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Golf news: Will Bubba Watson get final spot on 2016 Ryder Cup team?

By Tom LaMarre, The Sports Xchange
Golf news: Will Bubba Watson get final spot on 2016 Ryder Cup team?
The 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup team has one final spot left and there is speculation that Bubba Watson will not be chosen even though he is No. 7 in the World Golf Rankings. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

Bubba Watson is No. 7 in the World Golf Ranking, but he still is not on the 12-man United States team for the 2016 Ryder Cup, which will be played against Europe on Sept. 30-Oct. 2 at Hazeltine National in Chaska, Minn.

There is only one spot left on the team, and there is speculation that Watson won't get it.

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"You hear (U.S. captain Davis Love III) talk about chemistry and how players are going to be in a team setting," said Euro stalwart Lee Westwood of England, speaking to the Daily Mail about Watson's absence.

"So when he leaves out someone ranked so highly it does seem like it's because the captain can't see where he fits in with regard to pairings and stuff like that."

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When Love announced that Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and J.B. Holmes as his first three captain's picks a week, writers asked him about Watson.

Love, who selected three players who are lower in the rankings than Watson, was evasive and didn't even mention Watson by name.

"I'm going to talk to these 11 guys now that we have," Love said. "We've got a game plan, a strategy, and we're going to work on that the next two weeks and announce our (last) pick based on what fits best for our team, not really who shoots the lowest scores in the last tournament."

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Watson, Daniel Berger, Justin Thomas and Jim Furyk joined several players already on the U.S. team for an informal practice session at Hazeltine during their weekend off.

The Tour Championship finishes on Sunday, and Love will announce his final pick that night.

Watson, who made the 30-man field for the finale by being 24th in the FedExCup rankings after the BMW Championship, is a two-time Masters champion who claimed his ninth PGA Tour victory earlier this year in the Northern Trust Open.

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However, he hasn't finished in the top 10 in an official event since, although he has two solid results during the playoffs: a tie for 13th in The Barclays and a tie for 20th in the BMW Championship.

"I want to play on the Ryder Cup," Watson said at the BMW Championship. "My whole goal this year was the Ryder Cup and the Olympics. That's all I cared about the whole year was making those two events.

"I didn't care how I did it, as long as I made those events. And I got in the Olympics, so I got one more to go, I guess."

Watson, who finished ninth on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list and one spot out of an automatic berth on the team, tied for eighth in the Olympics.

--Charley Hull of England, who represented Great Britain in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, was named in a second batch of Olympians whose confidential medical records were leaked by Russian hackers, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The records, published by the hacker group known as Fancy Bear, revealed that Hull, who has asthma, has a therapeutic use exemption for a substance commonly used in an inhaler.

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"The IGF was contacted today by WADA informing us that confidential data from one golf athlete's record had been illegally obtained from WADA's ADAMS system and released into the public domain," International Golf Federation vice president Ty Votaw said. "The athlete was also notified of this breach by UK Anti-Doping.

"WADA is unable to determine the extent of the data breach and is receiving intelligence and advice from law enforcement and IT security agencies on this and will continue to keep the IGF informed."

Hull, 20, has been open about her condition, which forced her to withdraw from a match during the UL International Crown earlier this year. She said her asthma worsened after switching to a steroid-free inhalant in order to comply with international anti-doping standards in advance of the Olympics.

Tennis starts Serena and Venus Williams, in addition to gold medal-winning gymnast Simone Biles, all from the United States, are among 29 athletes from eight countries who have been targeted by the hackers.

Most of documents show test results of athletes who applied for a therapeutic use exemption, seeking approval to use a banned substance to address a documented medical condition without risk of being sanctioned for a positive test.

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"WADA has no doubt that these ongoing attacks are being carried out in retaliation against the Agency, and the global anti-doping system, because of our independent Pound and McLaren investigations that exposed state-sponsored doping in Russia," WADA general director Olivier Niggli said.

"We condemn this criminal activity and have asked the Russian Government to do everything in their power to make it stop. Continued cyber-attacks emanating from Russia seriously undermine the work that is being carried out to rebuild a compliant anti-doping program in Russia."

--A new event on the European Tour schedule announced for next season will include six-hole matches and potentially could crown a champion with a closest-to-the-pin contest.

The World Super 6 Perth, co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour of Australasia, will be played Feb. 16-19 at Lake Karrinyup Country Club in Australia and will replace the Perth International on both schedules.

"This initiative was something that we spoke about at great length to our tournament committee, led by chairman Thomas Bjorn," European Tour chief executive officer Keith Pelley said.

"We are thrilled to participate in this because, at the European Tour, we believe that golf needs to look at new and innovative formats."

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The tournament's unique format will begin with a 36-hole stroke-play cut. From there, the remaining participants will compete in a third round of stroke play to determine the top 24 players who will advance to match play, with playoffs as needed to determine the final spots.

The last 24 players will play in a series of six-hole matches on the final day to crown a winner. Should any match finish all square through six holes, players will head to a makeshift tee adjacent to the 18th fairway and play a "knockout hole" to the 18th green from 98 yards.

If both make the same score on the knockout hole, they will return to the new tee and hit one more shot, with the player who finishes closest to the pin advancing.

The tiebreaker could come into play for the tournament's final match.

--Anthony Kim, once a rising star on the PGA Tour, surfaced recently at the Nancy Lieberman Charities Celebrity Golf Classic in Plano, Texas.

Lieberman, an assistant coach for the Sacramento Kings and a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, posted on Twitter a photo of Kim helping her read a putt during the tournament.

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Kim was wearing golf shoes but there was no indications he was playing in the event.

Kim, 31, claimed three victories on the PGA Tour, the last in the 2010 Shell Houston Open, and was a star as the United States beat Europe in the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla.

However, Kim has not played on the circuit since the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship, his career short-circuited by injuries.

Golf.com posted a story in 2014 claiming that Kim is staying away from the PGA Tour in order to collect a lucrative insurance policy he took out against the potential of a career-ending injury.

Kim denied that claim in an interview with the Associated Press last year, and he said he was rehabilitating his body after "six or seven surgeries in the last 3 1/2 years."

At the time, Kim said he hadn't played a full round of golf in nearly 18 months. His career earnings on the PGA Tour are $12.2 million.

--Golfsmith, the world's largest golf retailer, announced that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The company will undertake a corporate restructuring that includes selling Canada-based business Golf Town to a group led by Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited and CI Investments.

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"Today represents a significant step forward for the long-term viability of the Golf Town and Golfsmith businesses," chief executive officer David Roussy said.

"We will continue in our commitment to provide our customers with the exceptional service and high-quality golf products they have come to expect from us."

The Austin, Texas, based company plans to close "certain underperforming stores" and sell excess inventory, as well as closing whatever Golf Town locations are not acquired in the sale.

The reorganization is intended to make Golfsmith more attractive to potential buyers, and its debtors are negotiating with "one or more" undisclosed potential buyers.

If Golfsmith does not attract a buyer by Oct. 31, the company could face immediate liquidation.

The company owes millions of dollars to several major golf equipment companies. According to court papers, Callaway Golf is its largest unsecured creditor at nearly $5.5 million, and company spokesman Scott Goryl told Golf.com the equipment maker was prepared for trouble.

"Callaway Golf has been for some time carefully managing its net financial exposure to Golfsmith and Golf Town, which are both significant customers, and expects to be able to collect substantially all of the outstanding accounts receivable balances owed by Golfsmith and Golf Town either through the bankruptcy process or through its trade credit insurance," Goryl said. "Golfsmith and Golf Town remain valued partners."

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Golfsmith's bankruptcy is the latest in a series of setbacks for the golf equipment industry. Adidas announced last spring that it plans to sell its golf equipment business, and Nike said recently it will no long manufacture golf equipment but will remain in the golf shoe and apparel business.

--Stewart Hagestad could see his chances in the 36th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship slipping away.

The 25-year-old was trailing by four holes with six to play, but he rallied to tie Scott Harvey of Greensboro, N.C., on the 36th hole and claimed the title with a 20-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole at Stonewall Links in Elverson, Pa.

"I was hitting it really solid all day," said Hagestad, a USC graduate from Newport Beach, Calif., who made birdies on 10 of the last 20 holes. "And I knew if I got one to drop, I would start seeing the lines and get something going.

"Just keep chipping away at it. I didn't want to go to sleep tonight knowing I left anything out there, or I wanted to leave everything I had out there. Just one hole at a time, one shot at a time."

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It was the biggest comeback in a U.S. Mid-Amateur final since the championship match went from 18 holes to 36 in 2001. The only other time the title match went to extra holes was in 1987, when Jay Sigel defeated David Lind on the 20th hole.

Hagestad received an invitation to the 2017 Masters, and he hopes to land a spot on the United States team for the 2017 Walker Cup because the biennial event will be played on his home course at Los Angles Country Club.

Winning birdies on the 32nd, 33rd and 35th holes got Hagestad close, and it was all even after he hit his approach shot in close again on the final hole of regulation. Harvey, the 2014 champion, eventually conceded the birdie.

Hagestad's late rally capped a comeback from 4 down after 17 holes in the morning round, as he gained some momentum by winning the 18th with a birdie.

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