LEMONT, Ill. – Rickie Fowler stands out on the Ryder Cup for a couple of reasons.
The 21-year-old is the first captain’s pick without a PGA Tour victory. And he is the first PGA Tour rookie to play for the U.S. team. But upon hearing how he was chosen, Fowler certainly doesn’t feel as though he stands out.
Fowler revealed Wednesday that in the final hours of the decision, captain Corey Pavin was taking the pulse of every assistant captain and every player. Whatever the process, Fowler was chosen.
“What was cool about the whole situation is that Corey brought in all the assistants and all the team members to basically help him pick the last four guys,” Fowler said. “Which I thought was pretty cool because it makes the player … well, the players basically pick their own team in a way. Obviously, Corey makes the final decision.”
Oddly enough, Fowler was having dinner with Bubba Watson when Pavin was making the rounds through text message. Fowler didn’t realize until later that Watson was punching away on his keys in text messages to the captain.
“They were basically voting and spending that time picking the final guys on the team,” Fowler said. “So he’s sitting across the table from me while the whole team is deciding what’s going on.”
Fowler later showed his youth.
Instead of pacing the floor in his room waiting for the phone to ring, he was playing video games of dirt bikes with his father.
“It’s a great way to kill time on the road,” Fowler said.
No doubt, the kid is relieved to have made the team, although he figured there would have been more chances. How to celebrate?
“I am going to get a little haircut,” Fowler said. “It’s getting a bit long for me right now.”
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COG HILL GREENS: Rees Jones renovated Cog Hill two years ago with hopes the public course could land a U.S. Open. The changes didn’t stop Tiger Woods from a fifth victory last year, just like Jones’ work at Torrey Pines hasn’t stopped Woods from winning in San Diego.
“It’s more cosmetic than anything else, especially off the tees,” Woods said. “I’m still playing to the same areas. Going into the greens is definitely much more difficult than it used to be.”
Steve Stricker also noticed a change in the greens, although he didn’t offer much in the way of a compliment.
“I think the greens are the biggest adjustment,” he said. “I think visually, it looks great from the tee. The greens, on the other hand, are somewhat different, to put it nicely. He’s got a characteristic about them that I don’t really care for. But that’s just my personal feeling. The green complexes are pretty difficult.”
The putting surfaces themselves are also getting the players’ attention. Woods referred to them as “spotty,” which he would attribute to the strain of grass (bent), the time of year (summer) and recent rains.
“It does affect the putts, no doubt,” Woods said. “We’re all going to have to deal with it. It’s been a pretty hot summer, and with a hot summer, bentgrass greens get a little bit stressed.”
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VERPLANK’S EFFORT: Stephen Ames had to play in a twosome the opening two rounds of The Players Championship because of a 145-man field. He finds out Thursday whether he plays by himself.
Ames is paired with Scott Verplank, who was on his way to Chicago on Wednesday night with hopes of playing.
Verplank’s left wrist hurts so much that he withdrew from the second round of the Deutsche Bank Championship when he no longer could grip the club through his swing. “If I can’t hit it straight, I’m not any good,” he said.
The plan was to take time off to let it heal – but that was before a late sequence of events enabled Verplank to fall only to No. 70 in the FedEx Cup standings and qualify for the BMW Championship.
He took a cortisone shot about an hour after the Boston event ended, then had the MRI on Tuesday.
“No bad structural damage,” Verplank said in a text message. “Not in any immediate danger. This week is totally up to me and how much I can put up with it.”
There are no alternates in the playoffs, so even if he can’t make it, Verplank won’t be depriving someone a spot in the field. And he’ll still collect his $110,000 bonus for reaching the top 60 in the FedEx Cup.
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DIVOTS: Slightly more than half of the players at Cog Hill – 36 out of 70 – are Americans. … Andres Romero missed a birdie putt on the final hole at the TPC Boston and figured his playoff run was over. Instead, the Argentine who began the playoffs at No. 115 managed to crack the top 70 (68th) and gets another shot at reaching the Tour Championship. The only other players who started outside the top 100 and made it to the BMW Championship are Kevin Streelman (No. 102 to No. 26) and Tiger Woods (No. 112 to No. 51). … Steve Stricker and Matt Kuchar are tied in the race for the Vardon Trophy with an adjusted scoring average of 69.61.