Lance Bennett and Tom Izzo Getty ImagesMichigan State head coach Tom Izzo, right, called Matt Kuchar's caddie, Lance Bennett, left, after Bennett's wife tragically died.

NORTON, Mass. -- Sometimes, when a story connects with someone, they just feel the need to reach out.

That was the case with Michigan State head basketball coach Tom Izzo when the wife of Matt Kuchar's caddie, Lance Bennett, unexpectedly passed away earlier this week.

According to multiple PGA Tour caddies working at the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston, Izzo learned that Lance Bennett was a huge Spartans basketball fan and went on a mission to contact him.

After making a few calls (six degrees of separation is true), by Friday morning Izzo had Bennett's phone number. Bennett didn't recognize the incoming number at first and let the call go to voicemail. The coach left him a message, but called back again, just in case.

Bennett answered this time, even though he hadn't heard the voicemail, so it was a complete surprise for him to hear Izzo's voice on the other end of the call. They spoke for about 15 minutes.

With this simple gesture, you can be sure Izzo will never have to pay for a meal in the Caddie Wagon should he ever come to a PGA Tour event, since caddies who don't even follow college basketball were sharing the story and praising the coach.

Phil MickelsonStan Badz/PGA TOUR/Getty ImagesThe grouping of Phil Mickelson (74), Justin Hicks (77) and Ryo Ishikawa (78) had a combined 11 birdies, six of which came from Lefty on Friday in Round 1 of the Deutsche Bank Championship.

NORTON, Mass. -- When a group gets hot and scores well, PGA Tour players often say, "We really started feeding off one another."

Unfortunately, that can also work the opposite way.

The Phil Mickelson roller coaster produced only five pars on his scorecard Friday in Round 1 of the Deutsche Bank Championship, and playing partners Justin Hicks and Ryo Ishikawa probably want off the team ride after 18 holes. The threesome made only 11 birdies and 20 pars collectively through 54 combined holes played. The group did, however, share in the wealth of bad scores with 13 bogeys, three double-bogeys, a triple and a quad.

Mickelson made the turn "leading" the way in the wrong direction at 5 over. After a pushed drive on the 14th tee, a woman screamed, "Just give us a wave, puh-lease, Phil!"

He sighed and waved in her direction as a collective "awwwww" came from the people gathered.

Hicks and Ishikawa continued to crash and burn on the back nine, finishing at 6 over and 7 over, respectively. Mickelson managed to post birdies at Nos. 15, 16 and 18 to end his day at 3 over.

Although Mickelson has admitted to being tired and playing this week for the PGA Tour's sake, maybe Hicks and Ishikawa could chip in on a good strong cup of coffee for Lefty before Round 2 begins. Either that, or instead of "feeding off one another," they'll be leaving with one another after 36 holes.

Experts: Deutsche Bank Championship

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27

Each week of the season, our experts share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories: Horse for the Course (a golfer who knows the track inside and out), Birdie Buster (a guy who could take it low this week), Super Sleeper (a player who could unexpectedly contend) and Winner.

This week, the PGA Tour heads to TPC Boston in Norton, Massachusetts, for the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, senior golf analyst: Adam Scott

Of the nine times he's teed it up in this event, he's never missed the cut and only finished outside the top 17 three times. Having played such a limited schedule, he is probably fresher than most coming into the week. I expect anything outside a top-5 finish to be a disappointment.

Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Webb Simpson

In 2011, the former U.S. Open champion won the Deutsche Bank in a playoff. He needs, perhaps, another win here this week to make an impression on Tom Watson for one of the three U.S. Ryder Cup team captain's picks.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Jason Day

Not only does he have a couple of top-3 finishes at TPC Boston, but he's been playing well of late, coming off a tie for second.

Kevin Maguire, golf editor: Henrik Stenson

His worst round at the DBC last year was a 67, and he parlayed that victory into the FedEx Cup title. Not bad for the Swede with the dry wit. He owns a pair of top-3 finishes in his last five starts, so a solid performance again this week shouldn't be out of the question.

Birdie Buster

Collins: Gary Woodland

Looking for the guy who's trending up? Look no further. After a first-round 73 last week, Woodland bounced back with three nice rounds in the 60s, throwing in three straight closing birdies on Sunday. Guys like that are very dangerous going to a course that fits them, especially a bomber on a bomber's course.

Evans: Jason Day

The 26-year-old Australian, who has battled a nagging thumb injury for most of the year, tied for second at the Barclays. And at the PGA Championship, he played much better than his tie for 15th might suggest. If he can control his driver, he should be high on the leaderboard come Sunday night at the Deutsche Bank.

Harig: Hunter Mahan

Not only is he coming off a victory at the Barclays, but Mahan scored in the top 15 at his previous two tournaments, including a tie for seventh at the PGA Championship. He's jumped to first in the FedEx Cup standings.

Maguire: Rickie Fowler

Fowler doesn't have a win this year, but who out there (not named Rory McIlroy) can boast a record of T-2, T-2, T-8, T-3 and T-9 in their past five PGA Tour starts? That includes three majors, a WGC and the first playoff event. His history at TPC Boston isn't great (a T-41 in 2010 is his best finish), but this isn't the same Fowler of four years ago.

Super Sleeper

Collins: Morgan Hoffmann

Let it ride! He came into last week 124th on the FedEx Cup points list, keeping his job by the skin of his teeth. Now Hoffman sits only two spots out of making it to the no-cut BMW Championship next week. He has to feel like he's playing with house money and no one is watching.

Evans: Bo Van Pelt

The 39-year-old veteran began the FedEx Cup playoffs 104th in the standings, but he jumped to 73rd with a tie for 13th at the Barclays. The Oklahoma State grad has had top-15s in three of his last four starts. His best finish at Deutsche Bank was a seventh in 2011.

Harig: Geoff Ogilvy. He missed the cut last week at the Barclays, and could only cross his fingers over the weekend, barely hanging onto the 100th and final spot in the Deutsche Bank field. He'll need a strong performance to advance to the BMW Championship.

Maguire: Robert Streb

The second round is now officially the deepest this Kansas State Wildcat has made it in the playoffs, having never played the Deutsche Bank Championship previously. His long game -- at exactly 300 yards per drive on average -- will serve him well if he plans to move on to the BMW Championship next week at Cherry Hills.


Collins: Ernie Els

Because the South African doesn't care about the Ryder Cup, he can play free and easy. Hence the two top-10 finishes in his last three starts. Say what you want about the young bombers out here, but the Big Easy can still get after it when he's firing on all cylinders, which it looks like he is coming into the week.

Evans:  Rory McIlroy

Rory is set for a strong finish this week after a lackluster tie for 22nd at the Barclays, where a 74 in the first round sent him well down the leaderboard. At the Deutsche Bank, where he won in 2012, he should return to the winner's circle and to the top of the playoffs standings.

Harig: Keegan Bradley.

It's the last chance to impress U.S. captain Tom Watson, who makes three at-large picks on Tuesday. Bradley would end all speculation if he could win in his native New England.

Maguire: Jason Day

He's got the length to win at TPC Boston, and his T-2 finish last week at the Barclays clearly shows he's in form despite those pesky early-season injuries. Toss in the fact that he's got a pair of top-3 finishes in this event, and that's a recipe for the first multiple-victory season in the 26-year-old's career.



Stuart ApplebyChris Condon/PGA TOURStuart Appleby just might reach the Tour Championship for the first time since 2008.

Strong play at the right time can help in the playoffs, no matter what the sport. Such was the case for Stuart Appleby on Sunday at the Barclays.

With a back-nine 31, the nine-time PGA Tour winner posted a final-round 65 to tie for second, his best finish since he won the Greenbrier Classic in 2010 with a 59 over his final 18 holes.

His finish at Ridgewood Country Club earned him 1,083 FedEx Cup points, making him the big mover of the day. Appleby started the playoffs at 98th (only the top 100 moved on to this week's Deutsche Bank Championship) so a missed cut outside New York City could have ended his 2013-14 season. Instead, he jumped to 19th place.

Appleby hasn't gotten past the second leg of the playoffs since 2010 and hasn't played at East Lake -- host site of the Tour Championship -- since 2008.

Other big movers Sunday included Barclays winner Hunter Mahan (62nd to first) and Cameron Tringale, who rose 51 spots to 10th in the FedEx Cup standings with a T-2 finish on his 27th birthday.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the biggest drops came from Brian Stuard (now 64th after he failed to make the secondary cut), Scott Brown (70th, after an MC this week) and Jason Dufner (74th.) All three dropped 17 places, although Dufner didn't play at the Barclays due to a neck injury that also forced him to withdraw from the PGA Championship two weeks ago.

That makes Brown the proverbial "Bubble Boy" for next week at TPC Boston, with the top 70 players in the FedEx Cup standings advancing to the BMW Championship at Cherry Hills in Colorado.

PARAMUS, N.J. -- He did it again. For the second straight day, Phil Mickelson hit his tee shot at the par-4 hole fifth hole left of the fairway, the ball bouncing into a hospitality area from where he was able to play his second shot.

Unlike Friday, when Mickelson hit a wedge off the carpet from the temporary venue over the green and made a bogey, on Saturday he got the shot on the green and 2-putted for par.

But unfortunately for Mickelson, 44, it was not a good day. He shot 4-over-par 75 and missed the secondary cut that was in play because the Barclays field had more than 78 players through 36 holes.

Despite the poor showing, Mickelson is projected to be among the top 60 in FedEx Cup points, meaning he will easily qualify for next week's Deutsche Bank Championship (top 100) but might have to sweat out making it to the BMW Championship in Denver (top 70).


Throughout his career, Phil Mickelson continuously dazzled fans with different trick shots. In Round 2 of the Barclays on Friday, he might have one-upped even himself.

Channeling his inner "Tin Cup," Lefty decided to play a shot from a hospitality area to the left of the drivable par-4 No. 5 green at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, New Jersey.

"If you hit it off line enough, you're going to see those spots," said Mickelson, who admitted it wasn't the first time he hit a shot from the grandstands. "[I] just hit the shot a little bit too far. I hit it clean. Just hit it too hard."

Upon realizing his tee shot had come to rest in a carpeted area, the five-time major winner announced to no one in particular: "I'll try to play it from there."

The crowd cheered with excitement.

After wading through fans and moving aside a few tables and chairs -- and a few beer bottles, too -- Mickelson eventually got to his ball. Once there, he drew a club and launched a wedge shot that carried roughly 10-15 rows of fans before coming to rest in the far greenside bunker.

"I hit a crappy drive, hit the cart path and went into the grandstands and my drop was going to be in hay," Mickelson said. "I had a clear lie on nice ground there and played it. I hit it a little too hard, went over the green, hit a bunker shot to 20 feet and made bogey."

Mickelson settled for arguably the most interesting bogey of the day, but after his round of 1-over 72, explained what happened.

"It wasn't hard to make contact," he said. "It was hard to hit it on that skinny little green and get it to stop. That was it. Just a bad tee shot.

"It's a great hole. It's the only hole you can reach under regulation here. The par-5s are not reachable. So you get really excited to get to that hole. I hit it great yesterday on the green. Had a great chance for eagle and then today hit a terrible shot." senior golf writer Bob Harig contributed to this report.


Experts' picks: The Barclays

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20

Each week of the season, our experts share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories: Horse for the Course (a golfer who knows the track inside and out), Birdie Buster (a guy who could take it low this week), Super Sleeper (a player who could unexpectedly contend) and Winner.

This week, the PGA Tour heads to Ridgewood Country Club for the the Barclays in Paramus, New Jersey.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, senior golf analyst: Sergio Garcia
It's all but impossible to have this category for this event, because it's only the third time it's been played here. That being said, Garcia didn't play here in 2010, but in 2008, he finished runner-up to Vijay Singh, so he's got really good vibes here. That, along with this little nugget: Since the week before the Masters, Garcia's worst finish in a non-major on the PGA Tour has been third. (Yep, you're going to want to read that again.)

Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Kevin Streelman
With a tie for fourth in 2008 and tie for third in 2010 in the Barclays held at Ridgewood Country Club, the 35-year-old two-time winner has the best cumulative record for the event at the A.W. Tillinghast design.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Matt Kuchar
He was the last to win at Ridgewood in 2010, beating Martin Laird in a playoff and getting on a run that continues to this day.

Birdie Buster

Collins: Rory McIlroy
No way he can win four in a row, right? A win this week would give him a winning percentage of 28.5 for the year, better than the 2001-2003 stretch for ... you know (blasphemy to Tiger Woods lovers). Yep, start typing, knuckleheads, but first go back to Tiger's 2002 season where he had five wins (including two majors) and then tell me how different the stats are. Fact is, Rory's worst finish this year on the PGA Tour is 25th, so a top-three this week isn't a stretch.

Evans: Nick Watney
In the midst of swing changes with his new teacher, Todd Anderson, the 33-year-old five-time PGA Tour winner has had a mostly inconsistent year. But he's had top 10s in two of his last three starts, including a tie for fifth last week at the Wyndham Championship.

Harig: Rory McIlroy
Who else? Even after a week off, he comes into the first playoff event as the hottest player, having won his past three starts. Does a hangover set in, or does he carry on?

Super Sleeper

Collins: Paul Casey
Talk about having your game come around at just the right time. It's been a long, tough road back for the Englishman. Not a bad year by many standards (11-for-15 cuts made with eight top-25s), but disappointing for a guy who was expected to win multiple times on the PGA Tour. Still, with all the injuries he's battled, just making it to the playoffs this year is an accomplishment. Now it's on to the Deutsche Bank Championship after this top-10 finish.

Evans: Kevin Na
The 30-year-old South Korean hasn't had a top-10 since he lost a playoff in June at the Memorial, but he is pumped up this week because with high finishes over the next two events, he could put his name into consideration for one of Tom Watson's three captain's picks for the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Harig: Paul Casey
The Englishman was on the bubble heading into the Wyndham and managed to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs after a nice year that saw him regain form. He'll need another strong week to advance to the Deutsche Bank Championship.


Collins: Jim Furyk
Remember in 2010 when he was DQ'd from the tournament for missing his pro-am tee time? That was at this course. Now he comes back as the guy who seemingly just needs a good back nine on Sunday to get his first win of 2014. He's won the FedEx Cup once before, and this will be a great start to going after Cup No. 2.

Evans: Rory McIlroy
Looking for his fourth consecutive victory, the 25-year-old has been run through the media gantlet with several high-profile appearances in New York. So, perhaps he is a little tired coming into this first leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs. Until someone beats him, it's hard not to pick him to win.

Harig: Nick Watney
That sting from that final drive at the Wyndham is unlikely to go away anytime soon, but Watney has played very well of late, with top-10s in four of his last five tournaments. Could a victory get him on Tom Watson's Ryder Cup radar?



Why have one superstar golfer take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge when you could have two?

As they continued their media tour through New York this week, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy decided to join the fray that has taken over most Facebook feeds in recent weeks.

Current world No. 1 McIlroy and former No. 1 Woods were nominated by Nike's Mark Parker. The pair, in turn, called out Nike's Phil Knight and Rafael Nadal (by Woods) and former President George W. Bush, Wayne Rooney and model Meghan Markle (by McIlroy.)

To add a small twist, the two decided to dump the icy buckets of water on each other, with Woods getting doused first.

The impact of this global phenomenon has clearly affected awareness of the disease and its charitable contributions. In 2013, the national ALS chapter raised $23.5 million. In the past 22 days, the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised $22.9 million by the ALS Association and its chapters.

Rory McIlroy at Old TraffordJohn Peters/Getty ImagesRory McIlroy brought the oldest major championship trophy in golf to Old Trafford to celebrate the opening of the English Premier League season with Manchester United.

After winning the Open Championship in July, Rory McIlroy announced to the crowd at Royal Liverpool that he appreciated the kindness of the fans, even though he was a supporter of Manchester United of the English Premier League.

On Saturday, it's safe to say he got a warmer reception at Old Trafford.

And after meeting some legendary names at the home of Man United, McIlroy got into a comical Twitter back-and-forth with Arsenal fan and fellow Ryder Cupper Ian Poulter.

Experts' picks: Wyndham Championship

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13

Each week of the season, our experts share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories: Horse for the Course (a golfer who knows the track inside and out), Birdie Buster (a guy who could take it low this week), Super Sleeper (a player who could unexpectedly contend) and Winner.

This week, the PGA Tour heads to Sedgefield Country Club for the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, senior golf analyst: Carl Pettersson
Sometimes all you want is to be home. That's where Pettersson is this week. Although I realize he missed the cut last year here, the previous time he did that at this event, he followed it up with two fourth-place finishes. Since 2007 he's also got a win and a fifth-place finish. I'd say he likes being close to home. (Raleigh is only an hour away.)

Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Webb Simpson
The 2012 U.S. Open champion took the 2011 Wyndham at Sedgefield CC with an 18-under total. Last year, the Raleigh native had a 63 in the final round of the event to finish in a tie for 11th.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Carl Pettersson
He's the all-time earnings leader at the tournament, won the first one played at Sedgefield and has two top-five finishes since.

Birdie Buster

Collins: Brian Harman
In 2012 on the practice green of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, this guy told me, "They're going to have to shoot me to get me off this tour man. I'm serious dude. I ain't ever going back to the Tour unless they try and drag me there." I believed him then and he reinforced it with his win earlier this year. Now coming off the 41st-place finish at the PGA Championship, he'll be tired but ready to make one last charge before the playoffs.

Evans: Ernie Els
Since missing the cut last month at the Open Championship, the 44-year-old four-time major winner has had a tie for 12th, a tie for 26th and a tie for seventh last week at the PGA Championship.

Harig: Ernie Els
A last-minute entry, Els made a run up the leaderboard on Sunday at the PGA Championship, shooting a front-nine 30 and finishing with a 65.

Super Sleeper

Collins: John Huh
Coming off three straight missed cuts, he finished third in the Barracuda Championship in Reno the week before the PGA Championship. Even though he missed the cut at Valhalla, Huh comes to a course where he finished third last year. Two years removed from his rookie win, he has fallen off most people's radar and for good reason after missing 11 of 24 cuts and being 93rd on the FedEx Cup points list. That is why he's a sleeper.

Evans: Ben Curtis
At 131st in the FedEx Cup standings and in the last season of a two-year exemption for winning the 2012 Valero Texas Open, the former Open Championship winner needs a good week to avoid going to the Tour four-event series to earn his 2014-2015 card. Last year in Greensboro, he missed the 36-hole cut.

Harig: Trevor Immelman
The 2008 Masters champion is on the outside looking in at the FedEx Cup playoffs, 143rd in FedEx Cup points. He not only needs a big week to qualify for the playoffs, but also to avoid returning to the Tour Finals, where he went to earn his card a year ago.


Collins: Brian Gay
A withdrawal and two missed cuts is the kind of run he's on right now. Did I mention he's missed the past two cuts at this event and he's 135th in the FedEx Cup outside the playoffs? But that's what this week is about ... a chance to be that guy to go from not playing until October to being in the playoffs. It's too great a story not to happen. It doesn't hurt that his win in 2013 means he has a job regardless next year.

Evans: Brian Harman
The latest Georgia Bulldog to win on the PGA Tour in July at the John Deere Classic, the 27-year-old Savannah native finished third at the 2013 Wyndham Championship. With six top-10s on the season, he comes into Greensboro 21st in the FedEx Cup standings.

Harig: Brandt Snedeker
A tough year has seen him display stronger play of late, with top-15 finishes at the Bridgestone and PGA Championship. A win here makes Snedeker and easy at-large pick for U.S. Ryder Cup team captain Tom Watson.