Despite hindsight, Watson not sweating RC picks

By Doug FergusonSeptember 16, 2014, 11:54 pm

ATLANTA – Tom Watson didn't appear to be kicking himself.

On the day after Billy Horschel posted his 12th straight round in the 60s, won his second straight tournament against a world-class field and picked up an additional $10 million bonus as the FedEx Cup champion, Watson was kicking back in his seat at a Kansas City Royals game. The 65-year-old Ryder Cup captain wore a Royals cap and a constant grin as he watched Omar Infante work the count to 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning.

These questions will follow Watson and his American team to Gleneagles next week for the Ryder Cup: Does he wish he could have Horschel on his team? Should the deadline to make his selections have been pushed back?

It makes for an easy – if not lazy – narrative. Hindsight allows for that.

Horschel not only won the final two FedEx Cup playoff events, he beat the top qualifier from each Ryder Cup team – Bubba Watson at Cherry Hills and Rory McIlroy at East Lake. It was McIlroy who said at the Tour Championship, ''I'm sure Tom Watson is kicking himself at the minute.''

Adding to the debate is that Horschel was runner-up in the event that preceded his back-to-back wins. Tiger Woods is the only other player to have two wins in a runner-up finish in the FedEx Cup. Then again, Horschel is not Tiger Woods.

Watson made his wild-card picks after the Deutsche Bank Championship, where Horschel was in prime position to force a playoff with Chris Kirk until he chunked a 6-iron so badly on the par-5 18th hole that it landed in the front of the hazard protecting the green. No one would have suggested Horschel as a pick the next day.

So why was the deadline set so early for the picks?

Remember, for years the American captain made his selections the day after the PGA Championship, six weeks before the Ryder Cup matches. Thanks to Paul Azinger, the U.S. captain now gets an extra three weeks to find the hot hands.

Why not extend it through the Tour Championship? If that's the case, why not wait until the final week to determine the entire team? This is not about uniforms, programs or any propaganda. This about a team, one that should know who is on the side with ample time to prepare leading to the matches. Four straight playoff events caused enough fatigue as it was.

Besides, would anyone be talking about an early deadline if McIlroy, Jim Furyk or Jason Day had won the Tour Championship?

And who's to say Watson would have taken Horschel even if he could have waited? Watson said he was looking for the hot hand and still passed over Kirk the day after his victory at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Watson was looking for experience.

He wanted Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson all along. He would have preferred Brandt Snedeker as the third pick, except that Snedeker missed the cut at both playoff events. Hunter Mahan, who has played on two teams, won The Barclays and became an obvious selection, and then Simpson won out over Kirk.

As good as Horschel looks now, how can anyone project how he would have played in Scotland?

Two years ago, Snedeker looked like a great captain's pick when he won the FedEx Cup. He went 1-2 at the Ryder Cup. Snedeker wasn't at his best that week. He blocked a tee shot on the 18th hole that led to bogey in foursomes and cost the Americans at least a half point. On the final day, he bogeyed three straight holes against Paul Lawrie and suffered the worst defeat of any singles match.

Woods was a captain's pick in 2010. He was coming off the upheaval in his personal life, split with his swing coach and failed to qualify for the Tour Championship. He had gone seven straight tournaments without a top 10, and he failed to break 70 in 19 of his last 25 rounds.

Woods went 3-1 at Celtic Manor, his best Ryder Cup performance.

Horschel will be cheering from home. His big finish will put even more scrutiny on the captain's picks than they already have. And that will lead to another round of hindsight, unless the Americans can find a way to win.

Maybe it was a good sign that the Royals rallied with two runs in the bottom of the ninth to win Monday night.

As for Infante? He struck out swinging.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry