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News & Tours

Why the International Crown is a great idea

By Ron Sirak

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The history of women's golf changed forever in one dramatic hour at Killeen Castle in the 2011 Solheim Cup, when Europe stormed from behind to victory over the United States.

That rally had as much to do with the creation of the International Crown as anything, and in one fun Thursday at Caves Valley GC it became abundantly obvious this competition is one cool idea.

Related: 6 things you need to know about the International Crown

Before the comeback at Killeen, the Americans had won three Solheim Cups in a row and eight of 11. The pressure to add the rest of the world and create an International Team was significant.

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And when Team Europe saved the Solheim Cup with its comeback win, the LPGA was smart enough to think outside the box when creating an event that could include non-Solheim eligible nations.

Instead of putting together an artificial International Team, the idea was to have eight nations qualify off the Rolex Rankings and put together four-woman squads also based on the rankings.

The spirited beginning to the competition showed that the idea worked. Each nation had team bags and each team was introduced on the No. 1 tee to their national anthems. There were some tears of pride.

Part of the problem with the Presidents Cup -- other than the fact the United States has won eight of the 10 competitions -- is that the International team is a completely contrived entity.

The sizzle factor is conspicuously absent. The nations that comprise the International Team have nothing in common other than the fact they are not eligible for the Ryder Cup.

The Ryder Cup team and the Solheim Cup team representing Europe have an identity. The European Union has a flag, an anthem and its colors are blue and gold. The International Team is a pick-up squad off leftover players -- albeit great ones.

The players representing the eight nations competing here this week -- the United States, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Japan, Australia, Taiwan and Thailand -- have a sense of national pride that adds an intensity to the tournament.

Among the many really cool moments during the opening ceremony were the times you saw a player singing along with her country's national anthem. There was a real, emotional connection to why they were here.

The Grind: Jagermeister in the claret jug? Really, Rory?

Another big difference that distinguishes the International Crown from not only the Presidents Cup but also the Solheim Cup and Ryder Cup is that nations qualify for the event.

You get the feeling that the players fortunate enough to be here this week will share with their colleagues what a great experience this was. And that will motivate countries not here -- like Scotland, England and China -- to work harder to get to get to the next edition of this tournament at Rich Harvest Farms in 2016.

The very good year the LPGA is having got a lot better this week with the inaugural International Crown. Simply put, it's a great idea. Now let's see if the golf lives up to the event.

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News & Tours

Sorry, Nadia, it looks like Rory McIlroy has a new girl

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

Everything about Rory McIlroy has been a hot topic since his third major victory last week. And with the British Open champion's engagement to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki over, his love life has been a particular point of interest.

Rory had been linked with Irish model Nadia Forde after the two were reportedly set up by mutual friends. But rumors they were an item were slightly overstated, it turns out; she "wasn't his type", apparently.

But new reports are surfacing that Rory has been seeing someone else: 23-year-old part-time model, part-time receptionist Sasha Gale. The two have been spotted around town, and The Sun quotes an anonymous source saying their romance was "blossoming."

Sasha's people aren't commenting on the matter, but she did tweet this the right after Rory's victory at Royal Liverpool:

And in case you want to get more familiar with Rory's prospective new girlfriend, here are some pictures from her Twitter feed:

Some people think she looks a little like Mila Kunis.

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News & Tours

7 reasons why you should enjoy Tiger Woods while you can

By Bob Carney

Enjoy the PGA Championship. Enjoy Tiger, the greatest or second-greatest player ever, depending how you judge it. Enjoy even this recovery-room version of Tiger. As Brandel Chamblee said this week: "There will never be another."
 
Given the way the professional game is proceeding, the chance of there being another golfer as dominant as either Tiger or Jack Nicklaus is nil. Nicklaus continues to hold the majors record, with Woods close behind. Woods has a record, too, that will never be matched: He's won a record 27 percent of the professional tournaments in which he's played. That's like batting .400 for a career.
 
Some of us have been spoiled to able to watch the two of them in their primes. And whether Tiger ever reaches Jack's record or not, their two careers, entwined by this fictional total-majors race, will one day be as distant as Joe DiMaggio's hit streak, Oscar Robertson's triple-double per-game season, Gretzky's 92 goals, Bob Gibson's 1.12 ERA.
 
Eighteen majors? Fifteen majors? Doesn't matter. Neither will ever happen again. Enjoy it while it lasts.
 
There will be McIlroys and Trevinos and Millers and Faldos and Kaymers and Mickelsons. There will be Watsons and Els and Stensons. But no more Tigers and no more Jacks.
 
Here's why:

1. Physical toll

Jack Nicklaus has argued, for as long as I can remember, that kids should play lots of sports and wait to specialize. But who does that anymore? Kids start beating balls in elementary school and don't stop until they're 50…maybe. They don't play golf, they work golf, and like the ACLs of adult basketball players who've been doing it since they were 5, their bodies can't take it. Ask Tiger Woods. Work ethic is a two-edged weapon; it gets you there, but it breaks you down on the way. The current insistence on specialization, on long hours of practice, some of it purposeful, some of it not, takes a toll. Professional golfers will get younger, like Jordan Spieth, and they will, effectively, retire younger, too. Major winners in the future could be very young, but they won't be very old. The Masters at 46? Not again, despite the fact that players work to stay fit longer.

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2. Stress of the work-life "balance"

It's de rigueur these days for golfers to leave or skip tournaments to attend the birth of their children, or, in Phil Mickelson's well-celebrated case, the graduation of his grade-schooler. Jack Nicklaus built his schedule around majors in part to attend to family obligations, redefining what it meant to be great. Modern players, especially married younger players -- McIlroy dodged that one -- expect even more balance in an unbalanced profession. Graeme McDowell talked about missing the Scottish Open for family obligations. In his Q&A Henrik Stenson was asked about his motivation for winning, given that he's amassed so much prize money and has a wonderful wife and two children. It's not a question Jimmy Demaret got, I suspect. It will get more and more difficult to maintain the kind of focus that Woods and Nicklaus have had on golf. Even if the body holds up, the mind, and the tug of family obligations, will work to undermine it. Grinding from grade school to grandfatherdom will burn players out mentally even faster than physical wear and tear. "If they're 40 and have been out here for almost 20 years and have earned their $40 million or $50 million or whatever it is, it's a grind," veteran Chris DiMarco said. "There are other things they might want to do."

3. The schedule

The FedEx Cup, not to mention the World Golf Championships, dangles so much money in front of players, it forces them to play events beyond the majors that increase the challenge of Nos. 1 and 2. Would Jack have said no to the FedEx Cup to stay with his major concentration? Would Tiger have said yes if it were there at the beginning of his career? "The tough thing for myself and a number of other Americans is it's a huge stretch from here through The Tour Championship," Matt Kuchar said of his scheduling changes. "It would really be a tough stretch with the British Open followed by the Canadian Open, followed by the Bridgestone Invitational, the PGA Championship, Greensboro, and then right away our four playoff events start. So to have any sort of chance to play well through that stretch, hard to figure out just how much to play beforehand." He did not mention that there are, in alternate years, the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup. Jack was able to plan his schedule around the majors. Tiger has, but has compromised by playing in these other events. His body may be paying the toll.

4. The money

In the same way that the enormous purses can alter schedules, they can also alter career goals -- and longevity. Take the FedEx Cup. With $10 million on the line, where does a player focus? If you're not chasing history, how much money do you need? If you've won a major or two, have lucrative endorsement deals, does it matter if you're considered the "best ever"? Will a player with the potential to win double-digit majors even see the point? Some people who know Tiger well say the idea of his chasing Jack's record was ours, not his. Not sure I buy that, but how many massively talented players in the future will see the point anyway of chasing either Woods or Nicklaus' majors record? I don't hear Rory talking like that.

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5. Competitive definition of greatness

Nicklaus refined the definition of golf greatness by accentuating the importance of the four majors. Winning majors, and, to an extent not emphasized until he came along, winning all four of them at least once, became the goal. Today, "near majors" like the the Players, the WGC events, and the FedEx Cup, have grown in significance, and Ryder Cup participation means more than in its "exhibition" days. Will majors remain the main measure? It's not a sure thing. Over time the near-majors may lessen the weight of the four, and give players the opportunity to define their success differently.

6. The @#$%^! media

As Tiger knows, and learned for certain in 2009, there is no place to hide. The unceasing pressure from media of all kinds, in good times and especially bad, will only grow, with social media showing the capacity to intrude even further than print, TV or web. Such scrutiny only increases as a player succeeds. Will any player tolerate this kind of pressure for, say, 20-25 years? One might argue that Tiger was the modern media's first "major" victim.

7. Heavier competition

It appears that more of America's best athletes are choosing golf, and so are many athletes globally. The Olympics should magnify the appeal of golf in many countries where it's a lesser sport now, deepening the depth of competition. (China alone changes the balance.) As more talent chasing more money with more and more technical and consultative help enters the game, the dream of dominance diminishes.
 
Enjoy Tiger while you can. There won't be another.

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Fantasy Golf

Fantasy Fix: Do the golf gods owe Hunter Mahan in Canada?

By Alex Myers

The last time Royal Montreal held the RBC Canadian Open it was the Bell Canadian Open. The year was 2001, and Scott Verplank was the winner (Royal Montreal also hosted the 2007 Presidents Cup). In other words, looking back isn't going to help much. Instead, we'll focus more on current form. Oh, and you're welcome for those Rory and Sergio picks for the British Open. We'll try to keep the momentum going with this week's fantasy lineup:

The Grind: Jagermeister in the claret jug and DJ/Paulina on the beach

Starters -- (A-List): Matt Kuchar. We pick him almost every other week (although we're running dangerously close to using up all his starts). Why not here?

(B-List): Jim Furyk. Fresh off a fourth-place finish at the British Open, Furyk missed the cut the last time he teed it up at Royal Montreal. However, that was 17 years ago. We'll weigh his two other wins in this tournament more heavily.

Related: 15 signs you watch too much golf on TV

(B-List): Hunter Mahan. You probably remember Mahan hastily leaving this tournament last year despite holding the 36-hole lead to be with his wife, Kandi, who was having the couple's first child. The golf gods owe him this week, don't they?

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(C-List): Graeme McDowell. G-Mac's last three tournaments? T-6 at the Irish Open, a win at the French Open and a T-9 at the British Open. This is another OPEN.

Bench/Backups: Brandt Snedeker, Graham DeLaet, Jerry Kelly, Charl Schwartzel.

Related: 11 sleepers to watch in 2014

Knockout/One-and-done pick: Hunter Mahan. Two words: golf gods.

Previously used: Keegan Bradley (Doral), Tim Clark (Sony), Jason Day (Congressional), Graham DeLaet (Phoenix), Luke Donald (Valspar), Rickie Fowler (Honda Classic), Jim Furyk (Heritage), Sergio Garcia (British Open), Bill Haas (Farmers), Charley Hoffman (Travelers), Billy Horschel (Zurich), Charles Howell III (Humana), Freddie Jacobson (Valero), Dustin Johnson (Northern Trust), Zach Johnson (Colonial), Matt Kuchar (U.S. Open), Martin Laird (Kapalua), Graeme McDowell (Bay Hill), Ryan Palmer (Memphis), Justin Rose (Memorial), Adam Scott (Masters), Jordan Spieth (Houston), Henrik Stenson (Players), Jimmy Walker (Pebble -- winner!), Gary Woodland (Nelson).

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News & Tours

Ankle injury 48 hours before match is a good thing for Stacy Lewis

By Keely Levins

Here’s all you need to know about the kind of year the LPGA Tour is having in 2014. The No. 1 player in the world suffers an ankle injury days before the tour's newest flagship event is set to debut, and it might actually be a good thing.


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In a Tuesday practice round for the inaugural International Crown, a competition between teams from eight different countries being held at Caves Valley G.C. outside of Baltimore, World No. 1 Stacy Lewis rolled her right angle while stepping on a sprinkler head she said was set pretty deep into the ground.

A few hours after the practice round, Lewis had the ankle taped up, and in her usual resilient manner, assured everyone the injury isn't going to affect a thing. "If anything, it's helping me stay down and not jump in front of the ball, which I've been trying to work on for two weeks,” Lewis said, “so maybe it's a good thing."

Lewis is on the four-person American squad and will be paired with Lexi Thompson in a four-ball match against Chinese Taipei with the International Crown beings Thursday.



(Photo by Getty Images) ... Read
News & Tours

Why the key to Rory McIlroy completing the career Grand Slam might be an amateur golfer

By Alex Myers

Remember when Rory McIlroy played with an amateur marker at the Masters -- and lost? The recent British Open winner certainly remembers, but instead of being embarrassed or bitter, McIlroy seems intent on using the experience to his advantage.

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With the claret jug next to him on the podium in his post-tournament press conference, McIlroy, now a winner of three of golf's four major championships, was asked about trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National.

Related: 19 things you should know about Rory McIlroy

"I've always been comfortable from tee to green at Augusta," said McIlroy, who wound up shooting 69 the day after his Saturday pairing with amateur Jeff Knox "And it's taken me a few years to figure out the greens . . . if I can just figure out the greens a little bit more. What really helped me last year was playing with Jeff Knox in the third round. He's my amateur marker and he's the best I've ever seen on Augusta's greens."

Of course, Knox isn't just any amateur. The longtime member of Augusta National has played in two U.S. Amateurs, is a two-time mid-amateur champion in Georgia, and holds the Augusta National course record from the members tees with a 61. He has been a noncompeting marker if there has been an odd number golfers to make the cut in the tournament since 2002 and reportedly upset Sergio Garcia by beating him in the final round in 2006. In this year's third round, Knox shot 70 to McIlroy's 71, but McIlroy reacted much differently.

On Tuesday, the Augusta Chronicle reported McIlroy hopes to learn more from Knox, who said he received a letter from McIlroy asking to play a couple practice rounds with him before the 2015 Masters. The 51-year-old Knox said McIlroy reaching out to him "says a lot about the young man," and that he'd be happy to play with him.

Of course, it also felt good to be singled out by one of golf's great players in the wake of his latest major championship triumph.

Related: Rory and Jager: An unauthorized history

"It was quite an honor for him to say that," Knox said. "I don't know if shocked is the right word, but it was quite an honor. I happened to play good that day; I guess that helped."

With more expert help on the greens to come and potentially decades of future trips to Augusta in April, the odds of McIlroy achieving golf's modern career Grand Slam -- something only five players have accomplished -- are looking pretty good.

(h/t Augusta Chronicle)

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News & Tours

Golf World goes all digital

By GolfDigest.com Staff

As part of the new strategic vision for Golf Digest and Golf World that began this spring with the introduction of the Golf Digest video channel, the relaunch of GolfDigest.com and the redesign of Golf Digest magazine, Golf Digest Editor-in-Chief Jerry Tarde and President Peter Hunsinger announce today a news division that combines the best of both Golf Digest and Golf World to expand our collective digital presence. With the sports news cycle demanding immediate access to quality content, we now will offer more of what our audience wants, when they want it and where they want to get it. To that end, beginning July 28, we’ll be making the following enhancements to both our golf brands.

  • Golf World will now be available exclusively on digital platforms. Instead of 31 times a year delivered in print, a week after tournaments are completed, Golf World will be delivered 50 times a year on Mondays at 7 a.m. EST, accessible on all digital devices.    
  • Readers of Golf World will receive the quality content free of charge, and we will honor the value of their current Golf World print subscription with Golf Digest.
  • Golf World Editor-in-Chief Jaime Diaz will lead the new news-division team that will encompass contributors from both Golf Digest and GolfDigest.com. Video reports will be added to our coverage, including “The Rosaforte Report” in video with chief correspondent and columnist Tim Rosaforte. Golf World content will feature weekly bonus “Long Reads” as well as “10 Things We’re Talking About,” stats packages, and Mike Johnson’s exclusive equipment coverage from the pro tours.        
  • Golf World will be instantly viewable from GolfDigest.com with daily updates on the latest golf news and tour coverage.
  • Digital designs will be enhanced to provide more ad spreads, and mobile designs will be upgraded to provide improved functionality for fans on the road. We recognize this is a big change from how we have operated and delivered the printed Golf World magazine in the past. But this evolution allows us to increase frequency, improve delivery time, and add video reporting to better meet the expectations of today’s readers. 
  • We are also announcing today the launch of Golf Digest Mexico, a new licensee for a monthly print publication and website, and eventually for multimedia channels, as well as events. Golf Digest’s worldwide network now includes 29 editions in 17 languages and is the No. 1-distributed sports magazine in the world.
We want to acknowledge the many talented people who have brought us to this point. We also want to recognize those who are working on making this conversion as seamless and successful as possible, pushing boundaries to serve your needs.  

For more than 67 years, Golf World has been the standard bearer in golf media, and with these changes, we are confident Golf World and Golf Digest will continue to be the go-to source for passionate golfers and fans around the world. 
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News & Tours

The Grind: McIlroy wins the Open, Westwood sings, DJ's b-day pics, and our career "Grand Slam"

By Alex Myers

Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we are pleased that Rory McIlroy used the same target words, "spot" and "process,"  en route to his latest major triumph that we use around here. Confused? Let us explain. First, we "spot" the golf week's most interesting happenings (Yes, this entails more than clicking refresh on Paulina Gretzky's Instagram account). Then, we go through the "process" of putting them all together in a hopefully somewhat entertaining format so you don't have to search for these things yourself and . . . voila! It sounds so simple, right? Well, it's not. Pros like Rory and us just make it look that way. So sit back, relax, and let us do our thing.

WE'RE BUYING

Rory McIlroy: With his two-shot win (it felt like more, right?) at the British Open, McIlroy joined Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only golfers to win three majors by age 25. Bet you've heard that one, but you probably didn't hear about the big 500-to-1 bet his dad placed on him when he was 15 . . . oh, you have? Fine. What else is there to say? This guy is insanely good when he's on and he's on pace to be one of the all-time greats. Oh yeah, and he won me the Golf Digest British Open Fantasy Draft, meaning I've now won the "career Grand Slam" in our office pools in less than two full seasons of majors. Try to keep up, Rory!

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When Rory wins big, his family wins big. Literally.

Sergio Garcia: At least this close call will be easier to shake off than others since Garcia made a spirited run with a Sunday 66. Plus, he gained a lot of respect for how he graciously handled defeat. "It looks like I'm finally growing up," he said after. It only took 34 years.

Related: Pictures of PGA Tour wives and girlfriends

Rickie Fowler: We laughed when he said he gears his game up for the majors at the U.S. Open -- this is a guy with just ONE PGA Tour win to his credit -- but apparently, he wasn't kidding. With his T-2 at Hoylake, Fowler became the first player since Tiger Woods in 2005 to finish in the top five in each of the year's first three majors. Incredibly, those are his only top-five finishes in 19 stroke-play events this season. But hey, if you're going to have three great weeks a year, those are the three weeks you want to have them.

Lydia Ko: Rory wasn't the only phenom to win Sunday. Ko, 17, picked up her fourth LPGA title and became the youngest female golfer to bank more than the $1 million in career earnings, breaking Lexi Thompson's record by 17 months. And that doesn't even include the two wins and other high finishes she picked up while she was still an amateur. Is it too late to get a 500-to-1 bet on her winning a major?

WE'RE SELLING

Tiger Woods: He really teased us with that opening 69, didn't he? Overall, making the cut at a major in his second start since having back surgery less than four months ago should probably be viewed as a positive step. But finishing T-69 -- Woods' career-worst 72-hole position at a major by far -- doesn't leave us expecting much the rest of the year and even leaves his position on the U.S. Ryder Cup team doubtful. After all, he and captain Tom Watson don't appear to be too chummy these days.

Related: The winners and losers from Hoylake

Dustin Johnson: Rory's closest challenger entering the weekend only managed a T-12. We've been waiting on Johnson to break through at a major for awhile. Now 30, it's really time for DJ to get going.

Bubba Watson: Speaking of long hitters coming up short, Watson, after winning the year's first major has now missed the cut in the last two. More so, he came off as whiny when he complained about "negative comments" in the press after Friday's round. "Bubba Golf" isn't as fun when things aren't going his way, is it?

Jagermeister: In the claret jug? Really, Rory? You're 25 now. But McIlroy can't seem to shake the disgusting dark drink (sorry, bad memories). In fact, he has a long history with it. Don't worry, we broke it all down in our latest piece of hard-hitting journalism. Maybe Rory really meant to say his target words were "shot" and process.

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ON TAP

The PGA Tour heads to Canada for the RBC Canadian Open, aka that tournament Hunter Mahan left when he was leading after 36 holes to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. Well played, Hunter.

Related: 15 undeniable truths from the British Open

Random tournament fact: This year's event is at Royal Montreal Golf Club, the site of the Americans romp at the 2007 Presidents Cup. Or, if you're Canadian, the site of Mike Weir's singles win over Tiger Woods in 2007.

RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK 

-- Ben Hogan drank Jagermeister from the claret jug: 1 million-to-1 odds 

Related: 15 signs you watch too much golf on TV

-- Rory McIlroy will complete the career Grand Slam at some point: 1-to-2 odds

-- Between Rory and Phil, you'll get sick of hearing about career Grand Slams at some point next year: LOCK

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"I've really found my passion again for golf. Not that it ever dwindled, but it's what I think about when I get up in the morning, it's what I think about when I go to bed. I just want to be the best golfer I can be." -- Rory McIlroy. That doesn't bode well for other golfers.

THIS WEEK IN PAULINA GRETZKY-DUSTIN JOHNSON PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION

"Good luck today baby!! Love you" Paulina posted before Sunday's final round. Unfortunately, her well wishes didn't do DJ much good:

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Mmm. Are those giant . . . Oreos? And for some reason, DJ waited until Saturday to post this pic of the couple celebrating his birthday that happened nearly a month ago. We didn't miss it, though. "Spot" and "process"!!!

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Related: DJ & Paulina's magical year in pictures

THIS WEEK IN AWFUL GOLF BY CHARLES BARKLEY

The Chuckster competed in the American Century Championship, the biggest celebrity golf tournament. It did not go well. Here's a look at his scorecard from the three days:

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Over the course of 54 holes, the best Barkley could do was five bogeys. Amazing. Oh, and the reason for all the double bogeys is that is the maximum score you can take in the modified Stableford system. Paul Azinger offered Barkley free golf lessons on Twitter and said he'd shave his head if he couldn't fix the former Hank Haney student in 20 minutes. Please take him up on that, Charles. It's a win-win for everyone.

VIRAL VIDEO(S) OF THE WEEK

It's one thing to let John Daly hit a golf ball that's teed up on your face. It's another to let some random dude hit one off your crotch. Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars did just that at a charity golf event:

OK, so he later said the guy was a "pro." We hope so. He also yelled that it "tickled." Interesting.

And then there's Lee Westwood's singing, courtesy of Stephanie Wei.

Who says this guy doesn't have a lot of guts?

THIS AND THAT

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Mark Rypien won the American Century Championship for the first time since the inaugural event in 1990. That's a long time to wait for another major. This guy is the Ernie Els of celebrity golf! . . . Caroline Wozniacki won her first tournament in nine months on the same day Rory captured the claret jug. What are the odds? . . . Speaking of odds, did I mention that I won our office pool and a small, legal wager on Rory McIlroy (18-to-1!) winning the British Open? Cashing in a bet is always nice, but collecting in pounds makes it feel so much more sophisticated.

RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER

Why doesn't Rickie Fowler play better in regular tour events?

How many majors will Rory McIlroy win?

Did Gerry McIlroy bet on that too?

-- Alex Myers is an Associate Editor for GolfDigest.com. Feel free to email him and please follow him on Twitter since he has self-esteem issues.

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News & Tours

6 things you need to know about the International Crown

By Ron Sirak

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The inaugural International Crown is this week at Caves Valley Golf Club, a Tom Fazio design playing 6,628 yards and par 71 for this competition. Here are 6 things you need to know to follow the action.
 
1. THE TEAMS

Eight countries divided into two pools, four players per country. Pool A: No. 1 United States, No. 4 Thailand, No. 5 Spain, No. 8 Taiwan. Pool B: No. 2 South Korea, No. 3 Japan, No. 7 Sweden, No. 8 Australia. Seedings based on points of top four players on Rolex Rankings as of March 31.
 
2. THE PLAYERS

USA -- Stacy Lewis, Paula Creamer, Lexi Thompson, Cristie Kerr; SOUTH KOREA -- Inbee Park, So Yeon Ryu, Na Yeon Choi, I.K. Kim; JAPAN -- Mika Miyazato, Ai Miyazato, Mamiko Higa, Sakura Yokomine; THAILAND -- Pornanong Phatlum, Ariya Jutanugarn, Moriya Jutanugarn, Onnarin Sattayabanphot; SPAIN -- Azahara Munoz, Beatriz Recari, Carlota Ciganda, Belen Mozo; SWEDEN -- Anna Nordqvist, Caroline Hedwall, Pernilla Lindberg, Mikaela Parmlid; AUSTRALIA -- Karrie Webb, Minjee Lee, Katherine Kirk, Lindsey Wright; TAIWAN -- Yani Tseng, Teresa Lu, Candie Kung, Phoebe Yao

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3. THE FORMAT

The first three days, each country plays two best-ball matches against every other country in its pool. Points accumulate over the three days: Win = 2; Halve = 1; Loss = 0. The top two countries in each pool advance. If there is a tie within a pool, this tie-breaker will be used:
 
    • Total points in head-to-head match-ups between the tied teams
    • Total number of matches won in all six four-ball matches
    • Highest-seeded team entering competition
The country with the third most points in each pool will playoff to determine the fifth country to advance to Sunday. In that situation, each country in the playoff chooses two players to represent them. The format for the playoff will be sudden death best ball, and the tie-breaker will be the second ball from each country.

So, for example, suppose Taiwan and Australia both finish third in their pools and go into a playoff. Let's say Taiwan chooses Yani Tseng and Candie Kung, and Australia chooses Karrie Webb and Katherine Kirk. After the first playoff hole the players make the following scores:
 
Tseng = 4
Kung = 4
Webb = 4
Kirk = 5
 
In that scenario, Taiwan would win the playoff because Kung made 4 and Kirk made 5
 
On Sunday, the five countries will be seeded based on their total points from the first three days. If countries are tied, the following tie-breaker will be used:
 
    • Total points earned in head-to-head match-up (if they were in the same pool)
    • Total number of matches won in all six four-ball matches
    • Highest-seeded team entering competition

Each country will play one singles match against every other country for a total of 10 matches. Points carry over to Sunday. The team with most points over the four days wins.
 
In the event of a tie, each country in the playoff must choose one player to represent them. The format will be sudden-death singles.
 
4. WHO'S LEFT OUT

Rolex Rankings No. 2 Lydia Ko (New Zealand), No. 4 Suzann Pettersen (Norway), No. 8 Shanshan Feng (China) and No. 27 Charley Hull (England) are left out because their countries did not qualify. If the U.S. team were based on the current Rolex Rankings, No. 6 Michelle Wie would be in and No. 12 Paula Creamer would be out.

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5. THE SKINNY

The United States and South Korea are the favorites, but Thailand, with the Jutanugarns sisters and Phatlum, is deep. Australia has Hall of Famer Karrie Webb and amateur teen sensation Minjee Lee, and in Nordqvist and Hedwall, Sweden has Solheim Cup-tested talents. The most Twitter-friendly team is Taiwan (Tseng, Lu, Kung and Yao - total of 14 characters). Least Twitter-friendly is Thailand (Phatlum, Jutanugarn, Jutanugarn and Sattayabanphot - total of 41 characters).

6. ON THE TUBE

All coverage will be on Golf Channel. July 24-25, 11:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. ET; July 26-27, 3-7 p.m.

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News & Tours

Why this has been the least exciting season of major championships since 2000

By Alex Myers

We're not complaining about the winners of golf's first three majors of 2014. Obviously. Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer, and Rory McIlroy all had previous major titles under their belts and all have potential to be all-time greats (Watson is the oldest by far at 35).

But would it kill them to make their victories a tad more exciting?

Related: The winners and losers from the British Open

Actually, the blame should probably fall more on their pursuers, but either way, this year's majors have been lacking in drama. None have even featured a back-nine tie -- let alone a lead change -- on Sunday and the last two have been wire-to-wire wins by Kaymer and McIlroy. 

The last year to feature such a stretch in the first three majors was 2000. Much like this year's Masters when Bubba Watson battled Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar on the front nine, Vijay Singh felt heat from David Duval and Ernie Els early  on Sunday in 2000 before pulling away on the back nine for a three-shot win (Watson also won by three this year). Then, Tiger Woods happened.

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Woods went wire-to-wire at Pebble Beach to win the U.S. Open by a record 15 shots. He led by eight after 36 holes and by 10 after 54 holes. That makes Kaymer's eight-shot win at Pinehurst look like a thriller by comparison.

Woods' next blowout came at St. Andrews, although he actually (gasp) trailed Ernie Els by a shot after the first round, keeping it from being a wire-to-wire win like McIlroy's triumph at Hoylake. It turned out to be a more dominant victory, though. Like McIlroy, Woods took a six-shot lead into the final round, but unlike Rory, Woods wound up winning by eight. Our thanks to Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler for at least trying to make things interesting on Sunday.

So through three majors, 2000 gets the nod as being less exciting even though we haven't seen a lead change at the end of round at a major this year since Watson grabbed the 36-hole lead at the Masters (Spieth was tied with Watson after 54 holes). Thanks to Woods' dominance, the average margin of victory in those three majors in 2000 was nearly nine shots compared to just over four shots in 2014.

Related: 15 signs you watch too much golf on TV

Of course, it could be worse. The quality of champions help off-set the lack of Sunday drama meaning it's safe to say we'll all remember McIlroy's win at Hoylake a lot more vividly than, say, Todd Hamilton's playoff win over Ernie Els at the Open in 2004.

And we still have the PGA Championship -- competition's last shot? -- to look forward to. This year's similarities to 2000 run deeper as this season's final major will also be held at Valhalla, the site of Woods' classic extra-holes battle with Bob May. Let's hope we're in store for something similar next month.

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