Caddie Cowan set for 10th Ryder Cup
The competition is as intense as ever. The biggest difference might be his suitcase.
“We got next to nothing back then – a couple of sweat shirts, I think,” Cowan said. “We certainly get treated better than we did at my first one. Now we get all kinds of clothes. We fly over on the charter. They pay us nicely. Some guys say it isn’t enough, but I think it’s enough. The competition … there’s nothing like it.”
No other American brings as much experience to the matches as Cowan, and few have seen so much through so many players. Jim Furyk, his current boss, will be the fourth player for whom Cowan has caddied at the Ryder Cup.
He was on the bag for Peter Jacobsen in 1985 at The Belfry and for Fred Couples four years later (Couples hired Joe LaCava the following season). Jacobsen returned to the Ryder Cup in 1995, and Cowan worked for Tiger Woods at Valderrama in 1997. This will be his fifth consecutive Ryder Cup working for Furyk.
The biggest regret is playing on only two winning teams – the comeback at Brookline in 1999, and last time at Valhalla.
His favorite memory was two years ago at Valhalla, when Furyk won the cup-clinching point on the 17th hole, the matching ending with a handshake when Miguel Angel Jimenez conceded Furyk a short par putt.
“It was a matter of circumstances, but having Jim actually be the clincher, that was pretty much a nice memory – a thrill,” he said.
As for the worst?
Cowan went back to the 18th hole at The Belfry in 1989, when Couples was in a pivotal match against Christy O’Connor Jr. All square on the 18th, with Couples having blasted a 300-yard drive, O’Connor hit 2-iron to about 3 1/2 feet for a birdie he never had to putt.
“One of the most phenomenal shots in the history of the game,” Cowan said. “Freddie had a 9-iron and flared it out to the right. I felt awful for him. That was probably my worst memory, although I got to witness one of the greatest shots in the history of the competition.”
That wasn’t the only stunning loss. Cowan was with Woods when the world’s No. 1 player lost to Costantino Rocca in 1997. And he was with Furyk when Paul McGinley made a 6-foot par in 2002 at The Belfry to halve the match and give Europe the outright victory.
As for the most bizarre moment, consider a fourballs match between Jacobsen and Brad Faxon against Seve Ballesteros and David Gilford at Oak Hill in 1995.
Thinking that Faxon was in for par, Jacobsen rapped his long birdie putt about 4 feet beyond the hole and picked it up. Only then did he realize Faxon had taken a penalty drop from behind a willow tree in the fairway.
“That might be my worst memory, now that I think about it,” Cowan said. “I don’t even want to go into it.”
But he’ll go to Celtic Manor looking forward to these matches as much as he did 25 years ago.
“It’s always been an intense competition,” he said. “I guess just like the rest of the world of golf, it’s gotten bigger. But it’s the same intensity. The players treat it the same way.”
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: The race for PGA Tour player of the year has only widened since the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Matt Kuchar’s win at The Barclays was a reminder how consistently well he has played this year. He is leading the PGA Tour money list and has the lowest adjusted scoring average.
Dustin Johnson is getting more attention with his victory at Cog Hill. That’s his second win, along with a chance at two majors. The notion of a “sympathy vote” for Whistling Straits is silly. What resonates with players is not that Johnson failed to win, but that he put himself in position to win. Johnson and Phil Mickelson are the only players this year to be in serious contention on the back nine of two majors.
A win at the Tour Championship by Mickelson, Johnson, Kuchar, Steve Stricker or Ernie Els might wrap it up. Don’t forget that Hunter Mahan, Jim Furyk and Justin Rose also have two wins.
Meanwhile, the PGA of America’s award is based on points and shows just how close this is. Stricker is atop the standings with 52 points, followed by Mickelson and Matt Kuchar at 50 points, and Els at 47 points.
Kuchar nudged ahead of Stricker for the Vardon Trophy last night, although that might not be decided at the Tour Championship. Kuchar is likely to play a Fall Series event or two, while Stricker is likely to strap a bow over his shoulder and go looking for deer.
HUNTER’S RIBS: Hunter Mahan makes it sound as though his pre-round routine is eat, stretch, hit balls and pop his ribs into place.
Mahan appeared to show discomfort in his back during the third round of the BMW Championship. He revealed after the round that a couple of ribs on the lower left side were out – and that this wasn’t the first time it happened.
“It happens almost every week, but this time it was in a little different place,” Mahan said. “It’s usually a little higher up. This one was a little low. Usually, it doesn’t hurt that much.”
Mahan said the ribs popped out of place when he drew a deep breath.
He said all this in such a matter-of-fact manner that when someone asked if it would affect the Ryder Cup, he laughed. Then, he tried to figure out where to put himself on the list if the Ryder Cup had an injury report like in the NFL.
“Doubtful. No, questionable,” he said. “Isn’t Tom Brady always questionable?”
MASTERS: Kevin Streelman and Jeff Overton are among five players in the Tour Championship who will be making their Masters debut next April. What sets them apart is that they have yet to win on the PGA Tour.
Streelman is getting a lot of attention for only having one good week against a strong field to get to East Lake.
As for being without a tour victory and going to the Masters. It happens more than one might think. There were six PGA Tour members at Augusta National who had never won on tour – John Merrick, Ricky Barnes, Kevin Na, Marc Leishman, Steve Marino and Jason Dufner.
There were five such players each of the previous two years.
DIVOTS: The Tour Championship will only have 25 of the top 50 players in the world ranking, and six of the top 10. … Steve Stricker, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan are the only players to reach the Tour Championship all four years of the FedEx Cup. … The LPGA does not resume until the week after the Ryder Cup.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Since securing a spot on his first Ryder Cup team, Jeff Overton has not finished in the top 50 and has a scoring average of 72.8 in his past four tournaments.
FINAL WORD: “I was beating myself up. I wasn’t playing against anyone else, I was only playing against myself. And that’s probably worse than playing against everybody else.” – Robert Allenby on his bid to make the Tour Championship.
Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo
Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.
With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.
Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.
The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.
In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.
Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys
After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.
There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.
It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.
It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.
“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.
In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.
Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”
Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.
“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”
Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.
Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.
If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.
For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.
Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.
Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.
While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.
When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?
Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.
After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.
The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.
That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.
The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.
While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.
Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.
Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.
“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”
The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?
Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'
John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.
That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.
Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.
Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid
Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.
Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.
Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.
World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.
Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.