Team dynamics, emerging stars and what's next for the U.S. team: Takeaways from the 2022 Presidents Cup
The U.S. team captured the Presidents Cup again, taking down the International team 17½ to 12½ at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sunday. It was the Americans' ninth straight victory and 12th in 14 editions of the event.
Over four days, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas emerged as the face of American team golf, now that Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed are competing on the LIV Golf circuit. South Korea's Tom Kim became a household name, and the International team showed a lot of heart in competing better than expected.
Here are five things we learned this week at Quail Hollow:
These guys like each other
Everyone needs someone to love them like JT loves Jordan, and vice versa.
There's no question the International team has inherent hurdles the Americans don't have to deal with, starting with language barriers, cultural differences and unfamiliarity with each other.
International team captain Trevor Immelman wasn't exaggerating (that much) when he called this U.S. team the greatest ever assembled. The 12-man U.S. squad included five of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking. Each of them was in the top 25.
And when U.S. team captain Davis Love III can roll out the tandems of Thomas-Spieth and Xander Schauffele-Patrick Cantlay each session, it's like having Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander in a five-game series.
Spieth and Thomas, who have known each other since they were kids, went 4-0 in foursomes and four-ball matches. Cantlay and Schauffele, who are friends, both hail from California and won the PGA Tour team event in New Orleans this past season, went 2-1. The players went a combined 3-1 in singles.
"It's really fun, right?" Spieth said earlier this week. "He's my best friend in the whole world. We've played a lot of golf together. We've played a lot of golf against each other. Now we've played quite a bit with each other. There's nothing more fun than these team events, playing alongside JT."
When it looked like the Presidents Cup might turn into another rout on Friday, one of the most exciting things to watch was Spieth and Thomas feeding off each other, fist bumping, chest bumping and screaming at each other along the way.
"Having the opportunity to not only win a point for your team but win a point with one of your best friends, it's just one of those things," Thomas said. "We know each other's games. We know how to feed off each other. We know how to help each other. We know how to stay out of each other's way."
And that's what makes the core of U.S. stars so dangerous in team events going forward. LIV Golf might have actually done the Americans a favor by luring away Reed, who was popularly known as "Captain America" by fans but wasn't so popular in the team locker room. Reed infamously complained of captain Jim Furyk's "buddy system" in choosing pairings at the 2018 Ryder Cup in Paris, which the Americans lost, 17½ to 10½.
The 12 players who competed for the U.S. this week genuinely seemed to like each other. There wasn't an elephant in the room because of Bryson DeChambeau's ongoing beef with Brooks Koepka, or because Reed was unhappy about having to play with Tiger Woods instead of Spieth.
A few times this past week, Presidents Cup rookie Max Homa, a five-time winner on the PGA Tour, mentioned that he wasn't particularly close to anyone else on the U.S. team. But when Homa said it again during a news conference after Sunday's victory, Sam Burns quipped, "Love you, Max."
"Love you, Sam," Homa replied.
"Sam's a perfect example of somebody I've always gotten along with great and somebody I was looking forward to getting to spend real time with," Homa said.
Tom Kim is a superstar
The South Korean phenom's name is Joohyung Kim, but he prefers Tom, a childhood nickname given to him because of his fondness for Thomas the Tank Engine. These days the 20-year-old has as much steam building as his namesake.
After winning the Wyndham Championship for his first PGA Tour victory a month ago, Kim's pro debut in a team event was a coming-out party. He was the youngest player on either team and the third youngest to ever compete in the Presidents Cup, behind only Ryo Ishikawa and Jordan Spieth.
Kim went 2-3 in matches this week, and he was the pulse of the International Team and a crowd favorite at Quail Hollow Club because of his exuberant celebrations. On Sunday, Kim showed up at the first tee wearing sunglasses and egging the crowd to cheer. He was a rock star.
After losing his first two matches, Kim and his partners at least gave the International Team a glimmer of hope on Saturday.
In the Saturday morning foursomes, Kim paired with South Korea's K.H. Lee to take down world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns. That afternoon, Kim and Si Woo Kim stunned the seemingly unbeatable tandem of Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele in four-ball competition. Kim had an eagle on the par-4 11th hole and then made a 10-footer for birdie on the 18th to defeat Cantlay and Schauffele.
"I think the sky's the limit," said Kim's caddie, Joe Skovron, who was on Rickie Fowler's bag until recently. "When you're 20 years old and you've already won as much as he has around the world and to respond in this environment like he did, you know, and he seems to have a work ethic to go with it and a plan. "
Homa isn't bad, either
It's difficult to imagine that not long ago Homa didn't have much confidence in his game. He was one of the funniest pro golfers on Twitter (and still is), but he didn't have much to show for his work in terms of results. At the end of the 2020 season, he was 70th in the FedEx Cup standings.
Since February 2021, however, Homa has won four times on tour. He won the Genesis Invitational in 2021, the Fortinet Championship and Wells Fargo Championship this past season and then defended his Fortinet Championship title in Napa, California, last week. He didn't arrive in Charlotte for his Presidents Cup debut until early Monday morning.
Homa, 31, delivered a signature moment of the Presidents Cup on Friday. Playing with Billy Horschel, their match against Canada's Taylor Pendrith and Corey Conners was tied after 16 holes. Homa made a 12-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole to go 1 up. Then, after Pendrith made a clutch 15-footer for birdie on the 18th, Homa made another 12-footer to win the match.
After defeating Tom Kim on Sunday, Homa improved to 4-0 in his Presidents Cup debut. He is only the fourth Presidents Cup rookie to go 4-0-0 or better in his debut.
"I've said it a million times, but last year, at Kiawah [Island], doing the fitting for the Ryder Cup, knowing I didn't really have much of a chance anymore was tough," Homa said. "Looking at yourself in the mirror and all the USA gear, it was hard. But I've got a thing seared into my brain, and my main focus this season was to make this team, to play with these guys.
"A lot went into that. And to be here was one thing, and then to come out and play some great golf was another. And this week has been beyond special, validating, meaningful, all of the above. It meant a lot."
The PGA Tour needs more superstars, especially after so many big names like Dustin Johnson, DeChambeau, Cameron Smith and others defected to LIV Golf. The tour should embrace Homa's personality more than ever before.
Read More: [SOURCE: ESPN.com]
Rory McIlroy rallies to win Tour Championship, third FedEx Cup title
ATLANTA -- This year it became easy to overlook Rory McIlroy's four majors, 30 wins on four continents and two years at No. 1 in the world. He has been viewed mostly as the strongest voice and staunchest defender of the PGA Tour in its battle against Saudi-funded LIV Golf.
So perhaps it was only fitting that a most tumultuous year for the PGA Tour culminated Sunday with McIlroy holding its biggest prize.
He had the final say with his clubs.
Six shots behind before the Tour Championship started, 10 shots back after two holes, McIlroy rallied from a six-shot deficit in the final round against the No. 1 player in the world and closed with a 4-under 66 to become the first three-time winner of the FedEx Cup.
"It's been a tumultuous time for the world of men's professional golf in particular,'' he said. "I've been in the thick of things. I guess every chance I get, I'm trying to defend what I feel is the best place to play elite professional golf in the world.
"It's in some ways fitting that I was able to get this done today to sort of round off a year that has been very, very challenging and different.''
It came at the expense of Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, the No. 1 player in the world who birdied four of six holes Sunday morning to finish the storm-delayed third round at 66 and build a six-shot lead. Not even McIlroy, who birdied the last two holes in the morning to get into the final group, thought he had a great chance.
But then Scheffler never regained his groove, missing fairways and greens and par putts. He made only one birdie in a closing round of 73 and tied the PGA Tour record for losing a six-shot lead in the final round.
"I just didn't get off to a good start early, but after that I grinded as hard as I could,'' Scheffler said. "For whatever reason my swing wasn't where it had been the first few days this week.''
McIlroy had a 17-under 263 for his raw score, the best of the week. He started at 4 under as the No. 7 seed and finished at 21 under to capture the $18 million bonus.
Sungjae Im fell back with a double bogey on the 14th hole and still managed a 66 to tie for second with Scheffler.
McIlroy referred to the final round as a "spectacle," and not just because of the pro-McIlroy crowd that chanted his name along the closing holes.
"Two of the best players in the world going head-to-head on the best tour," he said.
McIlroy needed plenty of help from Scheffler, who never trailed until the 70th hole. Scheffler looked out of sorts early, and McIlroy capitalized. With three straight birdies, he tied Scheffler on the seventh hole. And then it was a nail-biter to the end.
It was a stunning display at East Lake that turned on two shots.
McIlroy holed a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-3 15th hole to tie for the lead.
After he flew the green by some 20 yards, his pitch was running fast and headed off the front of the green when it hit the pin and settled 7 feet away. He saved par. Scheffler blasted out of a bunker to just inside 10 feet and missed, making bogey that put him behind for the first time all week.
Scheffler badly misread a 10-foot birdie chance on the 17th to tie, sending the Tour Championship to the final hole with $18 million on the line.
Scheffler's 4-iron on the par-5 18th sailed short and right into a bunker, and he blasted out over the green. McIlroy went left against the grandstand, took relief and got onto the green for an easy par.
"I wanted to win the season-long title,'' Scheffler said. "I've had a really great year and I wanted to finish it off with a win here, and unfortunately I wasn't able to do that.''
McIlroy won the FedEx Cup in 2016 in a playoff. He won the FedEx Cup again in 2019, the first year of a staggered start. This might have been the sweetest of all, coming off a year in which the PGA Tour has been in a nasty battle with LIV Golf, which already has attracted some two dozen players and now is part of an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour.
It was McIlroy who has declared fierce loyalty to the PGA Tour over the past few years when rival leagues were coming into view. And it was McIlroy who joined Tiger Woods in leading a momentous player-only meeting last week that led to significant changes ahead for the tour.
So, yes, this had an extra level of satisfaction. And no, he didn't mind the burden he carried as the de facto voice of the tour.
"If you believe in something I think you have to speak up, and I believe very strongly about this. I really do,'' McIlroy said. "I hate what it's doing to the game of golf. I hate it.
"I think when you believe that what you're saying is the right things, you're happy to stick your neck out on the line.''
Even at the Tour Championship, typically a celebration of the end of the year, there was talk all weekend of more defections coming in the next few days. The Daily Telegraph reported three weeks ago that British Open champion Cameron Smith was leaving for LIV Golf, and sources confirmed his expected move to ESPN.
Harold Varner III, Marc Leishman and Anirban Lahiri also are expected to leave, sources told ESPN. Cameron Tringale announced his decision on Twitter.
Still to be determined is Joaquin Niemann, whose manager said the Chilean golfer would discuss the options with his father later Sunday.
"Everyone on tour has had to deal with a lot," McIlroy said. "Even the guys that have went to LIV have had to deal with a lot. It's just been a very tumultuous sort of era in our game. This is the best place in the world to play golf. It's the most competitive. It's got the best players. It's got the deepest fields. I don't know why you'd want to play anywhere else.''
With all that speculation, the Tour Championship that looked to be a runaway turned into a dynamic show. And in the end, the tour's biggest voice had its biggest trophy.
Weekday afternoon golf has been limited this summer due to league play.
Leagues are winding down, and we look forward to seeing you at the club soon.
Here are the dates in which afternoon play WILL be available.
Thursday - September 1st
Wednesday - September 7th
Monday - September 26th
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Will Zalatoris claims first PGA Tour victory after impossible bounce on final hole
This was one of the craziest bounces in PGA Tour history.
The final round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship — the first round of the PGA Tour playoffs — provided some incredible drama on Sunday evening. Will Zalatoris and Sepp Straka entered a playoff tied at 15-under after the 18th hole. After trading pars on the first two holes of the playoff, the two golfers headed to the par-3 11th, where Zalatoris was the first to tee off.
The 25-year-old American hit an errant tee shot that looked to be headed straight toward the water, which would have set Straka up for a victory. But in what can only be described as a miracle, his ball hit the stone wall that guards the water, bounced up in the air several times, and somehow managed to come to rest safely on the ledge – and out of the drink.
While Zalatoris escaped the penalty, he still had a near-impossible lie below the grass line on the top of the wall, setting the stage for Straka to win if he could get the ball onto the green. Instead, the Austrian hit a near identical shot to Zalatoris – only his ball was not as fortunate and ended up in the water.
Straka took it back to the tee for his third shot after the penalty, and was unable to find the green yet again, hitting the bunker. After watching the advantage shift even further in his direction, Zalatoris then decided to take a penalty himself, as hitting the ball off the stone ledge had disaster potential.
He managed to find the green on his second tee shot – and sunk a putt to win the tournament and earn the $2.7 million winner’s check.
The win was Zalatoris’ first on the PGA Tour, though he has gotten agonizingly close on multiple occasions. He finished second in the 2021 Masters in his first season on the PGA Tour, and in 2022 he lost to Justin Thomas in a playoff at the PGA Championship and came in second yet again in the 2022 US Open at Brookline.
In the first round of the PGA Tour playoffs, the Wake Forest product finally tasted victory.
In the end, Tom Hoge rolled. The 2022 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am champion shot a closing 68 on Sunday to beat three-time major winner Jordan Spieth by two strokes and win his first professional golf event since 2011.
Hoge emerged from a pack that saw Spieth at the top of it for most of the day. After making double at the fifth hole and going out in a pedestrian 36, he didn’t make a mistake on the second nine, shot 32 and ran down somebody who looked like he was going to cruise to his second title in the last six years on this course.
Hoge’s iron play on the second nine was brilliant. The apex was a 141-yard approach on No. 16 to 9 inches, but he found all nine greens in regulation and hit seven of those approaches inside 20 feet. He gained 2.3 strokes on approach shots on those nine holes alone, and of course he buried one of the two approaches he hit outside 20 feet.
That one came on a 22-foot birdie at the par-3 17th hole, which Spieth had just bogeyed in front of him. Buoyed by a one-stroke lead, Hoge made it two with this monster putt and strode to the closing hole which he parred for the victory.
Winning in professional golf is an extremely difficult thing to do. We say it all the time, but I’m not sure we can possibly say it enough. After his win at the Canadian Tour Players Cup in his second OWGR start in 2011, Hoge lost his next 285 starts before Sunday at Pebble. More recently, though, the trend had been good. Two top fives in his last four starts, including a solo second at the American Express a few weeks ago.
A career grinder, Hoge just cashed in one of his best opportunities — beating Spieth to get his first-ever PGA Tour victory and an invite to the Masters in April. The trajectory of his career looks consistent and solid, but what he did on Sunday at Pebble, with Spieth staring him down, is a lot more difficult than he made it look. Grade: A+
Here are the rest of our grades for the 2022 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am:
Jordan Spieth (2nd): This week was the perfect representation of Spieth’s golf as well as his career. He’ll take you all over the yard, and often right up next to the abyss (often metaphorically, sometimes literally). And then by sleight of hand, he’ll cover the canyon and show you the sea. He’s golf’s most heart-stopping showman, and 132 strokes at Pebble Beach this weekend that included one harrowing one over a 70-foot drop, was the perfect representation of this reality. Regardless of how it ended, I have optimism for the rest of his spring, especially since he came into the week struggling with his iron play and proceeded to flush nearly everything he looked at. Grade: A
Patrick Cantlay (T4): It’s hard to express disappointment in Cantlay given that this was his sixth consecutive top-11 finish, but it did feel a bit reminiscent of last year when Daniel Berger won and Cantlay couldn’t seal the deal. He shot 71 this year (and 68 last year), and I’m not real worried about his relative mediocrity from tee to green on Sunday. I’m more concerned that he start to play his way into contention at big-time events like the Players and various majors just like he’s been doing at regular PGA Tour events for the last eight months. Grade: A-
Joel Dahmen (T6): Among the players on the leaderboard on Sunday, you could make the case that Dahmen was the most compelling winning story. After winning last year for the first time on the PGA Tour in an opposite-field event (and the first time anywhere since 2014), this would have been a windfall. He faded after three early birdies on Sunday, but with two missed cuts coming into this week, he should be encouraged about the rest of 2022. He’s a solid player, but we underrate how meaningful top 10s are to golfers like him. He has just eight of them worldwide since the start of 2020. Grade: A
Seamus Power (T9): The Irishman led by five after 36 holes before it all fell apart for him. His disastrous weekend started on Saturday at Monterey Peninsula, which played as the easiest course in the three-course rota. He shot 74 on a course that played to an average of under 71. He then went out in 38 on Sunday at Pebble but came home in 34 to finish even on the day and T9 for the event. It was still his fifth straight top 20, but given where he was on Friday evening (commandingly in first place), it has to feel like a disappointment. Grade: B
Jason Day (T24): Of all the big names coming into the final round, I thought Day was probably the most disappointing. He could only muster a 74 over the final 18, and he was negative from tee to green and on approach shots over 36 measured holes at Pebble. I’m excited about what Day’s year could be, but this was a moment for him to step into a void left by the top players exiting this tournament, and he didn’t do it. I’m also less confident than he is about how many wins he could feasibly accumulate for the rest of 2022. Grade: B-
The second tournament of the PGA Tour’s west coast swing is in the books and it’s time to take a look at some key stat leaders. Luke List became the newest Tour winner after his epic Sunday charge at Torrey Pines to chase down Will Zalatoris, and the win puts him in the top 10 of the FedEx Cup Standings. Here are three other players among the stat leaders who caught our eye:
1. Daniel Berger. Berger is hitting an absurd 81 percent of fairways this season, which is easily the best mark on Tour. He’s 6.5 percentage points ahead of second on the list, which is the same gap between second and 24th. Safe to say he’s feeling good with the driver in his hands this season.
2. Will Zalatoris. Although Zalatoris couldn’t quite seal the deal for his first Tour victory, he is now leading the Tour in SG: Tee-to-green. Second on the list? None other than Luke List. You won’t find many head-to-head matchups with better ball strikers than the one we saw in the playoff Saturday night.
3. Bryson DeChambeau. If you look at the Tour’s driving distance leaders this season, you might notice that DeChambeau isn’t among the top 10. How can that be? The masher doesn’t quite have enough rounds under his belt this season to meet the minimum qualifications to appear on the list. But worry not — his 318.5 yards per whack off the tee would rank fourth on Tour were he to qualify.
Press conferences — particularly in golf — can get extremely mundane.
“Talk about the approach you hit on 14.”
“What were you thinking coming up 18 with the lead?”
Occasionally, however, pressers provide some content gold. Think well-served Dustin Johnson after a team event, or Rory McIlroy with just about anything. It’s must-see TV, and you hope that it never ends. Sometimes, you even learn a little something about how to play golf, too. That’s just what happened during Danielle Kang’s winner’s presser after last week’s LPGA opener.
Coming off the course after her first win in 17 months, Kang was in just the right mood to be a perfect interview subject — a combination of engaging and insightful. The first few questions from the media were run-of-the-mill snoozers, but then, a question came in that really got her rolling.
“I think the one that may have brought a tear on the old-timers’ eyes was the bump-and-run today on 15. You just don’t see that shot very much anymore. Can you walk us through what your thinking is there?“
Luckily, Kang obliged, and we got a step-by-step breakdown on how to hit a proper bump-and-run:
1. Stand the shaft up
To execute the shot to perfection, as Kang did, you need to make the shaft a bit more vertical than you would on a typical greenside shot.
“I stand the shaft up, put the ball back, put the toe down, and I just hit it aggressively through the ball,” she said.
2. Ball in the back of the stance
With the ball in the back of your stance, it’s easier to hit down on it and make ball-first contact.
3. Play it off the toe
You want the ball to get on the ground quickly and roll towards the hole, so you don’t want to put much backspin on the ball. To get this topspin, Kang said she plays the ball towards the toe of the club.
“It comes off like a putt,” she said.
4. Stay aggressive
Perhaps the most important aspect of hitting a good bump-and-run is to stay aggressive.
“You just can’t be afraid of it,” Kang said. “If you hesitate it’s going to duff or chunk or going to catch a little bit too much toe spin. But as along as you’re aggressive it’s always going come out with the nice topspin that you can create with your putter.”
Matsuyama grabbed his eighth career PGA Tour victory with a shocking eagle
Russell Henley shot 23 under at the 2022 Sony Open this week, finishing in the top three in the field in putting, iron play and strokes gained from tee to green … and somehow did not win. That’s because Hideki Matsuyama shot 63-63 on the weekend and hit the shot of the season on the first hole of a playoff for the eighth – and perhaps most exciting – win of his PGA Tour career.
Rewind to the turn in Sunday’s final round. Henley took a commanding five-stroke lead to the second nine. Data Golf said his chances of winning at that moment were about 97%. It was not a foregone conclusion because nothing in golf is a foregone conclusion, but as far as sure bets go, it was up there.
Henley played the next nine holes in 1 over after touching the edge of the cup with putts on two of the last three holes. Nothing fell. He’d torched the golf course for 63 straight holes with at least two birdies or eagles on every previous nine-hole stretch. He made none over the final nine. Matsuyama played them in 4 under, including a birdie at the 72nd hole, to tie the tournament at 23 under and send it into bonus holes.
In the playoff, Henley drove one into a bunker. After getting out of trouble but with work to do to make birdie at the par-5 finisher – which was also being used as the first hole of the playoff – Henley looked to be fighting an uphill battle. Matsuyama could control the tournament by finding the green and two-putting for birdie. So of course he blistered a 3-wood from 276 yards to 32 inches for eagle to win the event.
It will go down as one of the 10 best shots of the entire season.
For Henley, it was a dagger in what had otherwise been such a tremendous week. He was trying to bookend his 2013 victory at this tournament with another one, which would have been the fourth of his underrated career. He did everything right, but he still couldn’t close out the reigning Masters champion.
There was good reason for that, too. Matsuyama is obviously a menace from tee to green, and he was again this week at Waialae Country Club. But the bigger problem for Henley was that Matsuyama led the field in putting for the first time in his career. He gained nearly half of his strokes on the greens, which is always going to be a problem for everyone else.
For Matsuyama, it’s the latest addition to an underrated résumé that includes two WGC victories, a Memorial win, two Phoenix Opens, a Zozo Championship in his home country of Japan and that famous Masters triumph last April. He’s earned over $37 million in his career and has essentially been a top-10 player in the world for the last seven years.
It’s easy for Matsuyama to get a bit lost in the shuffle when Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth are swiping headlines, but he’s accomplished all of this before the age of 30, which both goes unnoticed and should be celebrated more than it is. This win ties him with K.J. Choi for the most all-time by an Asian-born player (8). Matsuyama has played just 203 official PGA Tour events, while Choi has played nearly 500 (though he won his eight in the first 300).
This was a terrific week for the PGA Tour, too. The week after the scoring record was reset at the Tournament of Champions, two perennially underrated golfers combined to shoot a best-ball 59 on Sunday with the tournament on the line, and the shot of the year was struck in a sleepy week with a below-average field. Another star built his narrative and his résumé with several big-time events just around the corner. If that’s what a mediocre weeks look like, imagine what the good ones are going to hold the rest of the year.
This is how it goes in golf, though. You never know when you’re going to see one of the great shots of the last few years. You never know when a run-of-the-mill golf tournament is going to deliver the finish of the season. You never know when the Masters champ is going to close like the superstar he is.