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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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

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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.

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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.

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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.