Jim Furyk selects Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau for U.S.
PHILADELPHIA — Tiger Woods was one of three golfers named as at-large picks to the U.S. Ryder Cup team by captain Jim Furyk on Tuesday and later this month will make his eighth appearance in the event, but his first since 2012.
Although the at-large pick was expected, it was still the culmination of a remarkable and unlikely run that didn’t seem possible when Furyk named Woods to be one of his vice captains in January.
At the time, Woods, 42, was ranked 656th in the world and had not earned a single Ryder Cup point. He had not played competitive golf in a year, the result of his fourth back surgery.
“Deep down, I wanted to make the team. I really wanted to play on it,” Woods said Tuesday at a news conference where Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau were also added to the U.S. team. “Now I had not started playing golf really yet, but still … it was a goal.
|* Captain’s at-large picks
“… As the year progressed, I’ve kind of gained some traction and was somehow able to get some high finishes. And lo and behold, I’m a part of this team. It’s incredible, it really is, to look back at the start of the year and now to have accomplished a goal like that, to be a part of this team, and now to be a player is just — like I said, it’s beyond special.”
Woods, who has five top-10 finishes this year, including a runner-up at the PGA Championship three weeks ago, ended up 11th in the final Ryder Cup standings, with the top eight players after the PGA earning automatic picks.
Mickelson and DeChambeau also received at-large picks Tuesday and will join qualifiers Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson.
Furyk will add a final pick Monday following the BMW Championship at Aronimink Golf Club. Tony Finau is considered the leading candidate. Others who might still be considered are Kevin Kisner, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay.
The 2018 Ryder Cup will be played at Le Golf National, outside Paris, on Sept. 28-30.
Mickelson, 48, will be making his 12th straight Ryder Cup appearance.
“It’s obvious that the one thing that has been missing is for our team to go over to Europe and win,” said Mickelson, who has played on three winning U.S. teams — but never overseas. “I’m very excited about the team this year. I’m excited to be a part of this team. We have some incredible players, great leadership and a really special opportunity to do something that we haven’t done in a long time.
“It’s going to be a great challenge because we know how strong the European side is and how well they play at home. But it’s a wonderful chance, an opportunity for us to do something I haven’t done or been a part of in my career, and would very much like to.”
DeChambeau finished ninth in the final standings and was considered a strong possibility for a pick before winning the first two FedEx Cup playoff events. He is a former U.S. Amateur champion and has already developed a bond with Woods, looking to speculation about a possible pairing in France.
uryk said Woods will no longer serve as a vice captain. He named David Duval, Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar as assistants to join previously announced vice captains Davis Love III and Steve Stricker.
Love captained the U.S. team to victory in 2016, and Stricker was the winning U.S. Presidents Cup team captain last year.
The European team had eight qualifiers — Justin Rose, Tyrrell Hatton, Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Alexander Noren, Francesco Molinariand Thorbjorn Olesen — decided on Sunday following the Made in Denmark tournament on the European Tour.
Captain Thomas Bjorn made his four at-large selections Wednesday, choosing Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia. Among those not making the team are Rafael Cabrera Bello, Thomas Pieters and Denmark winner Matt Wallace.
Bryson DeChambeau wins Memorial with birdie on second extra hole
DUBLIN, Ohio — For the fourth straight year, Bryson DeChambeau leaves Ohio feeling like a winner.
This time he had a trophy to show for it, and a handshake with Jack Nicklaus to remember.
DeChambeau finally made it easy on himself the third time playing the 18th hole at the Muirfield Village on Sunday, rolling in a 12-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to beat Byeong Hun An and win the Memorial.
“I can’t believe I did it,” said DeChambeau, a winner for the second time on the PGA Tour.
He had played the Memorial only once before, though the 24-year-old Californian has been a regular in central Ohio. He has made it through the 36-hole U.S. Open qualifier each of the last three years, all in the Columbus area.
This was far more rewarding.
DeChambeau watched his putt disappear and raised both arms, pumping them seven times as he yelled above the cheers of fans. Many of them lingered at the 18th green in expectation that this might be the day Tiger Woods returned to winning.
Woods was never a serious factor, especially after missing a three-foot par putt on the 10th hole and hitting another tee shot into someone’s backyard on the 13th hole. One of his best weeks hitting the ball ended with an even-par 72 and a six-way tie for 23rd.
The finish was no less entertaining.
DeChambeau went from a two-shot deficit at the turn to a one-shot lead after No. 12, and he kept the lead the rest of the way until a three-putt bogey on the 18th hole from about 55 feet for a 1-under 71. That tied with An, who had closed with a 69 in the group ahead and was the first to reach 15-under 273.
Kyle Stanley joined them in the playoff. He hit into the water on the par-3 12th to fall five shots behind with six holes to play, only to run off four straight birdies, capping the big run with a 30-foot putt on the 17th to tie DeChambeau.
Just his luck, Stanley hit a tree on the right elbow of the dogleg at No. 18, and it shot the ball across the fairway and nearly into a creek, except the ankle-deep rough was thick enough to slow it. Even so, he could only advance the ball 100 yards and made bogey for a 70.
In the playoff, his tee shot was enough to the right that the ball was well above his feet in thick grass. Stanley choked up and took a swing, but the ball squirted out about 30 yards to the right, leading to another bogey, and he was quickly eliminated.
“A couple bad breaks on 18,” Stanley said. “I mean, in the playoff, if I knock that ball 2-3 feet right of where it was, I would have had a shot. But after Hole 12 my chances were looking pretty slim, so to come back and make some birdies coming in … it’s a bit of a sour finish, but proud of the way I hung in there.”
An took some of the pressure off DeChambeau on the second playoff hole, also on No. 18, when he yanked his approach into the gallery. He played a marvelous flop shot out of deep rough to a couple of feet for a certain par, only for DeChambeau to hit his approach 12 feet behind the hole and make the birdie.
“I finally got it right the third time,” DeChambeau said. “It took me a little bit.”
Patrick Cantlay also had a chance Sunday, leading by two shots going to the back nine. But he didn’t make a birdie over his last 10 holes, and he fell back when he went bunker-to-bunker on the 17th and made bogey to fall two strokes behind. Cantlay narrowly missed a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole, shot 71 and finished fourth. Peter Uihlein (66) was alone in fifth.
Joaquin Niemann, the 19-year-old from Chile, birdied the 18th hole to tie for sixth. That was enough for him to earn special temporary membership on the PGA Tour, meaning he can get unlimited sponsor exemptions.
Justin Thomas shot 68 and tied for eighth in his debut at No. 1 in the world. He will keep that ranking going into the U.S. Open.
Woods started five shots behind. He pulled to within three shots with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 fifth hole, but he didn’t make another birdie until he had fallen seven shots behind and only had eight holes in front of him.
Woods was second to last in the key putting statistic among the 73 players who went all four rounds.
“If I just putt normally, I probably would be right there with those guys and up there in the last couple of groups,” Woods said. “If I just keep building on this, with how I’m hitting it right now, I’m in good shape for two weeks from now.”
The next stop for Woods is the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.
DeChambeau will be there, too, his confidence higher than ever. He first played the Memorial in 2016 and was coming off four straight missed cuts. He tied for 38th that week, a small victory, but realized his game wasn’t good enough.
Now, he has PGA Tour titles in consecutive seasons. And his victory moved him to No. 8 in the Ryder Cup standings.
DUBLIN, Ohio — Joaquin Niemann could figure out where Tiger Woods was on the golf course from the mass of people following him a few groups ahead, and he had a pretty good idea what he was doing from all the noise, at least before Woods put a putter in his hands.
“There was so many people,” Niemann said.
The few who stuck behind for the 19-year-old Chilean saw another good show at the Memorial Tournament.
In his fifth start as a pro, Niemann finished with two birdies over his last three holes for a 4-under 68 and a share of the lead with Kyle Stanley, who had a 66. He finished with an 8-foot birdie on the 18th hole.
Woods shot a 67 and was six shots behind with nearly two dozen players in front of him.
Stanley, who won the Quicken Loans National last summer, was atop the leaderboard for much of the day and was starting to pull away until a poor tee shot at No. 6 led to bogey. He finished with a par save from just off the ninth green and reached 11-under 133.
On the other side of the course was Niemann, the No. 1 amateur in the world and Latin American Amateur champion who wanted to play the Masters before turning pro. He looks his age when his braces shine every time he smiles. He plays beyond his years.
Already with a pair of top-10s on the PGA Tour, Niemann now finds himself in the last group going into the weekend at the tournament Jack Nicklaus founded, and he doesn’t appear to be the least bit nervous about being there.
“It feels really nice to be on top of the leaderboard,” he said. “It does feel really nice for tomorrow.”
Byeong Hun An had a 67 and was two shots behind.
Among those three off the lead were Hideki Matsuyama (71), who earned his first PGA Tour title at the Memorial three years ago, and Jason Day, a former world No. 1 who is a member at Muirfield Village and has never come close to winning. Perhaps this is the year. Day had never been within five shots of the lead going into the weekend at the Memorial, and he’s not sure why.
“I think I just [stunk] on it for a long time,” Day said. “I don’t think there was anything, any reason why. I just didn’t really play well. But I’m hopeful I can change that because I feel different this year.
“I want to play well in front of my family,” he said. “Family and friends come out and I want them to be yelling in the crowd when I’m in contention.”
Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose each had a 66 and were in the group at 7-under 137, while Dustin Johnson was among those at 138, even though he has played the par 5s in just 1 under for the week.
Johnson and Rose each have a chance to get to No. 1 in the world. Justin Thomas, in his debut at No. 1, overcame a pair of early bogeys for a 69 and was at 3 under.
Rory McIlroy made bogeys on both par 5s on the front nine as he tried to finish strong. He had to settle for a 70 and made the cut on the number. That was still better than Jordan Spieth, who finished bogey-bogey for a 72 and missed the cut by three shots.
Since his closing 64 at the Masters, Spieth has finished at least 12 shots behind the winner in his three tournaments and missed the cut in his final event before heading to Shinnecock Hills for the U.S. Open.
Why Jordan Spieth’s next four weeks are so important
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Jordan Spieth understandably could have been upset about putting his tee shot in the water and quadruple-bogeying his final hole at the Players Championship, but the three-time major winner was pretty pumped after his final round.
That’s because he really likes the way he’s playing, and that has his confidence soaring for the upcoming back-to-back tournaments on his home turf.
“I feel as good about my golf game right now as I have in two-plus years,” Spieth said Sunday after finishing tied for 41st at 6-under par at TPC Sawgrass. “I went 14-under … with three holes left in the first round until the 17th hole the final round on a golf course that really doesn’t fit my game, and I’m going to a few places in a row that I really love.
“Everything feels like it’s progressing really nicely. I’m extremely positive about the next few weeks.”
The PGA Tour’s next two stops are in Dallas, for the AT&T Byron Nelson Classic, and Fort Worth, Texas, for the Fort Worth Invitational. Spieth lives in Dallas and has played numerous rounds at Trinity Forest Golf Club, a links-style course that opened in the fall of 2016 and will be the new home of the Byron Nelson.
Spieth said that gives him a significant advantage over “anybody else in the field, having been there from the day they sprigged the greens.
“I haven’t seen a lot of the pins and I know the tees are going to switch around from what we normally play, but I’m excited about the next few weeks.”
Spieth hasn’t finished higher than a tie for 18th in six appearances at the Byron Nelson, but he has finished in the top 10 in four of his five appearances at the Fort Worth Invitational, including winning the tournament in 2016 and finishing tied for second last year and in 2015.
Those two tournaments will be Spieth’s second and third consecutive weeks of golf, and he’s expected to play the Memorial at the end of the month. It’s the only time he plays four times in four weeks every year, and he likes doing it.
“Historically I play better golf after I’ve played the week before,” Spieth said. “You just get these weird kinks, like what I did there on 18 [at the Players], these kind of, OK, refocus and make sure you’re playing away from trouble. I get a little, I don’t know if lazy is the right word, but a little lack of commitment or maybe even over-commitment, to trying to be too aggressive first weeks out trying to shoot up the board.
“Is it difficult [to play four consecutive weeks]? No. I’m in my own bed. There’s certainly a lot of obligations that I don’t have other weeks the next two, but I’ve done a good job managing them the last couple years and will continue to.”
Quadruple-bogey on No. 18 aside, Spieth’s performance at the Players was his best there since he finished tied for fourth in his tournament debut in 2014 (he missed the cut the previous three years), and his third-round 65 was his second-best round of the season. He had shot 66 five other times this season, including the first round of The Masters (he finished third).
Spieth missed the cut at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans two weeks ago and didn’t play in the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina, May 3-6. With his confidence in his game sky high, he’s excited about the next few weeks.
“I’ve got a four-week stretch here now that I really enjoy,” Spieth said. “This is the only time I play four in a row in a season, and I like doing that. It’s fun. I love being on the road and practicing and grinding and having a chance to play on the PGA Tour, and to have these events, go home — I’ve got an opportunity in these four weeks to have a lot of fun playing golf and potentially give myself a chance to win. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
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