Fix Problem Thats Not Broken - Yet

By Associated PressAugust 1, 2006, 4:00 pm
36th Ryder Cup MatchesTwo players who will be wearing U.S. uniforms at the Ryder Cup won tournaments last week, a development that would have thrilled Tom Lehman except for one minor detail.
They were his assistant captains.
Corey Pavin won his first PGA Tour event in 10 years at the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee. Across the ocean, Loren Roberts captured his first major by winning the Senior British Open in a playoff at Turnberry.
Both are expected to be carrying radios, not golf clubs, at The K Club in September.
As for the 12 Americans who will try to end two decades of European dominance, that remains a work in progress.
There is no shortage of suggestions how to fix a new selection process that some see as a big problem, although shouldn't we wait until the matches are over before deciding whether it's broken?
This is the 21st time the criteria for the U.S. team has been changed since the Ryder Cup began in 1927, either an overhaul or minor adjustment. What the PGA of America did this time was reward those playing the best golf in the year leading up to the matches. The current year was worth four times as many points, majors counted double and there was a 75-point bonus for winning.
It sounded good on paper.
But it supposedly became a problem when Brett Wetterich got hot in May, winning in Dallas and finishing second at the Memorial.
J.J. Henry, who previously tied for second in Phoenix (seven shots behind) and tied for fourth in Atlanta (14 shots behind), then won in Hartford and climbed all the way to No. 7.
Panic really set two weeks ago when John Rollins cracked the top 10 by winning against an ultra weak field at the B.C. Open, earning more points than Chris DiMarco got for finishing second to Tiger Woods at the British Open.
Even the captain has his doubts about the new system.
The PGA of America awards points only through 10 places on the PGA Tour. Because of the burgeoning number of international players on tour, Lehman has been keeping his own chart the last two years that lists only how the top 10 Americans fared.
'With 90-plus international players, the downfall is that all of our points don't get given out,' Lehman said. 'Some weeks, there are three American players in the top 10. Sometimes, it's five or seven. No weeks are all in the top 10. There's a huge difference when you include the top 10 Americans versus just top 10.'
Pebble Beach winner Arron Oberholser is 18th in the Ryder Cup standings. But if he were awarded points compared with other Americans in the field, he would be No. 7. One spot behind him would be Stewart Cink, who is 19th in the real standings.
That, too, sounds good on paper.
But it's not like the international players showed up overnight. The PGA of America considered foreign influence when it revamped the points system in 2004, and president Roger Warren came to a sound conclusion.
'The reason we reward points in the top 10 is it becomes difficult to look at a player who finishes 24th and 25th,' Warren said. 'And if there's a lot of European players in the field, those are the players they're going to compete against in the Ryder Cup.'
If the Americans can't beat these guys during the season, why should they get points? So they can lose to them in the Ryder Cup?
The last thing golf needs is for mediocrity to be rewarded.
'Play harder. Play better,' Warren said, and he sure didn't invent that cliche.
If we learn on Sept. 25 that the system is broken, there are a couple of alternatives.
One is to use raw world ranking points (very little math involved). Not only would that account for the strength of the field, it would award points beyond the top 10; 11th place would get a fraction less than 10th, instead of nothing. Europe uses this format to determine five of its 10 selections.
The second option is to use PGA Tour earnings. The most important tournaments have the largest purses, and the range of other PGA Tour events is $4 million to about $6 million, not enough to skew the standings. Opposite-field events only pay out $3 million.
The problem? That's how the Presidents Cup team is selected.
The PGA of America would rather give up their team uniforms than copy anything from the Presidents Cup.
The only other choice is to allow Lehman to pick his entire team -- that's right, 12 captain's picks.
Put your best guys on the field.
To help Lehman along, or perhaps to annoy him, 18 golf writers were asked to select who they thought were the 12 best Americans to play in the Ryder Cup.
Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, David Toms and Chris DiMarco were named on every ballot, while Chad Campbell and Scott Verplank were named on 16 ballots. The rest of the team was Cink, Zach Johnson, Fred Couples and Davis Love III, with Oberholser and Lucas Glover tied for the 12th spot with nine votes each.
That team sounds as good as any.
Henry received two votes, Wetterich got one and Rollins got zero.
Then again, Love and his experience (he has played every Ryder Cup since 1993) was left off the ballot by eight writers, and there were a total of 27 players mentioned on the 18 teams.
Even though they were not tied to a point system, more than one writer came to this conclusion while struggling to fill out the final four spots on the 12-man team.
'We're going to get hammered, aren't we?'
But if the Americans win, the new points system undoubtedly will be the best ever.
Related Links:
  • U.S. Points List
  • European Points List
  • Full Coverage - 36th Ryder Cup Matches
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.