Getty Images

Relationships last for those on U.S. teams

By Doug FergusonSeptember 12, 2017, 11:04 pm

Kevin Kisner began to appreciate the value of playing in the Presidents Cup two months before the matches even started.

All because of a text message.

He was at the Bridgestone Invitational last month when he received a group text sent to players who were in position to make the U.S. team. The idea was to make everyone feel like a team, whether the exchange of messages was motivational or simply amusing.

Kisner is among the more popular figures in the locker room, but there were still a few numbers in that group text that he didn't recognize. He wasn't alone, mainly because the guy who started the thread - U.S. captain Steve Stricker - put in the wrong number for Charley Hoffman. And that soon became clear to everyone.

''Some dude told us he didn't care and to quit texting him,'' Kisner said.

Kisner is among five players who have never played in a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team, the most since five players experienced their first professional team competition at the 2010 Ryder Cup team in Wales.

The Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup are not on the same level when it comes to history or hype, pressure or publicity.

But there's no difference for those trying to be part of it.

That's why Brooks Koepka wore himself out in the summer of 2015 by playing eight times in nine weeks in a desperate bid to make the Presidents Cup. He missed out and didn't make his team debut until the following year at the Ryder Cup.

There are varying levels of acceptance on the PGA Tour, which starts with winning a tournament. Players also are looked upon differently when they're part of a U.S. team, especially when it becomes a habit.

''It's kind of like the good ol' boys club, if that makes sense,'' Koepka said. ''You learn so much about each other, but you know them on a personal level. It seems like out here, it's more like, 'Hey, what's up?' You're playing with them, and that's about it. But you never get into any real interesting conversations or whatever it might be. Now you sit down for lunch, you know the names and ages of their kids. I didn't have that before the Ryder Cup.''

He never had many phone numbers, either.

Those chain texts from the Ryder Cup spilled into this year, though Koepka remembers the first one. At the time, the only numbers he had belonged to Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar.

''All these numbers popped up and I was like, 'Who's this one?''' he said.

One of the mysteries was Bubba Watson, added as a vice captain at Hazeltine. Koepka and Watson would seem to have next to nothing in common except that they hit the golf ball a long way. Now they stay in touch regularly.

''We FaceTime once a week, even during golf weeks,'' Koepka said. ''He called Christmas Day and my mom answered the phone. He said, 'Who's this?'''

Tiger Woods was among the top players who once lamented that Americans had to play team matches every year, while Europeans and the International team (every country except those in Europe) had a cup every other year. But that was mainly because the Americans kept losing every other year.

To watch Woods during those weeks was to realize it was among his favorite weeks of the year because of the relationships that were forged. He will be one of Stricker's assistant captains at Liberty National at the end of the month. The Presidents Cup is not anything to miss in a year plagued by his fourth back surgery and his struggles with painkillers that led to Florida police finding him asleep in his parked car and disoriented in the middle of the night.

It was at the Ryder Cup last year where players presented Woods with red T-shirts that said, ''Make Tiger Great Again.'' It hasn't worked, but those kinds of moments can be more lasting than any shot struck during the competition.

That's what awaits Kisner and Hoffman, Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Kevin Chappell.

Berger got a taste of it last year when he and Thomas were invited to Hazeltine with several Ryder Cup members to play the course in case they were the final captain's pick of Davis Love III. Also on that trip were Phil Mickelson, Brandt Snedeker and Spieth, players who had been part of other teams.

''When you see those guys up there, you want to be part of that group,'' Berger said. ''It means you're one of the best 12 Americans. It was one of those experiences that was like, 'I want to be part of that.' I don't want to miss one of these ever.''

The text messages are already flowing. Koepka only has numbers from last year's Ryder Cup team or the players living near him in South Florida. He didn't have Kisner's number until recently.

One word of advice for Koepka: If he gets a call from a number that looks like it might belong to Hoffman, don't answer.

Getty Images

Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”

Getty Images

Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 21, 2018, 7:00 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.


Getty Images

Woods happy to help Furyk at Ryder Cup

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 6:58 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods didn't hesitate when Jim Furyk asked him to become a vice captain at the upcoming Ryder Cup.

Woods said Wednesday that Furyk asked he and Steve Stricker “a while ago” whether they were interested in being assistants in Paris as the Americans try to win a Ryder Cup on foreign soil for the first time in 25 years.

“He’s one of my best friends,” Woods said of Furyk, “and whatever he wants, whatever he needs, I’m there to help him. We’re worked well the last couple of years in the cups together.”


Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Though Woods has said that he wants to be a playing vice captain, he has been an assistant at each of the past two international team competitions.

Furyk, Woods and Stricker were all assistants at Hazeltine, where the U.S. won in a rout.

“Jim is very detailed, very smart, very analytical, and he’s just a fantastic leader,” Woods said. “For him to ask Stricks and I together, it will be special for both of us.”

Getty Images

Woods to hit '4 or 5' drivers each day at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 6:25 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Those hoping Tiger Woods will wield the driver early and often this week at PGA National likely will be disappointed.

Depending on wind direction, he said he will only hit “four or five” drivers each round.

During Wednesday’s pro-am, Woods hit driver on six holes. He found two fairways with the big stick and found the right rough four times, though a few of those misses were only a few yards off the fairway.


Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


In two starts this year, Woods has struggled mightily with every club off the tee, but driver has been especially troublesome. He has found only 36 percent of the fairways so far (30 of 84).

The Champion Course here is a par 70, with water and bunkers often lining the fairways. Putting the ball in play off the tee will be at a premium, and so Woods opted for a low, penetrating 2-iron six times in the pro-am.

Woods said he did not make any equipment changes following the missed cut at Riviera.