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In the end, Zach Johnson wasn’t afraid to stir emotions with his captain’s picks for the U.S. team in the upcoming Ryder Cup in Italy. On Tuesday, Johnson announced his six choices—Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Collin Morikawa and Sam Burns—and at least two of those picks will likely create much debate among the players and fans.

Koepka, who won the PGA Championship in May, was picked despite leaving the PGA Tour last year for the Saudi-backed LIV Golf League, while Thomas didn’t play well enough to reach the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoffs, but is this era's emotional leader.

The chosen players join thos who had automatically qualified for the team: Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Max Homa, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele and Brian Harman.

The Americans will try to win a second straight Ryder Cup after routing Europe in 2021 at Whistling Straits, with the bigger task being beating the host team on its soil for the first time since 1993. That's six straight wins at home for Europe. The Cup competition is set for Marco Simone Golf & Country Club outside of Rome, Sept. 29-Oct. 1.

"To say I'm excited about these gents is an understatement," Johnson said. "They check all of the boxes—fierce competitors, great versatility, great flexibility when it comes to the pairings."

Though not much of a surprise because of his polarizing position in the game, LIV's Bryson DeChambeau was left off despite four top-10s, including a win, this season.

Thanks in large part to his victory in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill and tie for second in the Masters, Koepka remained among the automatic qualifiers in the U.S. standings until he was knocked out following the BMW Championship, where Max Homa and Xander Schauffele passed him. However, given the 33-year-old's departure to LIV, he could be a dividing figure, if not in the locker room, then for fans. Johnson's choice likely was made somewhat easier with the prospects that the PGA Tour and LiV's founding Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia are working on a deal to create a new business venture.

"When it came to BK, his experience, his temperament, the way he goes about his work, his passion for the Ryder Cup—all spoke voliumes," Johnson said. "... He and I have had communications a lot over the last few months, very candid discussions, when he started to make his way onto this team. He earned his way onto this team when you get down to the pennies and dollars of it. It was a pretty easy pick.”

This will be Koepka's fourth Ryder Cup and he's 6-5-1 overall. He went 2-2 in Wisconsin two years ago, including a 2-and-1 singles win over Bernd Wiesberger. Koepka has yet to lose a singles match.

"I think you're just playing for something bigger than yourself. You don't want to let the guys on the team down," Koepka said. "It's a fun event; it's the most nervous I've ever been in a golf tournament."

Koepka has overcome career-threatening injuries over the past several years to get back to his current level. "The last few years have been a lot," he said, "but at the same time that's what I've been grinding for, that's what I've been trying to get into shape 100 percent to feel good for this moment."

Thomas, a 15-time tour winner, presented Johnson with a tough circumstance because of an ill-timed and uncharacteristic mediocre ’23 campaign in which he posted only three top-10s in 20 starts. But, as the captain, said, “He, without question, has been the heart and soul of Team USA in the Ryder Cup, our emotional leader I would say. I don’t think he would argue with that. He leads by example. … In my mind, he was born for this and you just don’t leave JT out.”

Thomas has a 6-2-1 record in two Ryder Cup appearances, including a 2-1-1 mark two years ago. He twice played with good friend Spieth in alternate-shot foursomes at Whistling Straits and they went 1-1.

Thomas missed three of four cuts in the majors this year and recalled the awkward moments with the media on Friday at July’s Open Championship, when the obvious question about Ryder Cup status was bound to come up. “Everyone’s thinking it, and I know I’m thinking it,” Thomas said. “I did put a lot of pressure on myself because it does mean so much to me. That being said, I think it was a valuable learning experience for me. It’s something that I will use going forward. … You can want something too bad, and I’m sure all of us have wanted to win golf tournaments too much or forced the issue. There are potential times this season that I did.

“I’m very fortunate to be here,” he added. “Zach has been very vocal, and made it sound great that we’re all equal on this team. I feel just as important as everybody else, and my teammates have voiced that the same way.”

Johnson spoke of losing sleep over having to make calls to those whom he didn’t pick, and among the toughest for him was Young, the 23-year-old who posted six top-10s this season and lost 6 and 5 to Burns in the Dell Technologies Match Play final. Young seemed all but a lock to make the team after vice captain Fred Couples said on his radio show in July, “Cam Young will be in Italy.”

Burns, 27, who has five PGA Tour wins to Young’s zero, was ultimately the choice and will be making his first Ryder Cup appearance. He did play for the American squad in the 2022 Presidents Cup and didn’t notch a victory, going 0-3-2.

“Stud athlete,” Johnson said of Burns. “Tremendous putter, which is always good in the Ryder Cup. To say he meshes well with the guys would be a massive understatement.”

Another American player who had to be gutted by being passed over was Bradley, who was trying to make his third Ryder Cup team and first since 2014. He'd made a strong case with two wins and six total top-10s this season.

Golf Channel's Todd Lewis said in a tweet that Bradley responded to Tuesday's news by telling him, "I could tell by the response from Zach when I answered the phone that I wasn’t on the team … I’m super bummed out. I thought I put together a really good year with two wins … I am pulling for the U.S. Team.”

(Source: golfdigest.com)

Viktor Hovland wins 2023 Tour Championship to claim season-ending FedEx Cup

ATLANTA – When Viktor Hovland won the Hero World Challenge in December, it put a bow on a year that was defined by close calls but otherwise was short on victory. For some, it would have represented a time to kick back, enjoy the holidays and assume his end-of-the-season winning form would be a springboard to bigger things, but not Hovland. He sought to get better and that meant it was time to re-make himself into a more complete player.

“If you want to get to the next level, you have to look introspectively,” he said. “I think when you try to be honest with yourself and ask yourself, OK, how can I get better, I just basically have to force myself to change a couple of these mindset things.”

All the hard work – to his swing, short game, use of Aim Point and course strategy – paid off, culminating in back-to-back wins and a prize of $18 million as the FedEx Cup champion. On another hot, humid day that led to a nearly two-hour weather delay, Hovland carded a 7-under 63 at East Lake Golf Club and rolled to a five-stroke victory over Xander Schauffele in the 30-man Tour Championship, the 47th event of the 2022-23 season and third and final leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

“He just keeps his foot on the pedal,” three-time FedEx Cup champion Rory McIlroy said, “just isn’t scared.”

No fear and a refusal to be complacent are attributes that have made the 25-year-old Norwegian a three-time winner this season and one of the best players in the game. Despite winning the U.S. Amateur in 2018 and finding immediate success on the PGA Tour as one of the best ballstrikers in golf, Hovland grew frustrated with his consistency last season.

“It’s a little frustrating showing up to events when you don’t feel like you have your best stuff,” he said before winning in the Bahamas in December. “You don’t have the confidence over the ball thinking, ‘OK, I’m going to stuff this 7-iron,’ because that’s what I used to do when I first came out here and the last two years basically it’s been pretty deadly from the fairway.”

Hovland’s frustration boiled over and in his search to identify flaws in his game that could help him challenge for world No. 1, he changed swing coaches in January, hiring Joe Mayo, better known in social media circles as the Trackman Maestro.

“It is amazing that a player could win a tournament and not be happy with themselves,” Mayo said of Hovland switching coaches shortly after a win, but Mayo’s seen pros who have attributed a win to “smoke and mirrors.”

Switching coaches can be a risky proposition for a player. It can be a recipe for disaster but Mayo noted that Hovland is too savvy to let that happen.

“He’s not gonna let any instructor screw him up,” Mayo said. “He’s too smart for it. He’s got a great bullshit meter, as I would say.”

Mayo studied 3-D imaging of Hovland’s swing and helped him reestablish a repeatable swing and restore faith in his squeeze cut. Hovland said he’s had his best driving season. East Lake is too difficult to play from its wiry rough but Hovland, who ranked first in driving accuracy for the second straight week, could be aggressive and go flag-hunting.

“His ballstriking is probably top 3 on Tour, especially when he’s playing well,” said Edoardo Molinari, a winner of three DP Tour titles, who doubles as Hovland’s performance coach. “He doesn’t miss a shot.”

His short-game was another story. Early in his career, Hovland admitted his chipping game “sucked.” He ranked 191st in Strokes Gained: Around the Green last season.

“Before, when I was standing over every shot, I was like, ‘Don’t duff it, skull it, don’t leave it in the bunker,” Hovland said last week. “Me and a buddy of mine, we made up this saying: Just land it on and keep it on. We set the bar pretty low when we had a chip. Now it’s a lot of fun to be able to open up that face and just slap the ground and put some friction on the ball.”

At the Tour Championship, Hovland ranked first in scrambling as he notched his sixth career PGA Tour title. Mayo said he didn’t even discuss the short game with Hovland during their first month together. On Tuesday of the Genesis Invitational in February, Mayo told his pupil, “Anybody that can put a 4-iron on the back of the ball at 105 miles an hour and hit it 240, are you telling me that you can’t chip a golf ball? I don’t accept that, and I don’t buy it.”

Mayo introduced the short-game package in tiny morsels throught the Players Championship in March. Hovland has improved to 105th in SG: Around the Green this season.

Mayo points out that that figure doesn’t take into account when they started working together. Mayo asked Molinari to run his short game stats from the Players through the FedEx St. Jude Championship and the numbers don’t lie: He’s gained .176 shots, “which puts him at about 55th,” Mayo said.

“That’s been the difference from being still a top-10 player in the world to what he’s done this year,” McIlroy said.

The final ingredient in turning Hovland into his best self this season was improving his course management. He began working with Molinari last year but it was this spring where they made one of their biggest discoveries. After the Masters, where Hovland finished T-7, Mayo asked Molinari to crunch some numbers and discovered that when Hovland attacked greens with pitching wedge through 8-iron, he was short-siding himself 30 percent of the time and the Tour average is 20 percent of the time.

“Sometimes he just misses in spots where no one would get up and down,” Molinari said. “The short game is less of an issue than it is believed to be.”
Hovland compared his new-found focus on course management to the game of poker and placing smart bets depending on the hand he’s dealt. He implemented the strategy at the PGA Championship and finished T-2, and it worked to perfection at the Memorial in June, the first of his three wins in his last eight events.

“Anytime you can tilt math to your advantage, that can be huge,” he said.
Mayo has beaten into Hovland’s head that in Tiger Woods’s heyday, he made a living off of hitting safely to 20 feet, shooting 70 and winning a bundle of majors.

“It’s called boring golf and if Viktor Hovland plays boring golf, he’s going to be hard to beat,” Mayo said.

A week ago, at the BMW Championship near Chicago, Hovland said he “blacked out for a minute” en route to a final-round 61, which included seven birdies and a back-nine 28 to clip world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and Matt Fitzpatrick.

At East Lake, where he won the 2018 East Lake Cup men’s stroke play title, which included his first hole-in-one at the par-3 11th, Hovland began the week in second place with a stroke allocation of 8 under in the staggered start. With rounds of 68-64-66, he built a commanding six-stroke lead and he continued his assault on par with four birdies in his first six holes. Schauffele (62) did his best to chip away at the lead, making birdie at seven of his first 12 holes to trim the deficit to three.

“I’ll hold my head up high,” Schauffele said. “It was the most fun I had losing in quite some time.”

Just when it looked like it was about to become a taut affair, Hovland canned a clutch 23-foot par putt at No. 13, the longest putt he made all week, and tacked on birdies at 16 and 17 for good measure to wrap up a bogey-free final round and a total score of 27 under that made the walk to the 18th green a foregone conclusion. It was a testament to how far Hovland’s game has progressed.

“I’m very hard on myself and I felt like even though I had the game to compete, I never truly believed it,” he said. “I’ve just gotten better and better every single year, and with that comes the belief and I feel like the belief was the last missing piece.”

 

SOURCE: [GolfWeek.USAToday]

Hovland sets Olympia Fields record with 61 to win BMW Championship

 

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. (AP) — Viktor Hovland kept hitting every shot just the way he wanted on the back nine at Olympia Fields. Rory McIlroy was keeping his card and kept writing “3” in just about every box.

Hovland delivered the best round of his career at just the right time Sunday, turning a two-man race into a one-man show by breaking the course record with a 9-under 61 to surge past Scottie Scheffler and Matt Fitzpatrick and win the BMW Championship.

The previous mark of 62 had been set twice this week on the rain-softened North course, by Sam Burns and Max Homa the previous two days. Hovland was so close to perfection that he birdied all but two holes on the back nine.

“When I made the putt on 15 for birdie, I felt like, ‘OK, we’ve got a chance now if I can finish pretty well,’” Hovland said. “Then you never know what’s going to happen behind you. ... Until then, I had no idea what was going on. I was just going to try to play well and keep making birdies.”

What happened behind him was nothing special. Scheffler holed enough putts to lead by two at one point, but he missed the ones that really mattered — 6 feet for birdie on the par-3 16th to stay with Hovland, and then a three-putt from 20 feet on the 17th for bogey.

Fitzpatrick had an eight-hole stretch in the middle of his round that he played in 1 over, and then two birdies late at least kept him in the game. He and Scheffler each closed with 66 to share second place and leave Chicago feeling helpless.

“Can’t do anything about 61. I did just see Viktor — I called him a little (expletive),” Fitzpatrick said with a grin. “But for me, just really pleased again that I played really well, final round in contention with world No. 1, and I didn’t lose it. Someone else came from behind and won it.”

Even on soft turf, Scheffler was mystified by the low scores and could only applaud Hovland, especially on a Sunday. It was the lowest closing round by a PGA Tour winner this year, and a career-best for the 25-year-old Norwegian star.

“I’m just a bit frustrated. I think that would be the way to describe it,” Scheffler said. “Viktor went out and really just beat me today and played a fantastic round. I can hold my head high. I did my best out there today and fought hard. Just ultimately came up a couple shots short.”

Hovland won for the second time this year and never looked better doing it.

He only had one putt longer than 15 feet on the back nine. He closed with birdies on the 17th and 18th, the two hardest holes, finishing with a pitching wedge from 158 yards over the bunker to 6 feet on the 18th for one last birdie.

“That has to be the best round I’ve ever played,” Hovland said. “Given the circumstances — a playoff event, this golf course — the way I played the last holes was pretty special.”

Turns out the drama came from everywhere else.

Jordan Spieth bogeyed his last two holes for a 71 and was on the verge of falling out of the top 30 in the FedEx Cup who make it to East Lake next week for the Tour Championship. But then Denny McCarthy made three bogeys over his last seven holes to fall out.

The cruelest of all was Sahith Theegala. He ran off three straight birdies through the 17th hole and was projected to be in the top 30. But he took bogey on the last hole, while Patrick Cantlay in his group made birdie. They tied for 15th, and that bogey-birdie combination was enough to end Theegala’s season.

Sepp Straka wound up getting the 30th spot by nine points over Theegala.

Xander Schauffele did enough right in his round of 68 to tie for eighth, earning enough money to narrowly earn the sixth and final automatic spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Schauffele was certain to get one of the six captain’s picks, but his finish moved PGA champion Brooks Koepka from No. 5 to No. 7 in the Ryder Cup standings.

U.S. captain Zach Johnson makes his six picks in nine days.

WiretoWire: Glover goes back-to-back

LUCAS GLOVER WINS FEDEXCUP PLAYOFFS OPENER, SECOND TITLE IN TWO WEEKS

Lucas Glover was the talk of the golf world after an emotional victory at last week’s Wyndham Championship, earning a FedExCup Playoffs spot in dramatic fashion after overcoming a years-long battle with the putting yips. So, why stop there? Glover went back-to-back with a playoff victory at the FedEx St. Jude Championship, the first leg of the three-event FedExCup Playoffs. The 43-year-old matched Patrick Cantlay’s 15-under total at TPC Southwind and won with a two-putt par on the first extra hole after Cantlay’s tee shot found a watery grave left of the fairway at the par-4 18th, and he couldn’t save par. Glover shook off his own water ball Sunday – his tee shot on the par-3 14th – salvaging bogey with a 30-footer. He then played bogey-free to the house to earn his playoff spot. Suddenly, Glover moves to fourth on the FedExCup standings (he accrues 2,000 points with the win, as quadruple points are on offer) and assumes a spot as a genuine contender for the season-long crown. The three names ahead of him in the standings: Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy. It’s esteemed company for Glover, now a six-time TOUR winner, and some might see it as a surprise. But for those who have long regarded him as one of the game’s premier ball-strikers, it’s no surprise that when his putting came around, the hardware would soon follow. “If you would have told me this three months ago, I’d tell you you’re crazy,” Glover said. “But at the same time, if you asked me legitimately, did I think I was capable, I’d say yes … It’s just one of those sad ways athletes are wired. We always believe in ourselves.” The golf world now believes in him, too.

WINDY CITY WELCOMES BMW

The FedExCup Playoffs head north for the second leg of the postseason. Olympia Fields’ North Course, located outside of Chicago, plays host to the BMW Championship, which features the top 50 players in the FedExCup standings. Jon Rahm held his lead in the FedExCup standings after the first Playoffs event, but he’s only 148 points ahead of Scottie Scheffler. Defending FedExCup champion Rory McIlroy travels to Chicago off a T3 finish at TPC Southwind, which included a final-round 65. Lucas Glover is fresh off a playoff victory over Patrick Cantlay at the FedEx St. Jude Championship, his second title in as many weeks. Glover continues his meteoric rise in the FedExCup standings; he entered the prior week’s Wyndham Championship outside the top 100 on the FedExCup, then won to punch his ticket to the Playoffs. Cantlay will look for his third consecutive BMW Championship victory, after successfully defending his title last year at Wilmington (Delaware) Country Club. Presidents Cup teammates Cam Davis and Hideki Matsuyama played their way into the BMW Championship field after moving inside the top 50 in Memphis. Olympia Fields is no stranger to big events: The Willie Park Jr. design has held two U.S. Opens (1928, 2003), a pair of PGA Championships (1925, 1961), the U.S. Senior Open (1997), the U.S. Amateur (2015), the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (2017) and the 2020 BMW Championship. FedExCup points are again quadrupled, with 2,000 points on offer for the winner before Starting Strokes are used at the TOUR Championship

 

MIC CHECK

“Hey, three bucks a load. That’s not bad,” — Lucas Glover comments on doing his own laundry in a hotel laundry room in Memphis during FedEx St. Jude

BY THE NUMBERS

11 – The first featured hole at TPC Southwind for the PGA TOUR Scramble on Roblox that debuts each Monday of Playoffs week. Fans can experience the FedExCup Playoffs virtually through PGA TOUR Scramble on Roblox.

10,000 – The number of simulations run in the algorithm forPGA TOUR’s new Win Probabilities function. The algorithm takes into account stats like Driving Accuracy, Greens in Regulation and more, combining those numbers with hole statistics and TOUR averages and then then runs 10,000 simulations for each hole for every player during every round for every previous tournament to determine pre-tournament probabilities.

1 – Where Alejandro Tosti needed to finish at the Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Aetna to secure his PGA TOUR card for next season, which he accomplished with a final-round 62 in Omaha, Nebraska, to ensure the victory by a three-stroke margin.

4 – PGA TOUR Champions wins this season for Stephen Ames, who secured his fourth title at the Boeing Classic, seven strokes clear of Steven Alker. Ames trails just Steve Stricker (five) in Champions Tour victories this season.

 

SOURCE: [PGATour.com]

Wyndham Championship payout: Big check, huge FedExCup haul for Lucas Glover

Lucas Glover won his fifth career PGA Tour event at the Wyndham Championship. The victory earned him more than $1.3 million as well as 500 FedExCup points. The latter resulted in his jumping from 112th to 49th in the standings to secure a spot in the first round of the playoffs.

The top 70 upon the Wyndham regular-season finale earned a tee time at the upcoming FedEx St. Jude Championship. The top 50 after the St. Jude will move on to the BMW Championship. The first two playoff events each have a $20 million purse with the Tour Championship (top 30 after BMW) offering a $75 million prize pool.

Here are the full purse and FedExCup breakdowns for those who made the cut at Sedgefield Country Club. 

Finish

Player

FedEx 

  Earnings ($)

1

Lucas Glover

500.00

1,368,000.00

T2

Byeong Hun An

245.00

676,400.00

T2

Russell Henley

245.00

676,400.00

4

Billy Horschel

135.00

372,400.00

T5

Michael Kim

105.00

293,550.00

T5

Webb Simpson

105.00

293,550.00

T7

Cam Davis

80.00

223,060.00

T7

J.T. Poston

80.00

223,060.00

T7

Adam Scott

80.00

223,060.00

T7

Adam Svensson

80.00

223,060.00

T7

Brendon Todd

80.00

223,060.00

T12

Charley Hoffman

62.50

169,100.00

T12

Justin Thomas

62.50

169,100.00

T14

Ludvig Aberg

51.00

123,500.00

T14

Sam Burns

51.00

123,500.00

T14

Eric Cole

51.00

123,500.00

T14

Nicolai Hojgaard

-

123,500.00

T14

Sungjae Im

51.00

123,500.00

T14

Stephan Jaeger

51.00

123,500.00

T14

Robert Streb

51.00

123,500.00

21

Thomas Detry

43.00

93,100.00

T22

Ryan Brehm

37.30

73,340.00

T22

Luke Donald

37.30

73,340.00

T22

Taylor Moore

37.30

73,340.00

T22

Matti Schmid

37.30

73,340.00

T22

Davis Thompson

37.30

73,340.00

T27

Nick Hardy

28.75

53,200.00

T27

Nicholas Lindheim

28.75

53,200.00

T27

Andrew Putnam

28.75

53,200.00

T27

Chez Reavie

28.75

53,200.00

T27

Austin Smotherman

28.75

53,200.00

T27

Gary Woodland

28.75

53,200.00

T33

Harris English

21.10

41,420.00

T33

Chesson Hadley

21.10

41,420.00

T33

Si Woo Kim

21.10

41,420.00

T33

Kelly Kraft

21.10

41,420.00

T33

Andrew Novak

21.10

41,420.00

T38

Sam Bennett

-

31,540.00

T38

Tyler Duncan

15.00

31,540.00

T38

Matt Kuchar

15.00

31,540.00

T38

Alex Noren

15.00

31,540.00

T38

Sam Ryder

15.00

31,540.00

T38

Greyson Sigg

15.00

31,540.00

T38

J.J. Spaun

15.00

31,540.00

T45

Peter Kuest

-

22,116.00

T45

David Lipsky

9.75

22,116.00

T45

Scott Piercy

9.75

22,116.00

T45

Brandt Snedeker

9.75

22,116.00

T45

Matt Wallace

9.75

22,116.00

T45

Kyle Westmoreland

9.75

22,116.00

T51

Christiaan Bezuidenhout

6.62

18,164.00

T51

Zecheng Dou

6.62

18,164.00

T51

Doug Ghim

6.62

18,164.00

T51

Nate Lashley

6.62

18,164.00

T51

Shane Lowry

6.62

18,164.00

T51

Max McGreevy

6.62

18,164.00

T51

Dylan Wu

6.62

18,164.00

T58

Martin Laird

5.10

17,176.00

T58

Troy Merritt

5.10

17,176.00

T58

Vincent Norrman

5.10

17,176.00

T58

Brandon Wu

5.10

17,176.00

T62

Matt NeSmith

4.50

16,720.00

T62

Scott Stallings

4.50

16,720.00

T64

Joel Dahmen

4.00

16,340.00

T64

C.T. Pan

4.00

16,340.00

T64

Adam Schenk

4.00

16,340.00

T67

Michael Gligic

3.40

15,884.00

T67

Trey Mullinax

3.40

15,884.00

T67

Carson Young

3.40

15,884.00

70

Wesley Bryan

3.00

15,580.00

T71

Jim Herman

2.85

15,352.00

T71

Richy Werenski

2.85

15,352.00

73

Carl Yuan

2.70

15,124.00

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