Ryder Cup tide bound to turn

By Brandel ChambleeSeptember 22, 2014, 1:30 pm

Before the Ryder Cup became the schadenfreude parade that it is now, the only reason to keep score used to be so everyone would know when it was over. From 1959-83 the United States never lost. In 1967 after European captain Dai Rees went through lengthy introductions for each of his 12 players, Ben Hogan, the U.S. captain, stood up, motioned to his team and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, the 12 best players in the world,” and then sat down. It was typical Hogan ... but he was wrong.

Jack Nicklaus, who had won seven majors to that point, wasn’t even on the U.S. team.  The PGA of America had a rule that a player had to serve a five-year apprenticeship as a pro before he could be granted full membership, and only then could he begin to accumulate Ryder Cup points. Nicklaus was granted membership in June 1966, and the cutoff for accumulating Ryder Cup points was the following year's Masters. Despite being the two-time defending champion at Augusta, Nicklaus missed the cut and wound up 13th on the Ryder Cup points list. And there were no captain's picks at that time. The same antiquated rule had kept Arnold Palmer out of the Ryder Cup until 1961. No matter - three days after Hogan's terse introduction the United States won, 23 1/2-8 1/2 (from 1963-75 the Ryder Cup consisted of 32 matches), which is the largest margin of victory in the almost 100-year history of this event.

I think what Hogan meant and saw no reason to draw out was that sitting beside him were the 12 best players in that room.

Ryder Cup: Articles, videos and photos

In 1989 captain Ray Floyd, while introducing his team, on foreign soil no less, pungently echoed Hogan’s words from over two decades before. Sitting in that room — and not on Floyd’s team — were Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam. The late scribe Grantland Rice might have called them the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Together they were the nucleus of Death, Destruction, Pestilence and Famine, at least to the American dominance in the Ryder Cup.

All four of these men would ascend to No. 1 in the world. All four would partner and win with players far less skilled than themselves and the history of each of them became the history of all of them.

Like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Tom Watson had done from the early '60s to the early '80s, Europe’s “Four Horsemen” wrong-footed the opposition. But more than that, they obliterated what the Ryder Cup had been. By beating the Americans they turned a cult into a major religion.

Of course this stands to reason. Seve, Nick, Bernhard and Woosie were the best players in the world and the Ryder Cup is to golf what the Pro Bowl and the All-Star Game are to football and baseball: a venue for the best to show off.

And when the best face off against each other, over time the talents of each side see-saw to bring the contest to an equilibrium.

Don't believe it? Let's look at Major League Baseball's All-Star Game and the NFL's Pro Bowl.

Since the inception of the All-Star Game in 1933 (when Babe Ruth hit the first homer in All-Star Game history to lead the American League over the National League), the NL has won 43 to the AL’s 40, with two ties. There have been eras when one team dominated the other - from 1963-1982 the NL won 19 of 20 games but since 1988 the AL has won 20 of 27, wth one tie - but overall the results have been largely equal. 

A tally of runs scored mirrors the results; AL 349, NL 355. 

Football's Pro Bowl dates to 1950 but since 1971 it has pitted the AFC and the NFC. Over that time the NFC has 22 wins to the AFC’s 21.

Parity gets a bad rap, but it’s alive in baseball, football and golf.

Now to the Ryder Cup, which the U.S. leads all time 25-12-2 but is currently in a cycle of European dominance. Europe has won seven of the last nine matches, but a longer view takes us back to 1979, when the Great Britain and Ireland team was expanded to include all of Europe. Over that period Europe's lead is just 9-7-1. And since 1979 out of a possible 476 points, Europe has 241 1/2-234 1/2 for the U.S. In the last 17 Ryder Cups these two teams are separated by just seven points, with two of those points coming in the last two contests.

Taken as a whole, it gives one a different view of Europe’s dominance of late.

Perhaps this is the year that the Americans reverse the trend. But then maybe the Ryder Cup has become something so different from its origins, so animated, so confrontational, so jingoistic that it no longer suits the insulated sameness that it is to be an American millionaire Tour player.

Maybe the sour taste of the losing records of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk has impacted this generation of U.S. players the same way the spirit of Seve lives in Garcia, Westwood and in particular Poulter, who plays this event with the swollen arrogance of Henry the VIII. But it is all of this ... the losing and the yelling and the screaming and the history and the singing that make the Ryder Cup the greatest week in golf. Regardless of who wins.

Getty Images

What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

Getty Images

Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

Getty Images

Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.