• 0

CFL Studs and Duds Weeks 13 through 16

CFL action in the month of September featured a ton of pick-sixes, perfect Canadian kickers, a halftime show announcement, questionable coaching, a logo controversy, and a bad day for CFL games.
CFL Studs
Battle of Alberta
In Week 13 the Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos combined to score 90 points from 1,073 yards of offence. The Eskimos prevailed 48-42, escaping a near Juwan Brescacin Hail Mary walk-off touchdown. Romar Morris scored four touchdowns, three receivers went over 100 yards and Bo Levi Mitchell set a new career-high for passing yards with 491.
Bo Levi Mitchell
Speaking about Mitchell, the star quarterback threw for 1,068 yards in his last three games, tossing eight touchdowns. Mitchell set a career-high in passing yards (mentioned above), which was previously set in Week 11 this year (452 vs Winnipeg). Mitchell’s efforts have allowed the Stamps to clinch a playoff spot before October, and keep Calgary atop our power rankings week-in-week-out.
There were an abnormal amount of pick-sixes in the past four weeks. Defenders across the CFL recorded 10 interceptions for touchdowns, highlighted by the three pick-sixes in the Banjo Bowl. Saskatchewan’s Willie Jefferson’s absurd 97-yard return was the most memorable of the 10.

Willie Jefferson (@Stmn_Willie_Bmn) takes the scenic route to the end zone while completing a PICK SIX for the @sskroughriders.#CFLGameDay pic.twitter.com/q0k4UfjHOa
— CFL on TSN (@CFLonTSN) September 8, 2018
Cabbing back to a football game
Blue Bombers receiver Kenbrell Thompkins took a nasty hit from Ed Gainey in the first quarter of the Banjo Bowl. Thompkins was stretchered off and taken to the nearest hospital. Typically getting rushed to the hospital indicates a serious injury and the end of the individual’s day. Although Thompkins did not go back on the field, he actually took a cab back to Investors Group Field and was on the sidelines in full uniform for the third quarter.
Canadian kickers
Redblacks’ rookie kicker Lewis Ward and the Roughriders’ Brett Lauther have continued their unbelievable seasons during the past four weeks. During the last four weeks, Ward went 10/10 (he’s made 37 straight) and Lauther went 12/12. Both Canadian kickers are converting over 90% of the field goals and are the likely nominees for Most Outstanding Special Teams Player. Lauther’s 56-yard kick gave Saskatchewan a much-needed win over Toronto in Week 15.

Brett Lauther nails a 56-yard field goal to put the @sskroughriders up 30-28 with 1:14 remaining in the game.#LiveMic #CFLGameDay pic.twitter.com/4YEfIlIoI8
— CFL on TSN (@CFLonTSN) September 23, 2018
Alessia Cara
On Saturday the CFL announced that Alessia Cara will be headlining the halftime show at the 106th Grey Cup in Edmonton. Cara, 22, was born in Brampton, Ontario and is a growing star in the pop music genre. She’s known for songs such as Here, Wild Things, Scars To Your Beautiful, Stay, and 1-800-273-8255. Cara is a great get for the CFL.
John Rush
The second-year Bombers fullback chopped off his luscious hair two weeks ago and transitioned to a Walter White-esque look. Multiple people in Rush’s family carry a gene that puts them at an increased risk of getting breast cancer. As a result, Rush grew his hair out for three years and is donating his now-cut hair to someone going through chemotherapy treatments. Rush’s story can be viewed here.

Shoutout to @Wpg_BlueBombers @cancersociety and everyone who supported me and made this happen! Hopefully we were able to make it a little easier for someone battling cancer! 💙💛 pic.twitter.com/LeXyxBu9nS
— John Rush 🏈🇨🇦 (@JohnRushAthlete) September 20, 2018
CFL Duds
Toronto Argonauts
The Argos were 3-7 going into Week 13 and still had a legitimate shot at making the playoffs. After losing three straight in the past four weeks, the defending Grey Cup champions will likely miss the post-season. In a nine-team league that has 66% of the teams make the playoffs, the Argos’ 2018 season is even more depressing. McLeod Bethel-Thompson has been decent at quarterback, but Toronto’s issues exist throughout their whole roster.
Respecting the logo
Last week, controversy arose when the B.C. Lions Twitter account posted a video of several Lions dancing on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats logo on the field at Tim Hortons Field. Respecting/honouring your logo is important. That being said, stepping on a team’s logo in the locker room isn’t cool. Stepping on a team’s logo on their football field is not a big deal. The Ti-Cats didn’t win by 30 because of the Lions dancing on their logo. They won by 30 because they’re a better team than B.C., and were likely looking to avenge their loss at B.C. This story was way overblown. The Ti-Cats Twitter handled the situation well, though.

Thanks for stopping by, @BCLions. Safe trip home!
🕺💃🕺💃🕺💃🕺💃🕺💃🕺💃🕺 pic.twitter.com/oMeMCD36t9

— Hamilton Tiger-Cats (@Ticats) September 29, 2018
Fall Sunday games
Sunday CFL games before September are fine. But once the CFL schedules games (aside from the playoffs) head-to-head with the NFL, they lose mass amounts of viewers. The Alouettes hosted Saskatchewan last Sunday, and host the Argonauts in Week 20 on a Sunday. Even I will watch NFL over a meaningless Alouettes game. Regular season fall Sunday games should not be a thing; I’d even suggest the CFL move the playoff games and the Grey Cup to Saturdays.
Darian Durant
Darian Durant’s decision to retire before the 2018 season, and after collecting a $70,000 signing bonus, is in the past. The near-weekly news regarding Durant’s possible comeback is just silly. Durant’s playing ability spiraled downwards after he left Saskatchewan – I was even skeptical of the Bombers signing him at the time. At this point in the season, no teams could realistically use Durant.
June Jones punting
Jones infamous decision to punt from B.C.’s 37-yard line while up seven points with 59 seconds left cost his team a win. Lirim Hjarullhau likely makes that kick, and if not Chris Rainey unlikely turns a missed kick into points the other way. Instead, Jones seemed to punt for a rouge on purpose, the Lions came back to tie the game on the last play of regulation and then win in double overtime.
B.J. Cunningham
In the month of September, the Alouettes number one receiver caught five passes for 53 yards. You could debate that Cunningham is talented enough to be an elite CFL receiver, but 53 yards over three games says otherwise. Cunningham is Montreal’s go-to guy; he needs to put up better numbers.
Edmonton Eskimos non-offensive scoring
Week 17 is approaching, and so far every single Eskimos touchdown in 2018 has come from their offence. That being said, I don’t doubt that Mike Reilly can do it all, but a little help for the reigning Most Outstanding Player would likely be appreciated by him. Despite ranking second in interceptions and third in sacks, no Eskimos defender has found the end zone. Edmonton’s return game has been dreadful though, ranking last in both kick and punt return average.

Main image credit: Embed from Getty Imageswindow.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’dtNa_N3RQIJIrtgaWU5jIg’,sig:’0oMe9-2IZzWJ7Qdg75bVGjkuWYs3-hbJ816fzcedF2Q=’,w:’594px’,h:’396px’,items:’1019605808′,caption: true ,tld:’ca’,is360: false })});The post CFL Studs and Duds Weeks 13 through 16 appeared first on Last Word on Sports.

  • 0

CFL Week 16 Power Rankings – Edmonton Eskimos Find Rock Bottom

After a weekend filled with blowouts here is where the CFL Week 16 Power Rankings stand with the Edmonton Eskimos discovering rock bottom just as the Western Division playoff race begins to really heat up.
1. Calgary Stampeders
Bo Levi Mitchell and the Calgary Stampeders remain in an echelon of their own as they improved to 11-2 last weekend. Despite losing yet another rising star in Reggie Begelton Mitchell found a way to eclipse 300 yards with a pair of touchdowns and no interceptions. The Stampeders continue to fight their way through injuries for wins. They will travel to Montreal to face the Alouettes this Monday.

Last week: 1
2. Saskatchewan Roughriders
Another win in the books for Chris Jones and the Roughriders although this time, it was not all thanks to their defence. Zach Collaros put together his best outing of the season throwing for nearly 400 yards with a touchdown with a single interception. The Riders offence looked promising and will need to continue that form going forward if they want to be serious contenders come November.

Last week: 2
3. Ottawa Redblacks
The Redblacks watched their closest divisional opponent creep a little bit closer on their weekend off. They will host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers this Friday looking to regain a four-point lead in the Eastern Division

Last week: 3
4. Hamilton Tiger-Cats
The Hamilton-Tiger Cats bounced back in a big way last Saturday against the Lions. Jeremiah Masoli threw for under 200 yards and the offence produced just 315 as a unit. This was mainly thanks to a pair of defensive touchdowns and overall good field position. The Ti-Cats will get a week off before heading to Toronto looking to sweep their season series with the Argonauts.

Last week: 6
5. Winnipeg Blue Bombers
After beating the Montreal Alouettes people were still doubting the Winnipeg Blue Bombers but that doubt will surely be gone after the thrashing they handed Edmonton at Commonwealth. The Bombers defence was what won them this game generating three interceptions and recovering three fumbles. However, their offence will need to pick it up next week after producing just 254 yards of total offence. That is if they hope to keep pace with the red-hot Redblacks.

Last week: 7
6. B.C Lions
Jonathan Jennings threw a pair of touchdowns last weekend in Hamilton. Both of which were to the Tiger-Cats. Jennings returned to his true form opening up the door for Cody Fajardo who came in and threw for 69 yards, a touchdown, and most importantly, no interceptions. The Lions have an important decision to make at QB going down the stretch. They are still very much in the Western Division playoff race with a game in hand on both the teams they are narrowly trailing. Keeping their playoff hopes intact will start with a win at home against the Argonauts this weekend.

Last week: 5
7. Edmonton Eskimos
Mike Reilly and the Edmonton Eskimos got beat down 30-3 in front of their home fans last weekend finishing September at 1-3. Even Reilly said himself “after a game like that there is nowhere to go but up” and that stands true given their recent results and new position in the CFL Power Rankings. Things don’t get much easier for Edmonton as they will have to regroup and travel to Regina to face the Saskatchewan Roughriders this Monday.

Last week: 4
8. Toronto Argonauts
A fifth consecutive loss for the Argos this time at the hands of the Calgary Stampeders. James Franklin produced Toronto’s only touchdown again this week while McLeod Bethel-Thompson continues to play just well enough to not get benched, but not good enough to win. Toronto will look to stop their skid as they will look to play spoiler in B.C this Saturday against the Lions.

Last week: 8
9. Montreal Alouettes
Johnny Manziel threw a pair of touchdowns and no interceptions en route to another Montreal Alouettes loss. With four games left in the season, Montreal will be looking to get their franchise quarterback his first CFL win. Otherwise, the last month is simply academic for the Als at this point.

Last week: 9

Main image credit:
Embed from Getty Imageswindow.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’YlyoGf9KQrNoWEH3_FF_XQ’,sig:’CCSqZ-6luSSUK7MqUxAoump4UWlersPtlRMrADH-0Bs=’,w:’594px’,h:’396px’,items:’1038203752′,caption: true ,tld:’ca’,is360: false })});The post CFL Week 16 Power Rankings – Edmonton Eskimos Find Rock Bottom appeared first on Last Word on Sports.

  • 0

Saskatchewan Roughriders Final Stretch

The Saskatchewan Roughriders (9-5) find themselves four points back of first with two crucial divisional matchups against the Edmonton Eskimos and Winnipeg Blue Bombers ahead before a date at McMahon Stadium with the Calgary Stampeders October 20th. The Saskatchewan Roughriders final stretch proves to be no easy task. However, it’s hard not to look ahead at that matchup and get excited for what it potentially means. The Roughriders are winners of six of their last seven games finishing up their final matchup against an Eastern Division opponent this past Sunday. A 34-29 victory over the Montreal Alouettes helped the Riders finish with a record 5-3 against Eastern opponents. Two of their most notable losses came at the hands of the Ottawa Redblacks.
A Look Ahead
Thanksgiving Monday could give the Roughriders and their fans a little extra to be thankful for. With a win over the struggling Eskimos and a Bombers loss, the Riders would clinch a playoff spot. Edmonton is trying to right the ship after appearing to have a stranglehold on second in the West mid-season. The Eskimos falling 30-3 at home against the Bombers doesn’t invite much confidence for this group going forward. However, any team with Mike Reilly under center should be taken seriously, regardless of recent performances. Reilly leads the league in passing yards with 4,383 and is currently second in passing touchdowns with 27. His favourite target, Duke Williams, leads the league in receiving yards (1,337) and receiving touchdowns (10).
After a favourable 5-3 start, the Bombers have found themselves in a tailspin themselves going 2-4 since. At 7-7, the Bombers are in the middle of a dogfight for their playoff lives along with the Eskimos (7-7) and BC Lions (6-7). Three of these four teams will make the playoffs. One of which will be crossing over into the East to visit either the Hamilton Tiger-Cats or the Ottawa Redblacks. Nichols has maintained his starting job since standing on shaky ground post-Banjo Bowl, posting an 80% completion rate against Edmonton last week. For all their flaws, the Bombers will be another difficult test for this Roughriders squad that continues to squeeze out victories.
Finally, the matchup that is sure to be circled on many fans’ calendars is the tilt on October 20th against the surging Stampeders. There is still an outside chance this game will have implications on first place in the West. However, the Riders have a number of factors working against them. The first being that the Stampeders are currently four games up on the Roughriders with a game in hand. Moreover, Calgary’s next two games are far more favourable than what the Riders are up against. While Saskatchewan will be playing the two aforementioned playoff-hungry teams, Calgary will be travelling to the 3-11 Alouettes and then host the hot and cold Lions a week later. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to suggest that Calgary could be 13-2 going into Week 19’s matchup. Even if the Riders go 2-0 as well, that still places them at 11-5 with just one game to play.
The Last Word
The Roughriders, however, have a slight advantage thanks in part to those who put together the 2018 CFL schedule. The Riders have their third and final bye on the last weekend of the regular season (Week 21). Regardless if the Riders finish second, third, or crossover to the East, they will have a bye week to prepare for whoever they match up against. There has been plenty of debate surrounding the benefits of bye weeks heading into the playoffs. Some view it as an opportunity to get a head-start in preparation on their opponent while others see it as the resting team developing “rust”. First place being out of reach may be of benefit for the Roughriders. If they were able to miraculously leapfrog the Stampeders, they would have two weeks off before the West Final. This is something Ottawa fans feared last season though it never came to fruition.

It’s difficult to not look ahead and get excited for all the potential playoff scenarios that exist for Saskatchewan. However, it starts with Monday’s game against a desperate Eskimos football club. If the Riders don’t respond with the same sense of urgency, as if their season is on the line (and it mathematically still is) then these scenarios become a lot less fun in the weeks to come.

Main image credit:
Embed from Getty Imageswindow.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’REa7LQfqRp5pr_MmtebUyw’,sig:’kY_KvaV9PmBwlxIyUBuW0SKoUo0qmfLoeecOXaazqcg=’,w:’594px’,h:’396px’,items:’1043750112′,caption: true ,tld:’ca’,is360: false })});

 The post Saskatchewan Roughriders Final Stretch appeared first on Last Word on Sports.

  • 0

Takeaways: Hamilton Tiger-Cats Stomp B.C. Lions in High-stakes Revenge Game

The B.C. Lions were completely dominated on both sides of the ball in Week 16.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were primed and ready, and from the first possession on, held the edge throughout.

It what ended a 40-10 win, it still seemed like much more.
Adding Fuel to the Fire
On Friday, the Lions decided to film themselves performing a dance-off on the Ti-cats home logo at Tim Hortons Field.

Bustin moves in the 🔨
First up: David Mackie 🤣🤣 pic.twitter.com/jla6G8Wm6Z

— BC Lions (@BCLions) September 28, 2018
That set the Ti-cats off.

Before the game, the team was standing at midfield protecting the logo, while chirping Lions players who had been dancing a day previous.

After the game, Brandon Banks let the Lions know that the dancing wasn’t cool with TSN’s Mathew Sciannitti.
Jonathon Jennings has a Day to Forget
On the first offensive play of the game for the Lions, Jonathon Jennings threw a gift-wrapped pick-six for Don Unamba Jr.

It didn’t get much better from there on. Jennings threw three interceptions in total on the night, with another of them being returned to the house.

Jennings was pulled near the end of the 3rd quarter and finished with a stat-line of 146 yards passing with three interceptions and zero touchdowns.

Cody Fajardo performed mop-up duty in the 4th quarter. The former Argo threw for 69 yards on 7/12 passing.

Fajardo also used his legs, rushing for 27 yards.

With Travis Lulay still nursing a sore shoulder, you have to wonder if Wally Buono considers giving Fajardo the next start.
Looking Ahead
With Winnipeg getting the best of Edmonton on Saturday, the Lions are now 6-7 and are last in the West Division.

They have a game in hand on both the Bombers and Eskimos and will have to put it to good use next Saturday when they host the Argos in an afternoon match at B.C. Place.

Main image credit: Embed from Getty Imageswindow.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’_kb1SFOtRPN4czveVTgxdw’,sig:’rAZUstnUrMywuVwUFABGE1lPd7RXWBKkUWkDCYu6Yn0=’,w:’594px’,h:’396px’,items:’841061888′,caption: true ,tld:’ca’,is360: false })});The post Takeaways: Hamilton Tiger-Cats Stomp B.C. Lions in High-stakes Revenge Game appeared first on Last Word on Sports.

  • 0

Cody Barber signs with Green Bay Blizzard

Cody Barber was one of the best kickers in the Indoor Football League (IFL) last season.

After going 10-18 in field goals during the year, Barber finished the season as the second-best producers of field goals in the league, statistically.

Barber started the season in Iowa before jumping to a number of teams and eventually finishing the season out with the Green Bay Blizzard.

Now, Barber is taking his talents back to Wisconsin.
Cody Barber signs with Green Bay Blizzard
Barber is a native of Kenosha, Wisconsin, and said he is excited to be back in his native state.

“I’m very excited to kick in Green Bay,” Barber said. “I’ve wanted to kick for the home town team for a while. I have all my family an friends right there as I’m from Wisconsin, [and] it’s going to be fun to play a season so close to them.”

The Barber signing gives Green Bay fans, who haven’t seen a winning season in six years, a glimpse of hope.

The Blizzard have finished below .500 each year since 2012 after qualifying for the playoffs for the previous eight straight years.

Along with the Barber signing, the team made an addition by promoting interim coach Corey Roberson to head coach for the 2019 campaign.

“As for the losing seasons, Coach Roberson is the right guy to get things turned around,” Barber said. “In my eyes he showed it when he took over the interim coaching position [this year]. He will get the right coaches an players An here an we will turn it around an hopefully bring a championship to Green Bay.”

The Blizzard will begin their 2019 season in February on a date to be determined. The IFL is holding it’s annual league meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada this week and will produce a schedule to be released later this year.The post Cody Barber signs with Green Bay Blizzard appeared first on Last Word on Sports.

  • 0

West Coast Eagles Win 4th AFL Premiership In Thrilling Fashion

The West Coast Eagles edged the Collingwood Magpies in a thrilling AFL Grand Final at the MCG 79-74. Trailing for most of the game, the Eagles recovered from a slow start to tie things up heading into the final term, and then edge the Pies in a result that further confirmed their tremendous regular season form continued through the entire finals series. When healthy, these Eagles are the best the AFL has to offer with talent in every line, and flair to spare.

Midfielder Luke Shuey won the Norm Smith medal, leading the Eagles back from a 30+ point deficit in the first term with 34 disposals, 8 tackles, and 1 goal. The Eagles didn’t hit the front until the third term as Collingwood led by 2 goals at the half. Pies midfielders Taylor Adams and Adam Treloar don’t deserve any of the blame for the loss, as Treloar posted 26 disposals and 11 tackles, and Adams had 31 disposals and a goal. Jordan De Goey (3 goals), Mason Cox, and Jaidyn Stephenson (2 goals each) led the Pies scoring, while Steele Sidebottom struggled and was a non-factor. Josh Thomas had a leg injury, and ruck Brodie Grundy was outmuscled by the Eagles duo of Nathan Vardy and Scott Lycett, even while dominating hitouts.

For the Eagles, leading goal scorer and former Coleman medalist Josh Kennedy stood tall,  kicking 3 goals, beyond that it was a team effort on the scoreboard with Willie Rioli, and a host of others kicking a goal. Dom Sheed kicked the game winner from the boundary with just under 2 minutes to play, after an incredible mark from Liam Ryan set up Sheed’s mark. Sheed was another standout with 32 disposals.

The result means West Coast has won it’s 4th flag, the first flag since 2006. Collingwood stays at 15 flags, having lost two finals since their last premiership in 2010.

Main Photo:

Embed from Getty Images

The post West Coast Eagles Win 4th AFL Premiership In Thrilling Fashion appeared first on Last Word on Sports.

  • 0

Europe Sweeps USA in Foursomes, Takes 5-3 Lead in Ryder Cup

Friday’s opening two sessions of the Ryder Cup could not have been more different. In the cool morning at Le Golf National, the Americans seized the opportunity, utilizing their ball striking and putting to take a 3-1 lead. But in the afternoon, Europe got to work to give the home crowd a lot to cheer about. They never gave the Americans a chance in the alternate shot foursomes. For the first time in Ryder Cup history, the Europeans would win all four Foursomes matches against the Americans, taking a 5-3 lead heading into Saturday.

Embed from Getty Images

“We know it’s a marathon, and we’re delighted with the way the day turned out because it was a fairly tough morning,” said European Captain Thomas Bjorn. “They wanted to go out and prove something this afternoon, and that was nice to see, but it says a lot about the group.”
Europe’s Veterans Shine in Ryder Cup Foursomes
When Captain Bjorn selected Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson as captain’s picks, it came with a large amount of criticism. Garcia has not made a cut of a major championship since he won The Masters in 2017. Henrik Stenson has been battling injuries and has not won a tournament since 2017. And Poulter has always been a streaky player.

But when it comes to the Ryder Cup, these three golfers always raise their games. After being down 3-1 this morning, Bjorn decided to roll with his veterans, hoping that they would be the motivation to turn this Ryder Cup around in Europe’s favour.

The Captain’s gamble had paid off. Garcia, Poulter, and Stenson all won their respective matches by a large margin. Garcia, who was paired with rookie Alex Noren, halved the opening hole against Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau. The European pair then went on a tremendous run winning seven of the next eight holes, ultimately winning the match 5&4. Garcia’s Ryder Cup record now improves to 20-11-7 and ties Bernhard Langer for most points earned in foursomes (11.5).

Embed from Getty Images

“I’ve always said it, Ryder Cup, there’s nothing like it,” stated Garcia. “I’ve got an amazing partner. He played amazing. I think the front nine we played, in foursomes and on this course with the wind blowing, was spectacular.
Ian Poulter was the inspiration needed to lift up a bummed Rory McIlroy, who lost his opening Four-Ball match without recording a birdie. After going two down early to Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, Poulter and McIlroy locked in, showcasing their tremendous ball striking and emotion to win 4&2.

Embed from Getty Images

“It’s been a long time since I played a Ryder Cup,” said Poulter. “Four years is a long wait. But the second I got going this morning, I felt good. It’s great to play with Rory. The buzz around the golf course is just incredible.”
Like Poulter was for McIlroy, Henrik Stenson made the impact in getting Justin Rose back on track in the afternoon, after losing on the final hole against Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau in the morning. Stenson and Rose are no strangers to playing with each other at the Ryder Cup. The last two Ryder Cups they have been paired together six times, winning four times. Today was no different, as they dominated Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler at alternate shot, winning 3&2.

Embed from Getty Images

“Obviously when you go out against the world’s best players on the other side, you deserve nothing,” said Rose. “You are to earn every point. Nothing is given out there. For me to come out and play with Henrik, someone I’ve had a lot of success with on the golf course is the perfect scenario for me.”
Americans Can Take Positives Into Saturday
Despite the Americans getting swept in the Foursomes matches, there are positives that can be taken heading into the Saturday session. Tony Finau and Justin Thomas, two rookies at the Ryder Cup, held their own, winning two of their three matches. Jordan Spieth, who had not played the week before in the TOUR Championship, looked brilliant in his morning Four-Ball match, starting to get the putter working again.

But clearly Captain Furyk has to assess what went wrong in the Foursomes matches and get that fixed. Perhaps it was a mistake to play Phil Mickelson or Bubba Watson, who both had trouble hitting the ball in the fairway. Maybe playing Brooks Koepka in the afternoon would have made sense, given that he was demonstrating tremendous shotmaking off the tee and making clutch shots.

The advantage Captain Furyk and Team USA have is that there are still 20 matches left in the Ryder Cup. When down two points in the first session in the past, Team USA has come back to win the Ryder Cup twice before. So Team USA has no reason to worry other than focusing on playing solid golf and making the putts.

Embed from Getty Images

“I think our guys will respond, I really do,” Furyk said hopefully. “Obviously, it’s going to leave a sour taste in their mouth tonight and they have to sleep on that. We’ll come back tomorrow, and I bet we’ll be fine.”
Predictions for Saturday Four-Ball Matches
Europe has every reason to be riding high heading into Saturday. They just swept Team USA in the Foursomes. It appears that they found their dream pair in Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari. But the Americans are going to come into tomorrow’s matches with a lot to prove. They will be ready to go with a chip on their shoulder, looking to make a move to prepare for singles on Sunday. Here are my predictions for tomorrow’s Four-Ball matches.

Match #1: Brooks Koepka-Tony Finau vs. Rory McIlroy-Sergio Garcia (US)

Match #2: Dustin Johnson-Rickie Fowler vs. Paul Casey-Tyrell Hatton (US)

Match #3: Tiger Woods-Patrick Reed vs. Tommy Fleetwood-Francesco Molinari (Europe)

Match #4: Jordan Spieth-Justin Thomas vs. Ian Poulter-Jon Rahm (Half)

Score Heading Into Saturday Foursomes: Europe 6.5 – US 5.5The post Europe Sweeps USA in Foursomes, Takes 5-3 Lead in Ryder Cup appeared first on Last Word on Sports.

  • 0

10 Best Racquetball Racquets for 2019: Power & Control

You’re in the court, a steady hand around your racquet as you move towards the service line. The racquet glistens in the lights as you drop the ball and serve to begin the rally. The next minute or so, you and your partner dance around the court, paddling it backward and forwards against the ball even harder. You’re sweating and panting as you lunge, reaching the impossible angle to hit the winning stroke and your partner collapses in defeat, unable to reach your superbly placed shot. At the end of the match, you’re exhausted and sore, but ultimately grinning inside as you exit the court and give your opponent props for a great match.This is the beauty of racquetball, the ability to have a lot of fun at an intense pace. You’re most likely smiling right now as you look forward to your next match and the fun and hurt begins once more. For all the hurt, there is a great feeling from the intensity of the exercise and the adrenaline driving you to react in milliseconds to a fast-moving, unpredictably-placed ball. Only those who play it fully understand this.Top Racquetball Racquet Comparison ChartPictureNameWeightHead SizePriceWhere to Buy?1. Ektelon EXO3 RG Toron Lite Racquetball Racquet160g106 sq in$$$$Check Price on Amazon2. Ektelon Thunder ESP Racquetball Racquet Available in 170g, 175g and 185g106 sq in$$Check Price on Amazon3. E-Force Apocalypse 170 Racquetball Racquet 170g108 sq in$$$$Check Price on Amazon4. Head Radical Pro Racquetball Racquet 170g106 sq in$$$Check Price on Amazon5. Head Liquid Metal 170/180/190 Racquetball Racquet Available in 170g, 180g and 190g106 sq in$$$Check Price on Amazon6. E-Force Launch Pad Bedlam 170 Racquetball Racquet 170g107 sq in$$$Check Price on Amazon7. Head CPS Demon Racquetball Racquet 215g106.5 sq in$Check Price on Amazon8. Wilson 2017 Drone X PINK Racquetball Racquet 169g108 sq in$$$$Check Price on Amazon9. HEAD MX Hurricane Racquetball Racquet 190g107 sq in$Check Price on Amazon10. Wilson Striker Racquetball Racquet 205g107 sq in$Check Price on AmazonIf you’re looking at this sport and thinking about joining in the fun, there are a couple of fundamentals about the sport that are good to know. It was invented in the 50’s and has similarities to squash, tennis and American handball all rolled into one. For the beginner looking at squash and racquetball, they look quite similar. There are however some differences. For one, racquetball can be played outside or inside. When it comes to equipment, one of the main differences is the ball size, which in racquetball is 2.25” in diameter as opposed to 4cm for squash. The other difference is the racquet itself. Squash racquets can be up to 27” long, whereas racquetball racquets must not be more than 22” long.It’s quite obvious that a good racquet is essential to your success in the game. It may be simply the look and feel of a racquet in your hand or you envision making a mark with some professional gear. This review will assist you in identifying what you might want and need in purchasing a new racquet.Racquetball Racquet Buying GuideTypes of RacquetsWe’ve mentioned that the maximum length a racquetball racquet can be is 22”. That is of course the maximum length and while many racquets are at that length, there are some that can be closer to 18” or 20”. While the length size doesn’t vary so much, the area of the racquet head does. The general range for head size is between 94 and 108 square inches. They’re also made in a quadriform shape, meaning the base is shaped in a ‘V’ before tapering off and almost flattening out at the top, making it look like an inverted tear-drop. This design is to maximize the area of the strings without breaching the 22” length cap. With a larger head size, the racquets can generate more power. However, especially for younger or less experienced players, a head too large can be less maneuverable if not weighted and balanced properly.WeightAnother factor that determines different types of racquets is the weight. They are classified into three groups – Light, Medium and Heavy.Light The Light racquets are defined as being between 150-164g. They are excellent for beginner players and those that prefer a quick, light swing. They are also easier in the hand for lengthy periods and won’t put so much pressure on the wrist and forearm. A lack of power can be a downside, but for players that are more technique based, they might be preferable in terms of maneuverability.MediumThe next segment, Medium weight racquets, are between 165 and 174g in weight. As you’d expect, these are excellent for all-around players and for general play. Being the most popular, there are many varieties on the market. With a medium weighted racquet, you will find they are the most balanced in control and power. If you like to hit with a combination of technique and power, then these are a good option.HeavyThen there are the Heavy racquets or ones that weigh over 175g. These are great for players with a slower, steadier swing speed looking for extra power from their strings. Generally used by stronger players, these are ideal if you don’t mind the extra weight and have the strength to improve the maneuverability with their arm power. Beginners may find value too if their swing is on the slow side.Other variations you will find in racquets tend to come in the form of colors, grip sizes, head shape, and other, more superficial differences. These are personal preferences and don’t really make a difference in performance other than the psychological delight that comes to you when you really dig the gear you’re using.Choosing the Right RacquetWalk into a store today and you will find companies like Head, Ektelon, E-Force, and others all jostling for the best racquet position. Each of them has a claim as to the lightest, the strongest, the most powerful etc, regardless of whether that is the best for you as an individual. There are a number of factors which determine what you will benefit most from on the court. Aside from budget and personal choices in color and general design, your level of ability, the weight, and the size will make a difference to how you play the game. Remember the opening scenario that all racquet players will be familiar with? There is simply no substitute for the feeling you get from having a racquet that you know has been engineered especially for you! But how do you track down that racquet with your name on it? Well, this section should shed some light and help you to know where to find it.If you’re a professional player or one that has been playing for a number of years, you most likely will have a good sense in what you need in your racquet. You’ve already identified the way you swing and how racquets of different weights feel in your hand. This is great and beginners will do well to narrow down their choices simply by playing and trying out racquets of different attributes. But technology is always moving and the market moves with it. So it’s always worthwhile to check out what’s current in the world that is your sport. Power Hitters and Heavier RacquetsOne of the first things to keep in mind is your swing speed. Do you have a fast speed or slower speed? This will make a difference as to how heavy you will want your racquet to be as well as the size of the head. If you’re a player that relies on power and heavy hitting, a larger and heavier racquet will be the go. Pick one that also has a quadriform shape to maximize the length of the strings to give you that extra rebound on the shot. Being heavier, the racquet will have more momentum in the swing, resulting in a slower swing that impacts with gusto. Some beginner players may benefit from this too if they don’t mind the weight. This is because the heavier swing will compensate with their slower speed to give them that extra power. Of course, keep in mind that over time, the heavier racquet will affect the arm more and anyone that feels pain or discomfort after a game should reconsider the weight of their racquet.Technique Players and Lighter RacquetsRemembering that racquetball is not necessarily all about power, there are a lot of players that rely on their technique and precision when placing the ball. Add in the fact that often you’re required to react very quickly to a shot return, then power becomes less important in the context of the game. If you think you might be in this category, you might consider opting for a lighter racquet that will enable quicker strokes. It also allows for better flexibility in the play so you can get those balls that are heading for the corner at the speed of light. The other advantage is that for players that have less arm strength, the lighter racquet will reduce the chance of a repetitive strain injury occurring.Other FactorsThe composition of a racquet can vary with the quality. Generally, lighter and more expensive racquets are made of very light materials, allowing for the extra weight to be put into the strings and other components. Another thing to keep in mind is how the weight is balanced across the racquet. Some manufacturers like to distribute their weight to make the racquet feel different compared to others even of the same weight. For example, if the weight is concentrated towards the top, it will make the racquet feel heavier because the swing will be more pronounced. Whereas if the weight is centered towards the handle, it will allow for the extra maneuverability we spoke about earlier. Then, of course, there is the majority of them that have an evenly balanced weight across the whole racquet. This is probably the best pick for someone who is new or for the all-around player that likes to have the best of both worlds.Grip size can also vary although for the casual player, this is less of a concern. Some professional players like to customize their grips and most manufacturers have racquets that can come with all manner of grip widths. Even here, players could tweak their game depending on the width of their grip, with small grips giving the player the ability to increase the wrist snap.Let’s get into the top ten guide now to see what is on the market right now and what you can expect from the top racquets on the court this season.Best Racquetball Racquet Reviews Ektelon EXO3 RG Toron Racquetball Racquet When you’re dreaming about being a champion, there is only one racquet that can qualify – the Ektelon EX03 RG Toron. This fairly lightweight racquet is made of graphite and at only 170g, makes it one of the lightest you can get. Despite its lightweight frame, Ektelon has managed to make it one of the most powerful racquets around as well, making the ball fly out of the strings without a devastating swing. The feel in the hand is excellent and it is so easy to swing thanks to its lightness and the fact that it has a large sweet spot. Some users have complained about it being fragile. Well, it is a lightweight graphite racquet and therefore it might not be as strong as a heavier product. Overall, this racquet is for those that appreciate how an excellent quality racquet will improve their game. If you’re a professional or play regularly, this racquet will be a worthy investment for a much-improved game.  It features a teardrop shape and an Ektelon Vision II factory grip.ProsLightweightPowerfulLarge sweet spotEasy to swingConsQuite expensive Ektelon Thunder ESP LB Racquetball Racquet Another Ektolon product, making it a top-two for these guys, is the Thunder ESP. This excellent quality racquet comes in 2 different weights at the same head size. Beginners and younger players usually opt for the lighter 170g option while more experienced players might prefer the heavier feel of the 190g version. The head is in an inverted teardrop shape that optimizes the sweet spot towards the top of the racquet. Constructed with a graphite and ESP (Extreme String Pattern), it delivers good power accompanied by a well-balanced swing. Sweaty palms will not be a problem with the grip favored by many customers and if it’s not enough, there are a few other grips on hand to prevent slippage further. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better racquet at this price. What it may lack in the power of the Toron, it makes up for in good value for money. If you’re a pro, chances are you’ll be looking higher up the bracket. However, we cannot recommend this racquet enough to beginners, casual and intermediate players looking for exceptional quality at a decent price.ProsLight in the handTop quality for the priceA large sweet spot at the top endNon-slip handleConsProfessionals might need more E-Force Apocalypse 170 Racquetball Racquet We’re pretty sure E-Force named this racquet accordingly because they predict such a fate for any unsuspecting opponent facing this on the court. With a large surface area and a powerful, well-balanced weight, the Apocalypse certainly delivers devastation for anyone wielding this creation. One of the features that enable this is its well-designed surface. It is well balanced and stable in the hand, delivering power and performance. It is partially due to the longer handle, which gives the technique player a chance to whip it and maneuver the racquet to deliver the optimum advantage. This is an excellent quality racquet that has received very favorable reviews from customers stating its stability and power delivery has changed their game. Being a larger head size, its sweet spot is larger too so you can be sure that hits will deliver better in terms of power and accuracy. This is a highly recommended racquet even though it is on the upper end of the price bracket.ProsLarge string surfacePowerfulStableWell balancedConsExpensive Head Radical Pro Racquetball Racquet When Head designed the Radical Pro, they pumped it full of the latest racquet technology to allow it to compete with more expensive models from other brands. As a result, you will find this great bit of gear to be a favorable addition to your arsenal. One of its main features is the use of Innegra, which is one of the lightest fiber materials in the world. It results in it delivering a high amount of power for its weight. It also delivers excellent stability and vibration control for those hard returns. The strings have been designed so they extend into the handle, giving them increased length which subsequently gives you that extra power. All in all, this racquet has been designed to make the most out of what Head have put into it. It’s priced in the middle level and is an ideal choice for an all-around player looking for a combination of value and quality.ProsPower stabilizerLightweight fiber with a high powerDurazone stringsConsOnly one grip size available Head Liquid Metal 170/180/190 Racquetball Racquet When you’re looking for a super strong frame with one of the lightest frames out there, take a look at the Liquid Metal series from Head. Here, the manufacturer has taken a look at what has made tennis racquets superior year after year and applied it their racquetball racquets. The result is this fabulous material that makes this one of the most powerful racquets of its type in the range. They’ve also worked hard on the string quality, making sure they carried their Power Channel technology into this beast. It comes in various weights from Medium to Heavy, giving players the opportunity to get the one they feel most comfortable with. When customers have used this, they’ve noted how easy it was to manipulate the racquet and pull off the shot they wanted. It’s a great overall racquet aimed at the player who’s on the court regularly and has a moderate budget.ProsSuper strong frameStabilized handleDurableDifferent weights availableConsCover not included E-Force Launch Pad Bedlam 170 Racquetball Racquet We simply love the Launch Pad Bedlam from E-Force. In the same price range as the previous two entrants from Head, this has been one of the most popular racquets for some time. The reason for its popularity is the durability and strength of the incredible Tri-carbon frame. Not only does it stand up well to the occasional smack on the wall, it also delivers excellent power to the ball. This is amplified by the fact that they have shaped the racquet into an inverted tear-drop shape and added a little weight towards the head. This gives it a larger sweet spot in the upper part and combined with the added weight at the tip, any ball finding itself in this area will be quickly whipped back to the wall at speed. There is nothing much missing in this racquet except maybe the cover! Putting that aside, the technology in this thing makes this racquet really great value and is highly recommended, especially for those that like the weight balanced towards the top.ProsTri-carbon frameLarge sweet spotTeardrop shapedConsCover not included Head CPS Demon Racquetball Racquet If this racquet could be summed up, we would say it’s the perfect racquet for beginner players. Not only is it one of the cheapest ones around, but with Head, you can be sure that they’ve packed enough technology into this to make you feel like a pro on the court. First of all, it IS on the heavy side at 215g so if you play for an extended time, you might feel some discomfort towards the end of the match. However, keep in mind that this weight also delivers more power so beginners who have yet to refine their wrist action will find this highly beneficial. The frame is also made to be very durable and really you can whack this around any old way and it will hold steady for a long time. The strings are quite stiff, which is great for power but not so great for vibration. Therefore, if this annoys you, consider getting another grip to soften the blow. For the first time player, you couldn’t go wrong with this racquet as it delivers everything you need for a fraction of the cost.ProsVery affordableDelivers awesome powerStiff frame and stringsDurableConsHeavy vibration Wilson 2017 Drone X PINK Racquetball Racquet Brand new for 2017, this is our first entrant from Wilson in the top ten and it’s one of their flagship racquets. Here they have introduced Basalt fibers in their frames, which is a very lightweight material from volcanic rock. It is also said to be better for the planet and better than other racquet fibers due to higher durability, stability, and sound and vibration resistance. Consequently, you can expect a high performance racquet that produces excellent power. The weight has been balanced really well to give you that all-round performance, with technique and power conveyed as you wish. It is one of the most expensive racquets on the market right now which might place it out of reach for beginners and casual players. This is a shame really, as we think it’s an excellent and well-balanced racquet that would be ideal to perfect your game. However, with all the technology in there, it is truly a top quality racquet.ProsBrand new modelTeardrop shapedWell balancedLarge sweet spotConsExpensive HEAD MX Hurricane Racquetball Racquet The Hurricane is another ideal racquet for the beginner player. Although in the heavy category, it is surprisingly lightweight for a racquet in this price bracket. The frame is sturdy and delivers excellent power to where you need it and it also feels very steady in the hand due to its well-balanced weight. We have to say that the grip and the strings feel cheap, but what can you expect from this price end. Also, you can always change them out and we recommend this because if you like the overall feel of the racquet, a better grip and set of strings will really bring it up a level. The other great thing about this is that it’s usually sold as a set with balls and goggles, adding even more value to an already excellent racquet. If you are looking for a good racquet and for whatever reason, don’t want to spend a lot, check this one out and see if it will fit well with your game.ProsInexpensivePerfect for beginnersGreat powerConsGrip and strings feel cheap Wilson Striker Racquetball Racquet For many people who begin their racquetball adventures, they simply want a nice feeling racquet at a low cost that will enable them to hit the ball. This is where Wilson have studied the market and positioned themselves nicely. The Striker is one of the cheapest racquets around and worth it for someone that wants to have a casual hit and learn the rules without a big investment. Wilson have designed the frame out of aluminum alloy and it is able to withstand a lot of pressure and wayward hits. One of the best aspects of this racquet is the string setup. Here they have engineered the strings inside the V-matrix frame in order to produce extra sting bed movement to increase power and reduce vibration. You might benefit on getting a better grip and overall it is good value racquet for the beginner player.ProsInexpensiveFantastic sting setupDurable FrameConsLack of overall quality How to Choose a Racquet  Conclusion & RecommendationsRacquetball is loved by many for its simplistic play and the fact that you can get a good workout in a fun environment. Smacking that ball as hard as possible against the wall is an effective stress reliever too. It is obvious that one of the best ways to make the most out of your time is by having a great racquet. It doesn’t matter whether you are a beginner or a professional as each racquet will have something special for you.We’ve covered a number of them here across a wide price range. As with most things, generally the more you spend, the better quality you can expect. Of course, it is more complicated than that and it’s certainly true that it’s more about the way you play rather than what gear you have. It also will depend on things like what weight you want, the shape of the head, and sometimes it can just be the color that’s most important.Only you can know what will be the most ideal weapon of choice out on the court. But if you have an unlimited budget and play regularly, the Ektelon EXO3 RG Toron and the E-Force Apocalypse 170 will be the best you can get your hands on. Their superior frames and strings deliver more power and precision than any other, while being well balanced in weight.There are a lot of great mid-range racquets too, ideal for those that play regularly and looking to step up their game to a more professional level. In this range, the Ektelon Thunder ESP as well as the Radical Pro and Liquid Metal – both from Head – will serve you well and give you the edge on your opponent. They comprise good all-round capability in terms of power, build quality and value, perfect for those knowing what they want but not prepared to spend big.On the budget end of the scale, you can still pick up a decent racquet for a casual hit around or for kids getting into the game. These include the Head CPS Demon, probably the best in this range, the Hurricane, also from Head and the Wilson Striker. These are all good quality racquets that will serve you well at an excellent price.So get your racquet and head for the courts, because there is a lot of fun and fitness to be had. Enjoy your time there with a fabulous racquet and be prepared to taunt your friends when you hit the winning shots over and over again.The post 10 Best Racquetball Racquets for 2019: Power & Control appeared first on Sport Consumer.

  • 0

2018 Ryder Cup Friday Morning Four-Ball Highlights

While many slept, the 2018 Ryder Cup got underway from Le Golf National in Paris, France. The morning four-ball matches teed off in front of jammed packed, raucous grandstands. Each pairing had their sights set on putting early points on the board for their respective teams.

Team Europe jumped out to an early lead, taking control over the front nine in the morning match-ups. A big swing in momentum with highlight after highlight seemed to spark the fire for the Americans. Over the final nine holes Team USA swung the advantage back to the states before the power struggle raged once again in the pinnacle of golf teamwork.
Finau/Koepka def. Rose/Rahm 1-Up
2018 FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose sticks his approach on the opening hole to gain the early 1-up edge for the Europeans.

With the pressure of his first Ryder Cup appearance on his shoulders Tony Finau needed a par at the 5th hole to save a halve of the hole.

No nerves to show from Finau once again with a chip-in eagle at the par-4 6th hole.

Playing in his first Ryder Cup as well, Spain’s Jon Rahm ignited the crowd with a birdie at eight.

The human highlight reel is heating up once again as Rose pitched it up and in with the slow roll to go 2-up over Finau and Koepka.

As Finau found out in his rookie outing, sometimes all you need is a little luck at the Ryder Cup.

Johnson/Fowler def. McIlroy/Olesen 4&2
Not much more Rickie Fowler could do at the par-4 6th hole early on Friday morning.

Fowler helped move momentum back to the Americans with back to back birdies on nine and ten.

Dustin Johnson takes some pressure off of Fowler’s shoulders with a pair of back to back birdies of his own to move their team to 3-up with five holes to play.

Fowler goes long again for another birdie this time to save a halve of the hole.

Thomas/Spieth def. Casey/Hatton 1-Up
Jordan Spieth was dialed in from the opening hole as he nearly holed his approach.

On the move once again Spieth was in sync with his putter early in opening four-ball matches.

From long range Spieth drained another impeccable putt at number five to move 2-up in the match.

As if there was any question, Spieth was in the zone on the front nine, this time from off the green to grab the largest lead of the morning at 3-up.

Spieth wasn’t the only teammate to produce Friday morning as Ryder Cup rookie Justin Thomas provided some highlights of his own with a birdie at the par-4 10th.

After a front nine of struggles, Paul Casey and Tyrell Hatton rallied for four straight birdies to get back to one hole down against Spieth and Thomas.

Correction, Hatton made it five straight birdies for the Europeans to get the match back to all square.

Fleetwood/Molinari def. Woods/Reed 3&1
In a contentious battle from the opening tee, Tommy Fleetwood movesd the needle back to Team Europe with a bullseye on his approach at the par-4 4th.

“Captain America” may have started slow but Patrick Reed heated up around the turn with a birdie on nine and a chip-in at ten to swing the match to 2-up for Team USA.

It was only a matter of time before the 2018 Open Champion, Francesco Molinari made his move as he drilled a birdie putt at the par-4 12th to even things back up.

With Europe officially down 2-0 in the first two matches of the morning Fleetwood tried to spark the comeback in his battle with a clutch birdie at 15.

Fleetwood refuses to lay down with another huge putt and another much needed point at 16.

Two up with two to play, Molinari needed two putts to close out the Americans on the 17th hole but only needed one to earn Europe’s only point of the morning.

Main Photo

Embed from Getty Imageswindow.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’zg2RwN8fTYpN_bhInBxj6w’,sig:’HtdLwK1C5U8ChxRoqryNW53-Kb5P3WsUH69h6G684vc=’,w:’594px’,h:’435px’,items:’1042352686′,caption: true ,tld:’com’,is360: false })});The post 2018 Ryder Cup Friday Morning Four-Ball Highlights appeared first on Last Word on Sports.

  • 0

Five Thoughts Heading into Ryder Cup Four Ball Matches

On the eve of the start of the Ryder Cup, Team USA and Europe’s selections for the morning four-ball matches were revealed. Captains Furyk and Bjorn made the vital selections that will pave the way for their teams to have success in the Ryder Cup. Here are the morning four-ball matches that will open the Ryder Cup:

Match 1: Brooks Koepka-Tony Finau vs. Justin Rose-Jon Rahm

Match 2: Rickie Fowler-Dustin Johnson vs. Rory McIlroy-Thorbjorn Olesen

Match 3: Jordan Spieth-Justin Thomas vs. Tyrell Hatton-Paul Casey

Match 4: Tiger Woods-Patrick Reed vs. Francesco Molinari-Tommy Fleetwood

With the golfers set for both squads, here are my five initial thoughts heading into the Ryder Cup Friday Four-Ball matches.
1) Both Europe and USA Lead with Strength
It is clear that both Europe and USA want to get off on the right footing when it comes to who they put into the Four-Ball matches. For the Americans, they included golfers who come into the Ryder Cup with a ton of momentum. Tiger Woods is arriving at this competition, fresh off winning the TOUR Championship. Brooks Koepka has won two major championships this year.

Embed from Getty Images

For the Europeans, who can argue the success Justin Rose has had this year. FedEx Cup Champion. World Number One. Oh, and he has an above .500 record in the Ryder Cup. Rory McIlroy is the other leader for the Europeans, coming into the Ryder Cup with a 9-6-4 career record. Putting the squad’s two top golfers in the first two matches sends a message that Europe wants to get the early lead and set the tone early in this competition.
2) Older Veterans Are Sitting
In the past, normally it would be the older veterans to start for the squads, to galvanize the respective teams. But in this Ryder Cup, both the Americans and Europeans are sitting their older players for future sessions. The USA is sitting Phil Mickelson, playing in his 12th Ryder Cup. Europe is resting Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter, both of whom have played pivotal roles in victorious European Ryder Cup teams in the past.

Embed from Getty Images

But can you blame Captains Furyk and Bjorn for their decisions? Since being selected as a Captain’s Pick, Phil Mickelson has been at the bottom of the leaderboards at the BMW and TOUR Championships. Sergio Garcia has not made the cut of a major championship since he won The Masters back in 2017. Ultimately, these players will have to compete at least once in the Ryder Cup. Most likely, some of them may play in the Foursomes session on Friday. But giving rest to the older players is important, as the Captains would like to keep them physically fit and not tired before the grueling Singles Sunday.
3) Rookies Get Golden Opportunity
It is clear that Captains Furyk and Bjorn aren’t shying away from putting their rookies in the hot seat early on in the Ryder Cup. Six rookies combined will be starting in the Friday morning Four-Ball session; Tony Finau and Justin Thomas for the Americans and Jon Rahm, Thorbjorn Olesen, Tyrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood for the Europeans.

Embed from Getty Images

“Players stand up and they are counted for what they do in the greatest events in the world. But legends are made in this event,” Bjorn said. “That is where the public comes around them and can do so much for their careers. It’s an opportunity to go out there and be the best that you can be on a grand stage.”

Thomas Bjorn is risking more with starting four rookies compared to Furyk’s two. Not to take away anything from Tony Finau or Justin Thomas but those two have been in the mix in major championships (Thomas 2017 PGA Championship winner) and relish those high-pressure moments. For Bjorn, he will roll the dice with Rahm, Olesen, Hatton, and Fleetwood. These four have shown promising golf this year, but will it shine through in front of the rowdy home crowd? The Danish captain believes they have what it takes to seize the moment.

Embed from Getty Images

“There are the obvious guys out there, in the sense that they are players you would all expect to see, and then there’s a new guy in every group,” Bjorn said.

“They have been just itching to go, especially Thorbjorn, Jon and Tyrrell. I think Tommy is a different guy, in the way that he’s won [the 2017 France Open] around here, and he’s been real quality for the last couple of years.”
4) Best Morning Match?
While it will be fantastic to see the big hitters of Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy going toe-to-toe or the lifelong friendship of Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas becoming Ryder Cup partners, the best morning match will be the last one. Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed, the Big Cat and Captain America taking on Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood, the Italian Stallion and the English Rookie.

Embed from Getty Images

Patrick Reed’s Ryder Cup record is sensational. 6-1-2 and most famous for exuding that American pride in defeating Rory McIlroy at the 2016 Ryder Cup. Despite Tiger Woods’ underwhelming Ryder Cup record (13-17-3), he is coming into the Ryder Cup on a high after winning his 80th PGA Tour victory. The partnership of Woods and Reed can fuel and ignite the fire within each other, showcasing that emotion and enthusiasm we are used to seeing at the Ryder Cup.

Embed from Getty Images

Francesco Molinari arrives in Paris playing the best golf of his career. Winner of the BMW PGA Championship and the Open Championship, Molinari utilized his steady ball striking tee to green to capture these victories. This includes deflecting a Tiger Woods final round charge at Carnoustie to hoist the Claret Jug.

Molinari will be paired with Tommy Fleetwood, a Ryder Cup rookie who has played brilliantly this season. From shooting a 64 in the final round of the U.S. Open to winning the 2017 French Open at Le Golf National, Fleetwood’s coolness under pressure will be a critical asset to possess in this Ryder Cup match.
5) Who Wins Each Match?
These four matches have the potential to produce terrific drama to open the Ryder Cup. As both the USA and Europe teams know, getting off to a strong start is crucial. When a player arriving to the first tee at the Ryder Cup, there is no messing around. Just ask Rory McIlroy, who vividly remembers his experience of coming to the first tee in his inaugural Ryder Cup appearance.

Embed from Getty Images

“I still thought it was this team event that really doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things,” McIlroy said. “I was more concerned about individual titles and all that. Then I got to the first tee and I realized the magnitude of it all. It just hits you. You try and put your ball on that tee and it takes you a couple times to get it to settle on there.”
With that said, here are my predictions for the opening four matches.

Match 1: Brooks Koepka-Tony Finau vs. Justin Rose-Jon Rahm (Europe)

Match 2: Rickie Fowler-Dustin Johnson vs. Rory McIlroy-Thorbjorn Olesen (USA)

Match 3: Jordan Spieth-Justin Thomas vs. Tyrell Hatton-Paul Casey (USA)

Match 4: Tiger Woods-Patrick Reed vs. Francesco Molinari-Tommy Fleetwood (Half)


Score After Friday Morning Session: USA 2.5 – Europe 1.5



 The post Five Thoughts Heading into Ryder Cup Four Ball Matches appeared first on Last Word on Sports.