The Other Captains

By David Marr IiiNovember 16, 2001, 5:00 pm
2001 Warburg CupThis week Arnold Palmer and Gary Player captain their respective teams at the inaugural UBS Warburg Cup. Palmer has significant experience leading American teams in international competition. In 1963 he earned four points as the last playing captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup Team. Player is a rookie. During his playing prime there was no opportunity for players outside of Great Britain and Ireland to compete in a Ryder Cup-style event. He's been selected to lead the international team for the 2003 Presidents Cup and his time at Kiawah Island this week will certainly prove to give him some valuable experience.
 
There are two other captains on hand this week as well, and the draw on the first day has given fans the opportunity to see the 2002 Ryder Cup captains square off in the foursomes format. One can only hope that this match-up lasts throughout the week. Curtis Strange and Sam Torrance will lead their teams next fall in perhaps the most important Ryder Cup in history. The post-Brookline, post-September 11th matches will be the most scrutinized in history, and the men filling out the line-up cards have a huge responsibility.
 
The teams are set, clothing picked, itinerary determined, what remains is ten months of diplomacy and relationship building. There is a chance to heal some of the wounds opened in 1999 when the magnificent American comeback was tainted by an inappropriate, if somewhat understandable, celebration on the 17th green at the tail end of Justin Leonard's unimaginable comeback.
 
The men entrusted with this responsibility may seem ill-suited to the task. Both are extremely competitive with quick tempers and not much of a governor between the brains and the mouths. That makes for good sound bites on Golf Central but can also inflame sensitive feelings.
 
In the roughly two years since they were named captains, however, both have been models of civility and I think that's borne out of the old-school approach each has towards the game. Curtis Strange became the first man since Ben Hogan to successfully defend a U.S. Open title in 1989. His professional career has had terrific highs and horrendous lows; failures at the Ryder Cup and Augusta National soothed a bit by the USGA heroics. He assumed his place in history in dramatic fashion; with a playoff victory against Nick Faldo in 1988 and a one-stroke win in his defense the following year. The decade since his second win has mellowed Strange to some degree, but on his best day he isn't nearly as easygoing as his counterpart.
 
For all of his fiery competitiveness, Sam Torrance is as much fun outside of the ropes as any golfer you will ever meet. When I went to Loch Lomond to help tournament organizers with their television coverage in the late '90s I asked my father about the European players and tour officials. He had worked with the BBC for a few years and had gotten to know most of the players and their games. At the end of our discussion he told me to find Sam Torrance and introduce myself. Torrance is a legend on the European Tour. He's played more events than anyone in history, played on eight Ryder Cup teams and set the career record for most rounds bought in the pubs and taverns of the European circuit. On Wednesday Sam was overdue for his practice round. He was delayed at the airport due to lost luggage; I was more than a little worried about his mood upon arrival.
 
At the first tee I walked up and Torrance was changing his shoes. I said 'Hi Sam I'm David Marr' before I could explain the family connection he looked up and said, 'you're not related to Dave Marr are you?' From there he insisted I stay inside the ropes and walk with him for a few holes. He regaled the gallery and me with jokes and stories, all the while playing with borrowed clubs and shoes. Since then he has had the same demeanor each time we meet, and my surname doesn't seem to matter at all. I've watched him interact with fans and galleries in many different settings and he always tries to find a common thread with a person and have fun with it. He pays attention when strangers talk to him and signs anything he's asked.
 
It's fitting that one of the greatest moments in Ryder Cup history highlighted Sam Torrance. He stood arms aloft and tears streaming down his face in 1985 after making a birdie putt on 18 to win 1-up. In doing so he secured a European Ryder Cup victory for the first time in 28 years. It was fitting that a man who toiled his entire career on the European Tour ushered in a new competitive era of Ryder Cup Matches. Perhaps he will also help return the Matches to an era of civility and sportsmanship.
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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



FALLING

Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”