of the Ryder Cup would probably, outside of hanging with the team in the team room, be the first tee over there when you play overseas,” Fowler said.

“It’s pretty cool how they build (stands) as far as a horseshoe. You hear the fans out there starting at 5-5:30 in the morning with their chants and songs. It’s a different energy.”

Fowler is also convinced that a first major title in his future after he lost by a stroke to countryman Patrick Reed at Augusta National in April, making a late charge that has boosted his confidence.

“Confidence is the main thing. I kind of solidified and validated my actual belief of what I can go do,” Fowler said. “I left there knowing that I could go win a major championship.”

In 2014, Fowler finished in the top-five at all four majors. Only Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Jordan Spieth have matched the feat. But Fowler was the only one to do it without winning, taking fifth at the Masters, second at the US and British Opens and third at the PGA Championship. He also shared fifth at last year’s US Open and PGA.

“I’ve been very close. I feel like there’s a few you could look at and say, if it wasn’t for that one guy, we would have won,” Fowler said.

He scored a final round 65 at the US Open last month, the lowest round of the tournament, but had more important things to think about than golf.

He proposed to fiancee Allison Stokke, posting a photo of him kneeling on the sand near Shinnecock on his Instagram page.

“There was nothing planned out. I just really didn’t want to carry the ring around any longer,” Fowler said with a laugh. “We kept things very casual.”

Fowler, whose maternal grandfather is from Japan, is known for his caps and wearing orange on the last day of events in tribute to Oklahoma State University, which he attended.

He also made a 2011 music video with fellow “Golf Boys” Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan and Ben Crane and it’s such camaraderie he thrives upon in US team events such as the Ryder Cup, which he is on pace to play in.

Fowler has won four US PGA titles, the most recent being at last year’s Honda Classic and biggest being the 2015 Players, which he almost equates to a major.

“I basically won a major. I won the Players against, arguably, the best field we play all year on a golf course that’s a very good test as well,” Fowler said.

Phil Mickelson incurs another weird, probably dumb penalty

Phil Mickelson incurs another weird, probably dumb penalty

I cannot wait for the exotic penalty that Phil Mickelson will incur at the Scottish Open in order to keep his streak alive. After inciting chaos at the U.S. Open a few weeks ago by putting a moving ball, Phil found another way to get dinged two strokes this weekend at the Greenbrier (the official name of this golf tournament is now A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier but we will refer to it as simply “Greenbrier” henceforth).

Early in Sunday’s final round, Phil put a peg in the ground at the 7th hole and prepared hit a low burner off the tee box. But he noticed a tuft of taller fescue grasses at the front of the tee box that looked like it might get in the way of the path he wanted to take on this tee shot. So Phil ambled up to the front of the tee box and patted it down just a bit. Then he set up to hit his shot and realized he may have just made a mistake. He asked his playing partner if he thought it was a penalty, then shook his head in disbelief, and hit his shot.

Per Phil’s request, a rules official did roll up to the scene and confirm that what he did was against the rules.

It’s not deliberate like scampering across a green and taking a swipe at your moving ball, but it’s still “improving your line of play” and that will be a penalty. This generally happens on different parts of the course that are not the tee box, but Phil found a way to bring the rule into play there too. There’s now debate about whether this is a stupid rule or not — there is an arcane element to not being able to do something simple like this on a tee box.

One thing that’s probably not up for debate is that Phil should have known that he couldn’t do that, even if it is rare for this 13-2 rule to come into play up on the tee. Mickelson made a double bogey 6 on the hole after taking the penalty. He’s tied for 55th, near the bottom of the leaderboard again but that’s never stopped him from becoming a story on the weekend. We can’t wait to see what rule he breaks next in Scotland.

Webb Simpson flirts with 59, cards career-low 61 to take one-stroke lead at The Greenbrier

Webb Simpson flirts with 59, cards career-low 61 to take one-stroke lead at The Greenbrier

At three under through nine holes of his opening round of A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, Webb Simpson just needed a few more birdies to creep up near the top of the leader board and position himself for the final three rounds. Two birdies and an eagle later and Simpson was officially on 59 watch, territory he hasn’t been unfamiliar with this season, flirting with a second-round 59 during his win at the Players.

Following a rain delay, he added birdies at 14 and 16 to get to nine under, needing just two more on the Old White TPC, a par 70. One bad shot at the par-5 17th ended his chances, and he parred the last two for a career-low 61. Not exactly disappointing, but he knew he had a shot to join that exclusive club.

“It’s hard, because I’m trying to take it one shot at a time, make every shot the same as any other shot,” said Simpson. “I knew that 59 was in there, but I had a bad second shot, the only shot I kind of regret hitting was the second shot on 17, laying up in the rough. That didn’t really give me a chance to get at that left pin. But, it’s alright, made two good pars after that.”

Simpson, who looked unbeatable at TPC Sawgrass, has had arguably his worst stretch of the season since, missing two of three cuts for the first time this season. The lone made cut, however, came at the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, where he tied for 10th. That and another potentially strong week in West Virginia should keep the 2012 U.S. Open winner on track to earn a spot on the American Ryder Cup team. Simpson is looking to make his third appearance for the U.S. at Le Golf National, and his first appearance for the U.S. in any team event since the 2014 Ryder Cup.

One back is Whee Kim, whose 62 is also his career-low round on the PGA Tour. After posting back-to-back top-five finishes in the fall, Kim has struggled, missing 12 of his last 18 cuts and finishing no higher than T-22 at the Zurich Classic.

Joaquin Niemann continued the impressive start to his professional career on Thursday with a seven-under 63, leaving him just two shots off the lead. It’s his second appearance at the Greenbrier, where he played in his first PGA Tour event a season ago, tying for 29th thanks to a final-round 64.

Kelly Kraft is in solo fourth after a round of six-under 64. Keegan Bradley is among a group tied for fifth at five under, while Phil Mickelson is at four under.

USGA adds a bit of transparency to amateur international team selection process by adding automatic qualifiers

USGA adds a bit of transparency to amateur international team selection process by adding automatic qualifiers

The mysterious selection process behind who gets picked for the U.S. rosters in international team competitions—a bone of contention for many who follow amateur golf—has officially become a little less mysterious. The USGA announced on Thursday that it will include a handful of automatic selections for the Walker Cup, Curtis Cup and men’s and women’s World Amateur teams starting this fall.

When the three-player American squads are picked for the World Amateur Team Championship that will compete at Ireland’s Carton House Golf Club in late August and early September, the top-ranked female and male player on the World Amateur Golf Ranking will automatically be included on the roster, as will the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur champions. Additionally, the winner of Mark H. McCormack Medal, given to the No. 1-ranked amateur at the end of the summer, will make the team. Any other remaining selections will be decided by the USGA’s International Team Selection (ITS) committee, which previously had filled out the entire roster.

All automatic selections assume that the player is an American and will remain an amateur through the playing of the competition.

“Adding these elements of transparency to our selections helps players understand the process and aspire to earn coveted spots on these top teams,” said John Bodenhamer, USGA senior managing director of Championships & Governance. “Representing your country in team competitions is one of golf’s highest honors and among the best experiences of a player’s career, and we want excellence to be rewarded.”

For the Walker Cup in 2019, being played at Royal Liverpool, the top three ranked American players on the WAGR ranking will make the 10-man team, as will the U.S. Amateur champion. The remaining selections will be decided by the ITS, and will include at least one mid-amateur player.

For the Curtis Cup in 2020 at Conway Golf Club in Wales, the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur winner will be picked for the eight-woman roster, as will the top three players on the WAGR ranking and the McCormack Medal winner.

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Yoenis Cespedes says lack of golf may have caused early season slump

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Mets star left fielder Yoenis Cespedes has hit just .195 in his first 20 games to open the season. One reason for his poor start, Cespedes says, is a lack of golf.

“In previous seasons, one of the things I did when I wasn’t going well was to play golf,” Cespedes said to the New York Times. “This year, I’m not playing golf.”

Cespedes was an avid golfer and at one time dreamed of going pro in the sport after finishing his baseball career, according to the New York Daily News.

“I’ve been thinking about it — if there is an opportunity to play professionally later, maybe not PGA, but I would like to play golf professionally,” Cespedes said in 2015.

But he decided to step away from the game after he was plagued by hamstring injuries and played just 81 games last season, according to the Daily News.

Cespedes, who was criticized for golfing while dealing with injuries in both the 2015 playoffs and 2016 regular season, told the Times he has not played a round since last June.

“There are a lot of good hitters, when they’re going bad and in a slump, the first thing they do to get out of it is go play golf,” Cespedes said in spring training.

Cespedes also revealed he’s increased his time watching video to open the season. However, he is considering a return to golf.

“With golf, I had to keep my hands inside and keep watching the ball in order to hit it well,” he said. “I think that helped me.”

Cespedes, who has registered just 16 hits this season, still leads the Mets with 18 RBIs. Despite his slow start, the Mets have begun 2018 with a 14-6 record.