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Wednesday, September 28, 2016 -
CHASKA, Minn. – Davis Love III said it was an “incredible gesture.” The U.S. Ryder Cup captain had just called Bubba Watson to tell him – for the second time in two weeks – that he was not picking the No. 7 player in the world to play on his team. The first time was after the BMW Championship when Love had three picks to make. The second came Sunday when Love decided to pick TOUR Championship runner-up Ryan Moore to complete his team. “He immediately said, ‘I still want to be a part of this team, if you'll have me,’” Love said. “When I told the team members and assistant captains that were there (Sunday) night, we're still in disbelief. … “We have a lot of emotion over Arnold Palmer, a lot of emotion over a last-minute pick, but what Bubba did really shows how together the U.S. Team really is.” Love said Watson brings a different personality and a “great heart” to the team. As the Americans headed out to practice on a brisk Tuesday morning,  Watson was there at the first tee, cheering just like the fans huddled together in the bleachers. “He might could cry a little bit more than me, but I'll probably out-do him this week,” Love said with a smile. “Bubba and I are always in a contest for who gets teared up the most or first. “We're just thrilled to have him. It's going to be a lot of fun.” Watson actually had offered his services as an assistant captain prior to the TOUR Championship and reiterated that desire in interviews several times at East Lake last week. “I want to be a part of the team no matter what,” Watson told the media more than once when questioned about the one remaining captain’s pick. “There's going to be one year, hopefully before I pass away, that we actually win, and I want to be a part of it.’ The Americans were impressed by his passion and commitment.. “I think what Bubba Watson did in reaction speaks a lot to his character that he doesn't get a lot of credit for,” Jordan Spieth said. “… Bubba wondered why (he didn’t get picked), as anybody would, and then soon thereafter said, Okay, is there any way that I can be a part of this team and help this team out? Any way? “I don't care if I'm there to go get guys waters and I'm not a part of any of the team meetings; I don't care if I'm just there as a fan; I don't care if I'm an assistant captain. Is there anything I can do to help this team out to have a better chance to win?” Rickie Fowler, himself a captain’s pick, is one of Watson’s best friends. He knows the two-time Masters champion would rather be playing but Fowler sees him “already soaking in the vice captain position,” learning some of what he needs to maybe lead his own team down the road. “It was really cool of him to make that decision to fly up here and be a part of the team this week after not getting picked,” Fowler said. “But he knew, all of us knew, guys that didn't make it on points, that it's out of our hands. There's nothing that we can really do other than make more birdies possibly. But picks are picks, and you look, it's not always nine, 10, 11, 12 that are picked. I think what Bubba Watson did in reaction speaks a lot to his character that he doesn't get a lot of credit for. “I think it shows a lot about who Bubba is. People may not always see that side of him.” Brandt Snedeker agreed. The 2012 FedExCup champion had taken part of his pre-tournament interview at East Lake to try to quash the rumors that Watson was not well-liked among his peers.   Snedeker said if he had been passed over like Watson, who was the first man out after the automatic qualification period, he didn’t know if he would have handled things as well. “Shows you what kind of guy Bubba is,” Snedeker said. “He's a team guy, 100 percent. To take time out of his schedule to come up here and be a part of the team when he could be, rightfully so, upset about not being picked; and he is not. He's 100 percent in. He's 100 percent keeping us joking in the team room with us and being a water boy and a cart boy and whatever else you want to call him, and he loves it.” Snedeker also understands why Love picked Moore, who lost in a playoff at the TOUR Championship on Sunday. It was his fourth top-10 in his last six starts and certainly proved Moore had the hot hand. “Everything has a way of working out,” Snedeker said. “I'm a firm believer in that, and I think this worked out for a lot of different reasons the way it should have.” Moore, who is as introverted as Watson is outgoing, said he and the new vice captain sat next to each other at dinner on Monday night. They talked, and he says there are no hard feelings. “I applaud Bubba for being here and for doing what he's doing,” Moore said. “Honestly he's been a blast. …  I could have totally understood if he was the pick. I mean, he's a great guy. “He's an amazing player and brings a lot to the table. And I think it says a lot about him, just the fact that he's here and supporting us and wants to be a part of it.” Even the Europeans feel that Watson can have an impact. Rory McIlroy, who beat Moore in a four-hole playoff at the TOUR Championship to win the FedExCup on Sunday, is one of the leaders of Darren Clarke’s team. McIlroy can understand how difficult it was for Love to leave Watson off the team but he still expects the American to make a contribution. “Even though he's not hitting any shots on the golf course, he could still add something to the team,” McIlroy said. “He could still bring something to the team room. I know Bubba is his own man, but he still gets on with quite a lot of the American Team. “If he wants to be around, I feel it can only benefit them in some way.”
Wednesday, September 28, 2016 -
CHASKA, Minn. - Notes about the European Ryder Cup team from Wednesday at Hazeltine.  NO REST NEEDED FOR HENRIK: Open Championship winner Henrik Stenson deflected any concerns about his fitness, claiming his troublesome knee should stand up to all five sessions if he is required to go the distance by Captain Clarke. Stenson withdrew from The Barclays during the FedExCup Playoffs after his right knee flared up, the same knee he had surgery on December 2015. After battling though the Deutsche Bank Championship he then chose not to play in the BMW Championship to rest the injury, a decision that ultimately cost him a spot in the TOUR Championship. Stenson has never competed in all five sessions before. He played three sessions as a rookie in 2006, and four sessions in both 2008 and 2014. Two years ago he was 3-0 with Justin Rose in the opening three sessions before taking a breather on Saturday afternoon. Patrick Reed beat the Swede 1up in singles. “Henrik has assured me that if I would ask him to play five times, he is fit enough to play five times,” captain Darren Clarke says. “Obviously his knee is giving him a little bit of bother; not as much as what has been reported. Henrik has told me, if I need him five times, he is more than keen and able to play five times. Stenson himself is also confident. “Potentially it could have been a question of how much golf we can play. I mean, nothing is for certain at any point, but as of now, I feel like I'm up for a lot of golf and unless the knee tells me otherwise, that's the way I approach it,” Stenson said Wednesday at Hazeltine. “To this point it doesn't hurt me when I'm playing golf. It's been more walking that's been a bit more of an issue, but that feels good at the moment. “It's not something that I really think about. I'm being asked a lot about it, obviously, but it's not something that I think about. And if it shows up, then I just have to deal with it as it comes, really, and try and make the best choices.” SIBLING STEP BACK: Danny Willett’s brother Pete “P.J.” Willett has certainly made the Masters champions debut at the Ryder Cup a little tougher. P.J. penned some rather inflammatory remarks about American crowds and how the European Team needed to quieten them if they are to succeed while writing for the website NationalClubGolfer.com. In a long tirade he called American fans, among other things much worse, “pudgy, basement-dwelling, irritants, stuffed on cookie dough …” The article brought swift rebuke from European captain Darren Clarke who distanced the team from the comments. “I spoke to Danny about it. I showed it to Danny. And he's bitterly disappointed in his brother's article. It is not what Danny thinks. It is not what I think. It is not what Team Europe stands for,” Clarke said. “So Danny was unaware of it, and he fully intends to speak to his brother and tell him, express his displeasure about it. “I was obviously very disappointed in it, as well, because that's an outside person expressing their opinion which is not representative of what our thoughts are. “The fans could not have been nicer and better to us this week, and hopefully that continues.” EUROPEAN MAGIC: Team Europe enjoyed an inspiring speech from Irish rugby legend Paul O’Connell on Tuesday night but they also had some lighter moments. Magician Dynamo entertained the group and was quite a hit. Rory McIlroy was used as the guinea pig in a classic card trick, filmed by vice-captain Thomas Bjorn and posted on his Twitter feed. Swede Henrik Stenson was definitely a fan. “He was great, very impressive. Before I knew it, I was back in bed and I didn't even walk to my room (laughter), so it was all – magic,” he wise-cracked. “It's just impressive to see someone being that good at what they do. But at the same time, it's annoying that you can't figure out how he does it. It's a bittersweet combo, really.” A ROSEY THORN: Olympic Champion Justin Rose has an incredible Ryder Cup record at 9-3-2 with his performances in the team sessions note-worthy at 7-3-1. At Gleneagles Rose went 3-0-2. In his fourth Ryder Cup the Englishman will be expected to continue his success, which he says is mainly due to the relationship with his teammates. “Obviously, I love it, I enjoy it. The Ryder Cup,” Rose explains of his success. “I get excited by it and I prepare for it, so it's a big deal to me. So it's something I do focus on. “I've been blessed with good partners, I guess. Obviously, Ian Poulter, who has a stellar Ryder Cup record himself, he's been a partner of mine, and same in Henrik Stenson. Those are the guys I've played the majority of golf with, both great competitors and great players. “Obviously, it's a team game, so you have to give a lot of respect to your partner. And hopefully my game is somewhat transferrable. I'm fairly decent all-around, so hopefully pretty easy to pair from that point of view. AGE IS JUST A NUMBER: Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick, the youngest player in the tournament at 22, was just three years old when Lee Westwood played his first Ryder Cup. Which probably explains why he has the majority of his teammates autographs at home. The former U.S. Amateur champion knows he is about to get a baptism of fire in Minnesota but says his age should not be a factor. “I know I'm the youngest, but it doesn't enter my mind. It's just a number. I've already had a few comments about my age already this week, but I'm used to it,” Fitzpatrick said. “I've watched all the guys two years ago and four years ago playing the Ryder Cup, and these are the guys that I've looked up to since I was young pretty much, to sort of looking for autographs when I've been to tournaments as a fan, and now I'm playing in the same team with them. For me, it's pretty cool to be doing that. “I think (I have) everyone's (autograph) on the team, yeah, I think so. Maybe not Woody or Sully or Willett (laughs). They are all at home. I know Sergio this year signed a golf ball for me when I played with him in Qatar. He was giving one out to a little kid and I was like, I'll have one of those if you've got one to spare (laughs). “Then I was lucky enough to play with Rory at the Masters in 2014, and he signed my yardage book, so that's a pretty special one.” FRESH VS. VETS: Wednesday practice saw Europe put their rookies up against the veterans. Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer took on Chris Wood and Thomas Pieters. Lee Westwood and Henrik Stenson came up against Rafa Cabrera Bello and Matt Fitzpatrick while the last foursome out saw Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia taking on Andy Sullivan and Danny Willett. “It's such a pressure-filled week for all the guys. So this morning I decided that I would put the veterans out against the rookies and let the rookies step up and take the veterans on,” Captain Darren Clarke explained. “That was the whole idea this morning. The guys are relaxed, they're enjoying themselves, and they wanted to go out there and have a little bit of fun. They've got a lot of pressure coming their way and this morning was going out and letting them play nine holes and trying to take the cash off the older guys.” No word yet on if the rookies were victorious.
Wednesday, September 28, 2016 -
CHASKA, Minn. -- Twelve years later, Phil Mickelson finally explained why he and Tiger Woods did not make a successful Ryder Cup duo in 2004 at Oakland Hills. It was the golf ball. In answering a question Wednesday on the importance of captains at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson provided the example of how his lack of preparation time to playing Tiger’s ball in their Foursomes match was the critical factor in the loss to Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood. He said then-captain Hal Sutton’s decision to pair the two Americans just two days earlier did not give him ample time to adjust to Woods’ high-spin ball. Mickelson plays a low spin ball. “We ended up not playing well,” he said. “And was that really the … the problem? I mean, maybe. But we were told two days before that we were playing together. And that gave us no time to work together and prepare.” The defeat was one of two the high-powered Americans – Woods was ranked No. 2 in the world and Mickelson No. 4 – suffered on the opening day that year. The U.S. fell behind 6.5 to 1.5 after the first two sessions and ended up losing the Ryder Cup 18.5 to 9.5. Sutton certainly got his share of criticism. The defeat also served to perpetuate the commonly held notion, at least at the time, that Woods and Mickelson simply didn’t like each other. Mickelson said he took several dozen of Woods’ balls and went over to the North Course to practice and get a feel for how far the ball would go. Mickelson, who was in the early stages of his switch from Titleist to Callaway, as well, said he had never ball-tested two days before a major event. “And it forced me to stop my preparation for the tournament, to stop chipping and stop putting and stop sharpening my game and stop learning the golf course, in an effort to crash-course and learn a whole different golf ball that we were going to be playing,” Mickelson said. Mickelson said that he and Woods might have been able to make the ball work in Foursomes had they been given more advance notice. At the same time, he said he wasn’t trying to “knock” Sutton. “I actually loved how decisive Captain Sutton was,” Mickelson said. “I feel like that's a sign of great leadership to be decisive. … “But that's an example of starting with the captain, that put us in a position to fail and we failed monumentally, absolutely. But to say, well, you just need to play better; that is so misinformed because you will play how you prepare.”
Wednesday, September 28, 2016 -
Wednesday, September 28, 2016 -
The PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf driven by AVIS season has concluded, but our panel is back with predictions for this week's matches at Hazeltine.  Rob Bolton, Fantasy Columnist Prediction: USA wins 15.5-12.5 Standout performer: Patrick Reed Comment: Through the sheer will of Phil Mickelson, the U.S. has to reclaim the cup. While it matters less than it seems on paper, it doesn’t hurt the hosts that half of the European squad are first-timers. Jonathan Wall, Equipment Insider Prediction: Europe wins 15-13 Standout performer: Rory McIlroy Comment: The drought (and questions) continue for Team USA. Even with six first-time Ryder Cupppers, I think Team Europe has enough veteran leadership to handle the pressure and crowds at Hazeltine. Charlie Kane, Producer Prediction: USA wins 15-13 Standout performer: Dustin Johnson Comment: D.J. has finished inside the top 10 in nine of his past 11 starts (six top-5s). It’s stroke play but it’s also dominance. Hard to go against him in any format.   James Hickey, Project Manager-Fantasy Prediction: USA wins 15-13 Standout performer: Bubba Watson Comment: The U.S. team's decision to invite Bubba as assistant captain brings good karma to the U.S. side. Team Europe will regret leaving Russell Knox off their roster.   Sean Martin, Events Editor Prediction: Europe wins 15-13 Standout performer: Thomas Pieters Comment: The task force and all that business has only added to the pressure the United States will feel this week. That’s why I think Europe will come out ahead, and Thomas Pieters will be a star at Hazeltine National.  He’s a world-class talent who has already had success in the Midwest after starring as a collegiate player at the University of Illinois. U.S. audiences will learn all about the 24-year-old Belgian this week.   Mike McAllister, Managing Editor Prediction: Europe wins 14.5-13.5 Standout performer: Justin Rose Comment: If Henrik Stenson’s back continues to give him problems, this might need to be revisited. But if he’s in playing shape, then the foursome of Stenson, Rose, McIlroy and Garcia will be enough to offset any nervousness of Europe’s six rookies. Would’ve liked to have seen more U.S. players in good form. PGA TOUR FANTASY GOLF DRIVEN BY AVIS Season 2 of PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf driven by AVIS is in the books. Congratulations to Team ADREHER for finishing atop the 12,000-member PGA TOUR Experts league (and third overall) with 45,376 points. Here's a look at how our panelist ranked at the end of the season:

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