Ryder Cup Drug Tests Fuel Rumor Mill

The Ryder Cup had its share of weekend thrills for fans, but for players the drama began much earlier. Tuesday evening, to be exact. And not at Le Golf National but seven miles away at the Trianon Palace hotel, which was home to both the U.S. and European teams. That’s when officials from the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) arrived unannounced to conduct random drug tests.

The players had reason to be surprised. It was the first time drug tests were administered at a Ryder Cup. That it happened in Paris should be less surprising. The French take their anti-doping laws seriously. That’s why Lance Armstrong now owns as many Tour de France victories as Jack Nicklaus.

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Buddy System Of Choosing Ryder Cup Captains Bad For U.S. Business

American victories in the Ryder Cup, rare as they are, seldom get the recognition they deserve. There’s always some celebratory chest thumping, of course, but one can only cheer so much when you’ve been told that defeating Europe should be a foregone conclusion anyway.

When the champagne is drained, the trophy is largely forgotten for two years. But on the more regular occasions of an American loss, those two years are filled with autopsies and blame games. The aftermath of 2018 will be no different.

Paris will not have witnessed so many disheartened elite leaving town since the Bastille was stormed.

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Social Media Trolls Now Just Cost of Doing Business on Tour

After a sinus infection forced Billy Horschel to withdraw halfway through the first round of the Dell Technologies Championship, it didn’t take long for the pains in a different orifice to surface.

“Seriously? You walk off the course like a spoiled (expletive) and rather than apologize you blame it on a sinus infection? ‘Billy Ho’ just took on a whole new meaning,” offered one Tweeter.

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Mickelson Should Be Odd Man Out on Ryder Cup Picks

It’s testament to the enduring appeal of past glories that the two men long considered locks as captain’s picks for the U.S. Ryder Cup team have combined for one victory over the last five years.

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are the most accomplished and durable stars of their generation. It’s been 25 years since America fielded a team that did not include at least one of them, which has rendered unthinkable for many fans the notion of a team without them, if they’re healthy.

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Injuries caused Woods to miss three Ryder Cups over the last decade, and when he began his comeback seven months ago he seemed an unlikely bet to be playing this year in Paris. But when Jim Furyk announces his first three captain’s picks on Sept. 4 (the final one comes Sept. 10), Woods will be the most defensible name read aloud.

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Molinari Masters The Open At Carnoustie

Carnoustie’s charms can be elusive, but its cruelties are readily apparent. The old links has scant aesthetic appeal, no alluring views or heaving dunes. Like the village from which it draws its name, Carnoustie is simple and functional, and that function is simple: stress test the world’s finest golfers until just one remains unbroken.

Sometimes not even the winner emerges unscathed from a cross-examination at Carnoustie. Paul Lawrie, the 1999 champion, sought therapy after his victory was widely dismissed as a gift from a clownish Frenchman.

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Francesco Molinari held off a stellar field at Carnoustie.

There’s a reason why the lingering images from recent championships here have been of the vanquished, not the victors: Jean Van de Velde barefoot in Barry Burn, Sergio Garcia doubled over in anguish after his putt to win lipped out.

At Carnoustie Opens, one man’s ecstasy is invariably built on another’s agony.

Not at the 147th Open, however. It was won by Francesco Molinari, not lost by his challengers.

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Phil Now More Major Sideshow Than Major Contender

It’s been exactly two years and two days since Phil Mickelson was relevant in a tournament that matters.

That was his outstanding duel with Henrik Stenson at Royal Troon in the 145th British Open. He missed the cut in the 146th edition, and the 147th isn’t looking very promising either after a first round of 2-over-par 73.

That’s not to say Mickelson hasn’t made news in those two years, during which he accumulated zero top-20 finishes in six majors played. He ended a five-year winless drought at the WGC-Mexico Championship in March, but for the most part his headlines haven’t been so much earned with fine play as extorted with sideshow stunts.

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Mickelson Hitting Moving Ball Baffles Veteran Pros

Rich Beem knows a little something about what U.S. Open course setups can do to a man. The 2002 PGA Championship winner has played seven of them.

“My record is six missed cuts, one made cut, finished DFL,” he said with a laugh. “I know a thing or two about getting my head bashed in by U.S. Open golf courses.”

It was Sunday at Shinnecock Hills, but most of the conversation was still about Saturday and Phil Mickelson’s slapshot stunt on the 13th green. Beem gazed out on the first fairway and talked about how brutal U.S. Open beatdowns can be. He hasn’t forgotten the frustration that comes with playing greens so hard and fast they seem better suited to hosting a Stanley Cup than a golf tournament.

But still …

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Phil Mickelson Snuffs U.S. Open Career in One Stroke

It was with the 7,277th stroke of his U.S. Open career that Phil Mickelson finally conceded he will never win the only major championship missing from his mantelpiece.

That was the stroke with which he intentionally hit a moving ball on the 13th hole of Saturday’s third round at Shinnecock Hills, a casual, contemptuous swipe that all but acknowledged the quest had finally broken him.

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“I’ve had multiple times when I’ve wanted to do that, and I finally did,” he told Fox Sports’ Curtis Strange afterward, sounding for all the world like an entitled, petulant child who has just been busted for torching his parents house.

In that single stroke, Mickelson’s carefully constructed veneer fell away, the years of pained diplomacy and outward optimism with which he greeted every failed, painful tilt at the national Open. It was a quiet scream, seen but not heard.

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Patrick Reed Steals Show at Masters

There are a handful of constant themes in the Masters script produced every year on the movie set that is Augusta National Golf Club. Drama, of course. Often some tragedy. Scenes of euphoric joy, moments of quiet despair. The occasional old love affair rekindled. A healthy dose of sentimentality. Heroes are abundant, villains invisible.

Well, until this year.

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What Golf Needs: A Generational Rivalry

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The once and future kings: Woods and Spieth.

The PGA Tour has hewed to a familiar script over the last few years, as a succession of recent high schoolers hoist trophies that almost weigh more than they do.

It’s a generation of fine players – these Justin Thomases, Jordan Spieths and Jon Rahms – and many of them seem destined for the Hall of Fame. But there’s a uniformity to their cohort, well-adjusted kids who are more likely to spend tournament nights downing kale smoothies at the gym than shots of bourbon at a saloon.

Which is fair enough. That Tour is long dead, as are most of the guys who lived it.

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No Doubting Thomas is Player of Year

When you’ve had a season like that of Justin Thomas, it can be difficult to determine the most important metric amid such heady success. Unless you’re his dad.

Mike Thomas can recite chapter and verse on the accomplishments that are expected to earn his son the PGA Tour Player of the Year award: the five wins, the first major victory at the PGA Championship, the FedEx Cup title, record-setting rounds (59 at the Sony Open, 63 at the U.S. Open), the Arnold Palmer Award for topping the money list, the 3½-1½ record in his first U.S. team appearance at the Presidents Cup.

The 2017 season has brought an avalanche of accolades for the 24-year-old, but none of those tops his old man’s list of what matters.

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The Open: Rounds 1 & 2 Post-Mortems

I joined Andy Johnson from The Fried Egg, and SB Nation writers Brendan Porath and Richard Johnson for two fun shows after the first and second rounds of the 146th Open at Royal Birkdale. Very few Tour pros were hurt in the making of these shows!

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You can the Thursday (Round One) show  on Facebook here.

The Friday (Round Two) wrap can be found here.