Goooooood morning, golf fans! We’re big proponents of coffee golf around here, but late-night sandbelt golf has proven its bona fides this week. The first two days of the Presidents Cup have brought surprising results, impressive rookies, and storylines galore. Maybe this event isn’t just a soulless corporate contrivance after all.
Well, well, well
The Internationals came out a little sluggish and nervous on Thursday, but they quickly turned the momentum, jumping out to a 4-1 lead after the fourball matches. The International train kept chugging through foursomes on Friday morning. Well into the back nine, they led four of the five matches.
But Team USA found a spark in the perhaps least sparkly of individuals: Patrick Cantlay. The typically reserved Presidents Cup rookie threw a vigorous fist pump as he jarred a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to earn a point for the Americans. Justin Thomas followed with another 18th-hole birdie (and a rousing celebration with his partner/captain) to defeat Hideki Matsuyama and Ben An. Finally, Rickie Fowler holed a par putt on No. 18 to save his team half a point. Team USA ended up splitting the day’s points with the Internationals and staving off disaster.
The International team easily could have been up 8.5-1.5 this morning. Their team has looked more alert, intense, and focused, and many U.S. players have appeared apathetic, lacking the fire needed to win a team event. All of that changed during the last 30 minutes of Friday’s action, with Cantlay, JT, Tiger, and Rickie showing serious emotion on the 18th green. In danger of losing control of the event early in the week, Team USA flipped the script and now has momentum on its side heading into the weekend.
A few notes
- As much as we love Sungjae, Royal Melbourne has been the star of the show in this Presidents Cup. The grounds crew at Royal Melbourne has the Composite Course playing fast, firm, and exciting. This style of golf is such a breath of fresh air. Smart positioning and great strikes are rewarded while thoughtless play and indifferent execution are punished.
- Tiger Woods has been hands down the best player on either team so far. The U.S. captain’s iron play, incredible touch around the greens, and course management have set him apart. Watching Tiger play world-class golf on a world-class golf course has been nothing short of inspiring.
- Presidents Cup rookie Abraham Ancer has won both of his matches, but several other young foreign players have been impressive as well. Joaquín Niemann, Sungjae Im, Ben An, and Cam Smith have all played excellent golf this week, validating captain Ernie Els’s preparation and strategy.
- Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson have gone 0-2 as a team. Not only has Reed faced chirping from the crowd, but his play has been notably lackluster. But whattaya know, Pat and Webb will be out there again on Saturday morning!
Day 3 fourball pairings:
Leishman/Li vs. Thomas/Fowler
Im/Ancer vs. Schauffele/Cantlay
Matsuyama/Pan vs. Reed/Simpson
Scott/An vs. Kuchar/Finau
International: Hadwin, Niemann, Oosthuizen, Smith
U.S.: Woods, Woodland, Johnson, DeChambeau
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Dear Eccentric Billionaire Golf Fans… – Andy makes a plea to the .01%: take us back to Royal Melbourne every year.
Fried Egg Stories, Episode 2: The Doctor Goes Down Under
The second installment of our new audio documentary series digs into the history behind the venue of this week’s Presidents Cup, Royal Melbourne Golf Club. This Australian gem exists in its current form because, in 1926, the famous British architect Dr. Alister MacKenzie decided to sail across the world and spend two and a half months down under. During his visit, he not only drew up plans for the West Course at Royal Melbourne but also consulted at many golf clubs throughout Australia. His apparent influence on golf in the country was enormous. So the question we ask in this episode is, essentially, how in the world did MacKenzie do all of that in 10 weeks? Or are we all giving him too much credit? Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.
Shotgun Start: The shovel show, Royal Melbourne shines, and Bryson’s day off
Brendan returns from a lengthy paternity stint to talk the antics of Patrick “The Shovel” Reed. He’s met with a Bixby-fueled Andy who is over the moon about Royal Melbourne. First they take on the continuing fiasco with Reed, who added fuel to a story that his teammates all vouched was “in the past.” Andy and Brendan relay some details and the chants from the alleged Aussie provokers of the shovel mimicry, who also happen to be listeners. Then they get into the exquisite show that is Tiger Woods taking on Royal Melbourne, praising both Tiger’s play and the test that brings out his superior talent. Andy describes just what makes watching the best play this course so fun and how the Internationals appear to be out-strategizing and out-smarting the U.S. side with their approach to RM. They wrap with some thoughts on the pairings for Saturday morning’s session, which leave Bryson on the bench again. This leads to a pondering of just what he did during his time off on Day 2 before a final sign-off with predictions for what’s to come this weekend. Listen on iTunes, Spotify, and Stitcher.
Korn Ferry Tour Q-School
The first round at Orange County National was a low-scoring affair with 55 players breaking par. Tag Ridings (who thinks Royal Melbourne looks like “no fun”) and past NCAA champion Braden Thornberry lead the way after rounds of -7 on Thursday. They are one shot ahead of a group of six that includes Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey, the former Big Break star who was arrested in a prostitution sting earlier this week. Somehow Gainey still made it to Orlando and shot an opening round of 66. Leaderboard
Patrick Reed tried to make a funny on Friday with shovel digging motion after he holed a putt. It won’t be easy for PR to escape from this checkerboard-furnished PR dungeon he has built himself, so… he might as well try and dig his way out?
International team member Cameron Smith has been outspoken in his criticism of Reed’s disregard for the rules of golf. Reportedly that earned the young Australian a “love tap” from the American on Thursday. Sounds romantic!
Shane Ryan of Golf Digest confirmed what we all suspected: the singing “American” “fanatics” in the grandstands by the 1st tee at Royal Melbourne are hired mercenaries—and mostly Australian. That is just such a dumb thing that exists.
Following in the European Tour’s footsteps, the Ladies European Tour will head to Saudi Arabia in 2020. The event’s $1-million purse is about three times larger than the average LET prize fund. Full Story from Beth Ann Nichols in Golfweek
Tiger’s Presidents Cup hat is bad. It’s a bad hat. He’s still a good golfer, though.
The Must-Sees of Public Golf Architecture in America
The Fields Golf Club (LaGrange, Georgia)
Many people point to Tom Doak and Bill Coore as the pioneers of modern minimalism in golf course architecture. While their projects at High Pointe and Sand Hills were higher profile, Mike Young’s The Fields came before either of them. In 1986, after years of selling maintenance equipment, Young used one D5 bulldozer to build this wide, strategic golf course with wonderful greens. This place is an absolute must-visit for any Atlanta resident.
Insider tip: As you pull into the parking lot, check out the shed to the right of the clubhouse. That’s where Scotty Cameron got his start in the putter-making business. -Andy Johnson
Full Profile by Will Bardwell
Photo credit: Jaeger Kovich