Waugh could strengthen U.S. golf by bridging organizations

By Gary WilliamsOctober 1, 2014, 5:53 pm

Sometimes you have to reeducate yourself, just go back to school to learn what you’ve forgotten and realize that your fellow competitor has a firmer grasp on the subject and keeps producing higher marks.

Thus is the dilemma of the U.S. Ryder Cup culture. The agent for change and an encouraging future may lie in the mind of an individual who was nurtured in a culture of learning. More on that game-changer in a moment.

First, how did we get here, both the USA and Europe?

Many factors have contributed, some tangible, others intangible. However, the intangibles may be more impactful than the world rankings of the top European players starting to mirror those of the Yanks on a more consistent basis.

Lets start with the "systems," which is the most palpable component to why many think one side cares more than the other. It’s insulting to think the Americans don’t try or don’t care, and that the Europeans care more. But one side has more pride in the success of the team – it’s not about the flag; it’s about roots and soul.

The European Tour owns the property on its side and the Ryder Cup is its crown jewel. Every player is a product of the system. Of course, its biggest stars make the lion’s share of their wealth on the PGA Tour – that's not a slight or a turning of the back to where they came from. The reality is, that America provides the best fields, most money, most world ranking points and is home to three of the four majors.

Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell, Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia have not forgotten where they came from. On the contrary, they take pride in their origins and that it gave them the launching point for their wealth and place in the game. Yet, every two years they essentially get to leave their lives as de facto NBA superstars to put on their high school jerseys with the boys they grew up with and take on an American all-star team.

But more importantly, they are being guided by the guys from the neighborhood, European Tour brethren who never forgot where they came from and remain the soul of the system. Their pride in winning the cup for their respective nations is matched by their pride in the tour of which they are all a product.

Herein lies the disconnect – the European players are invested because they have a voice; their fraternity runs the tour and decides who leads the team.

The PGA of America is an admirable organization and I'm proud to say that as a former class-A member. But the association doesn't have the emotional and intellectual connection with the U.S. players charged with pursuing the cup because, while they're trying to grow the game, the players bi-annually representing the U.S. on its behalf are trying to win tournaments. The players don’t have any investment in the culture of the Ryder Cup until they are part of the team. Only then it's a formalized meet and greet while Europe descends on a Ryder Cup site having made every choice together in a unified systemic fashion that determines a resume based on the collective cause, not whether you won a major.

Now for the solution. It requires vision, commitment, concessions, and one who sees the viewpoint of all parties while being strong in his positions, but sensible enough to listen and be educated while teaching. The individual who should lead USA Golf is an accomplished businessman, but equally as important, he's a golf insider with relationships at every level. Seth Waugh is the answer.

The son of an English teacher at the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and one of five sons, he had a choice to coach and teach or enter the business world. Either would have been fulfilling but Waugh ascended to the CEO position of Deutsche Bank in 2000. His rise was met with great success for his company and he chose golf as an investment in the branding of the company he was running. Along the way he earned the universal trust and respect of every key figure in golf – player, administrator, commissioner, sponsor and governing body.

His name was strongly kicked around as the successor to PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. Waugh left his post at Deutsche Bank not because he was burned out, but because he wanted to invest in his son's four-year journey through college golf at Wake Forest – caddying for him in summer events and taking the time to reset the pins on his next passion. I've found that project, CEO of USA Golf.

Waugh knows the AJGA system, the college system, the PGA Tour culture and has the cache and humility to bridge the gap between the PGA of America and the Tour to navigate and negotiate concessions on both sides to find a common goal. Waugh has the ability to create golf events at the junior, scholastic, collegiate and professional levels to instill common goals, while making the U.S. side stronger in international team competitions while maximizing the marketability of the Tour’s biggest stars.

The PGA of America and the PGA Tour are in a good place and they have a chance to serve each other’s best interests by creating a position that will be the greatest bridge to unity and future success. Waugh should lead the search for future captains while fostering unity among players – letting their voices be heard – and also encouraging the captaining of Junior Ryder Cup teams by players in the U.S. Ryder Cup system. Ten years ago, USA Basketball was at a crossroads with the perception that the world had caught up with them, when in reality it was a concession that the NBA made that they needed a leader to build a new system under the direction of Jerry Colangelo. Big egos listened to each other and USA Basketball has a system that is a classic buy in. The dividends are championships with common purpose.

"When Jerry Colangelo took over, a new program and a new attitude was established, and the results are staggering," ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas said. "USA Basketball has won four straight FIBA world titles, which has never been done before, and USA Basketball has won every major title at every level.

"While the sports are different, the idea is the same: to create an environment of team, selfless service to others, and having a 'we first' approach.  We seem to accept that the Europeans do it naturally and we don't. That is a lame rationalization and excuse. We have lost eight of 10. That's a 20-year trend that is far beyond talent or making putts. We can't just say 'play better.' This trend is the result of a losing culture and requires change."

Waugh spent 30 years making the right investment for his various business segments and it’s time for the PGA of America and the PGA Tour to cede some power to a visionary that will serve both entities and pay dividends. Waugh always wanted to coach and teach. If given the chance he can do it in the sport he loves the most.

Getty Images

Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

Getty Images

McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

Getty Images

What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x