International team needs to annoy US

By Doug FergusonOctober 3, 2009, 4:43 pm
Presidents CupEven at a relatively young age, the Presidents Cup does not lack for moments that reveal the passion and pressure when the best golfers in the world put the flag ahead of the bank account.

Tiger Woods could barely see the hole in the darkness of South Africa when he made a 15-foot par putt in a playoff against Ernie Els that broke two directions. He called it “one of the biggest putts in my life,” and “one of the most nerve-racking moments I’ve ever had in golf.” Usually, such talk is reserved for the majors.

Tiger Woods and Mike Weir
Mike Weir beat Tiger Woods, but the U.S. won the 2007 Presidents Cup. (Getty Images)
For emotion, look no further than Chris DiMarco making the winning putt and charging into the arms of captain Jack Nicklaus, or Nick Price – as fine a gentleman as golf has known – snapping a putter over his knee when he missed a putt to lose on the final hole.

Fred Couples never showed more exuberance than the time he made a 20-foot birdie on the last hole to beat Vijay Singh.

And while the International flag represents countries from all continents except Europe, Mike Weir faced enormous expectations and a Maple Leaf at every turn when he played on home soil in Canada against the world’s best player. He won the last two holes to beat Woods, which came with a cheer so loud that captain Gary Player said it could be heard “all the way to Kansas City.”

In 15 years of these biennial matches, there is no shortage of highlights.

What the Presidents Cup lacks is competition.

The Americans already lead the series 5-1-1. They have never lost on home soil, and will have a chance to keep that record perfect when the eighth edition of these matches is played Oct. 8-11 at Harding Park Golf Course in San Francisco.

The only time the International team won was in 1998 at Royal Melbourne in Australia, held so late in the year that some of the Americans spent more time Christmas shopping online. At least that was their excuse.

The players are just as good, if not better, than at the Ryder Cup. Each team at Harding Park has seven major champions (with 35 majors among them). Europe’s team from last year’s Ryder Cup had only one major winner.

Of the 24 players at the Presidents Cup, 18 are among the top 30 in the world ranking.

Even so, perhaps the best Ryder Cup comparison is from the early days of the competition, which was clearly a red, white and blue affair.

“We need to win,” Geoff Ogilvy of Australia said. “It’s going to take the International team winning a few times to annoy the U.S., to get them geared up like they are in the Ryder Cup.”

No one can explain why these matches have been so one-sided.

This will be the fifth time that the Presidents Cup is held in the United States, although that shouldn’t matter because all but three players on the International team have homes in America, and all but one player – Ryo Ishikawa – is a PGA Tour member.

“The Presidents Cup is like playing with your buddies,” Kenny Perry said. “The International squad is like the guys we play with week in and week out here. We know each other, we’re all good friends. A lot of barbing, jabbing going on out there. And it’s really fun.”

The International team has been favored on paper for much of this decade, although the only time it could claim even a half-victory was when the matches ended in that famous tie in South Africa.

Last time in Royal Montreal, the International team did not win any of the 11 foursomes matches and was seven points behind going into the final day of singles, which turned out to be a formality except for Weir beating Woods.

The big change this year is the captains. After three straight tournaments led by Nicklaus and Player, Couples will be leading the U.S. team, while Greg Norman is captain of the International side.

Couples has lived up to expectations – he has kept everyone loose, he doesn’t answer his phone (mainly text messages), and he has asked basketball great Michael Jordan to be one of his assistant captains.

Norman has been a surprise, mostly with his captain’s picks.

He selected Ishikawa, an 18-year-old sensation from Japan who becomes the youngest player in Presidents Cup history. Ishikawa has won four times this year, and his appearance already has added close to 100 requests for media credentials.

The stunning pick was Adam Scott, who has fallen out of the top 50 because of a mysterious slump that has put him 101st on the PGA Tour money list. Scott was planning for maintenance surgery on his knee when Norman gave him the good news.

“I think he’s got a lot of pressure on him,” Els said. “From us, we will support him. I know I will, and I know Greg will. But he’s going to be under the spotlight a little bit. But you know, this is maybe something he needs.”

Camilo Villegas, Ishikawa and PGA champion Y.E. Yang are newcomers to the Presidents Cup, while the American rookies are Sean O’Hair and Anthony Kim, who energized the U.S. team last September at the Ryder Cup.

The Americans are considered the favorites, based on recent history and world rankings.

It has the current version of the “Big Three” – Woods, Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker, not only ranked Nos. 1-2-3, but winners of the last three playoff events on the PGA Tour. It has five of the top 10 players in the world, and it’s lowest-ranked player is Justin Leonard at No. 37.

Ogilvy at No. 10 is the only International player in the top 10, and seven of his teammates have failed to win this year – Els, Villegas, Scott, Weir, Vijay Singh, Robert Allenby and Tim Clark.

“Maybe this time we’ll be more relaxed and pull it off,” Retief Goosen said.

Ogilvy had just turned professional in 1998 when he took a shortcut from his house near Royal Melbourne, hopped the fence and watched the Presidents Cup. There was something about those matches that has since been missing from the competition, starting with the International blue on the scoreboard.

“When it was in Australia, the International team looked like the winner even after nine holes,” Ogilvy said. “I said to Greg, ‘Whatever you had going on at Royal Melbourne, whatever that thing is, you’ve got to find it.’ It’s not about the individual, it’s about how bad the team wants to win.”

The International team is desperate for a win. The Presidents Cup as a whole could use such a victory, too.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

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.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

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?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

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

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

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.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

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.