Golf: With a FedExCup champion now crowned, the Presidents Cup has the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop this week. And after parting with Adam Scott, Steve Williams has a new one-week gig.
By Jeff Shain, PSN managing editor
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- The year of high-profile caddie splits continues, as Steve Williams announces he’s parted ways with Adam Scott after six years together. Williams was hired by Scott after being dismissed by Tiger Woods, helping the Aussie capture his lone major title at the 2013 Masters. But Williams, 63, has sought to cut back his schedule in recent years and split the job this year with David Clarke. Williams has a new challenge this week: His first LPGA event, where he’ll shoulder the bag for Danielle Kang at the New Zealand Women’s Open.
- The Presidents Cup will be played in December when the event returns to Australia’s Royal Melbourne in two years. It marks the first time since the 1998 edition – also at Royal Melbourne – that the event hasn’t been contested in the fall. That also remains the only International victory in the first 11 editions of the biannual event. The move marks another significant change to the 2019 schedule, which already features the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players returning to late March.
- Catriona Matthew, who went from European vice captain to injury replacement at last month’s Solheim Cup, will captain the squad at the 2019 edition in her native Scotland. Mathew owns four LPGA wins and nine on the Ladies European Tour, topped by the 2009 Women’s British Open. Last month, she took the place of an injured Suzann Pettersen and helped post three points in a losing European effort.
- Woods has worked his way up to hitting 60-yard shots, while Rickie Fowler and new FedExCup champion Justin Thomas sometimes drop by for putting contests. That’s what Woods told readers in a recent blog post, sent out ahead of his Presidents Cup appearance as a U.S. vice captain. The lengthy narrative gives no timetable for his return, saying his next step depends on a six-month X-ray exam coming soon.
- The parent company of Titleist and Footjoy faces new leadership for the first time in 22 years. Wally Uihlein announced he will retire as chief executive of Acushnet Holdings Corp., effective on Jan. 1. Uihlein has worked with Acushnet since 1976 and became its senior golf executive in 1995. His son, Peter, is a former U.S. Amateur champion and just earned his PGA Tour card via the Web.com Tour Finals.
PGA TOUR: Presidents Cup
Site: Liberty National GC, Jersey City, N.J.
- Defending champion: Team USA extended its Presidents Cup winning streak to six, though it was pushed to the limit before emerging with a 15 ½ to 14 ½ triumph in South Korea. The Internationals looked for a moment they might pull off the upset, but Chris Kirk’s 16-foot birdie at No.18 managed to steal a full point when Anirban Lahiri missed a 5-foot birdie. That left it to the anchor match, where Bill Haas – a captain’s pick by his father Jay – closed out home favorite Sangmoon Bae in a 2-up win.
- Last week: Justin Thomas capped a breakthrough season by taking the FedExCup crown, though he wound up one shot behind rookie Xander Schauffele on the Tour Championship leaderboard. Schauffele went bogey-free over his final 14 holes, capped by a round-the-rim birdie at No.18 to score his second win of 2017. It did little to dampen Thomas’ triumph, as the runner-up finish pushed him past No.1 Jordan Spieth in the final points table. Thomas’ five wins were more than anyone else on the season, including his first major title.
- Tour talk: Thomas joins Spieth and Dustin Johnson for a U.S. “Big 3” that collected 12 wins in 2016-17, including two major titles. … By contrast, the International squad has combined for eight wins, with Hideki Matsuyama taking three trophies and Marc Leishman two. … It’s a big year for first-time participants, with 10 players in all making their Presidents Cup debuts. Thomas is among six on the U.S. roster. … Phil Mickelson’s next match win will be his 24th, tying Tiger Woods for the all-time Presidents Cup lead.
- TV: Golf Channel (Thursday, 1-6 p.m. ET; Friday, 11:30 a.m.-6 p.m.) and NBC (Saturday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, noon-6 p.m.).
- Etc.: First Look from PGATour.com; Presidents Cup primer from Pro Golf Weekly.
WEB.COM TOUR FINALS: Web.com Tour Championship
Site: Atlantic Beach CC, Atlantic Beach, Fla.
- 2016 champion: The event was cancelled ahead of an approaching Hurricane Matthew, with PGA Tour cards given out based on three Finals events. Emiliano Grillo took the 2015 edition, then won his PGA Tour debut one week later.
- Last week: Nicholas Lindheim, who lost a DAP Championship playoff 52 weeks earlier, sank a 35-foot birdie on the first extra hole to finally gain a PGA Tour promotion. Though a bogey/bogey finish denied Lindheim a win in regulation, he dispatched Chesson Hadley and Rob Oppenheim one hole later.
- Tour talk: Hadley now moves atop the Finals money list, which brings a higher entry category next season than the 24 players that follow. … Keith Mitchell, who missed a PGA Tour card by one shot after the regular season, locked up a promotion with his share of sixth last week. … Zac Blair, who missed keeping his PGA Tour card by one shot at No.126 in FedExCup points, is on the bubble again. He’s 26th in Finals earnings, just $1,025 out of a card.
- TV: Golf Channel (Thursday, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.; Friday, 9-11:30 a.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 3-6 p.m.).
EUROPEAN TOUR: British Masters
Site: Close House GC (Colt), Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England
- Defending champion: Sweden’s Alex Noren captured his third victory of 2016, outdueling Bernd Wiesberger over the final holes to emerge with a two-stroke victory at The Grove. Noren birdied two of his final four holes to pull clear. All three of Noren’s wins came in a stretch of just eight starts.
- Last week: Lucas Bjerregaard saved his European Tour card by capturing the Portugal Masters, using a 6-under-par 65 to pull away for a four-shot win. The Danish pro came to Portugal at 114th in the Race to Dubai rankings, with only the top 100 kept. Winning earned him a two-year exemption.
- Tour talk: Rory McIlroy, squeezing in another start despite rib woes, and Masters champion Sergio Garcia top a field that also draws former world No.1s Luke Donald and tournament host Lee Westwood. … Ian Poulter is back after a year’s hiatus to rest a foot injury. … Westwood not only is this year’s host, he designed the Close House layout. An old Roman fort adjoins No.11. … Thirteen major champions have won the British Masters, but only Sandy Lyle has done a Masters double (1988).
- TV: Golf Channel (Thursday, 4:30-10 a.m.; Friday, 4:30-9 a.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m.-noon; Monday, 2-5 a.m.).
LPGA TOUR: New Zealand Women’s Open
Site: Windross Farm GC, Ardmore, New Zealand
- Defending champion: Lydia Ko captured her home event for the third time, holding off challenges from Amelia Lewis and Emily Pederson for a two-shot win. Her final round literally began with an earthquake, as tremors struck the area just 11 minutes before her tee time. Ko pledged her full winner’s check to helping her countrymen.
- Last week: No tournament.
- Tour talk: Though the event has been played since 2009, this marks the first edition as an official LPGA event. … Ko has not finished outside the top two since she her big splash in 2013, winning at the age of 15. She was second in 2014 to Mi Hyang Lee, then won the past two. … Brooke Henderson, Brittany Lincicome and Mel Reid top the list of challengers. … Mexican pros Gaby Lopez and Alejandra Llaneza have pledged this week’s winnings to earthquake relief in their homeland.
- TV: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 3-4:30 a.m.; Saturday-Sunday, noon-3 p.m.).
PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS: Idle
Next up: SAS Championship, Oct. 13-15, Cary, N.C.
- Tour talk: Bernhard Langer’s three-shot win at the PURE Insurance Championship was his fifth win of the year and 34th of his Champions career. He’s now just 11 victories behind Hale Irwin for the all-time mark. … Langer’s total of 17-under-par 198 also was a record for the tour’s Pebble Beach stop, three shots better than Craig Stadler’s 2004 win. … The tour now takes a two-week break before holding its regular-season finale in North Carolina.