Europe Fab Five Fades Into One Lone Light

By George WhiteMay 3, 2001, 4:00 pm
Scott Hoch was 45 years old when he won at Greensboro last week, and that put the mind to working. Fifteen years ago, when Hoch was 30, the hottest guys carrying a 7-iron were Europeans. There were five of them, each born within a year of the other. They won tournaments, majors and Ryder Cups. It looked like they would own golf the next 20 years. But my, what has happened to them as season after season has unfolded?
They are all 43 now, hardly the age to pack up the clubs and go sit by the fireplace. And yet, that is where Seve Ballesteros and Sandy Lyle appear headed. Nick Faldo doesn't appear to be too far off. Ian Woosnam has been wracked by injuries and he hasn't been a European Tour threat in five years. Bernhard Langer, alone among the group of five, is making the big purses, having earned almost a million dollars this year while playing in America.
Lyle was the first to drop off. A bewildering kink appeared in his game shortly after he won the Masters in 1988 lead to a series of mystifying finishes. He still hits the ball prodigious distances, but somewhere he lost his compass heading. The putter went south the same time the irons did, and 69s became 73s. He tried the American tour for awhile, it didn't work, and he began playing any place that would put out the welcome mat. Unfortunately, it appears the Gentle Man is finished.
Ballesteros no longer can make paychecks. He apparently didn't think he was good enough when he had the No. 1 game in the '80s, for whatever reason. He listened to everyone in the locker room, everyone on the driving range, finally everyone in the grocery store. He's gone to every top instructor that there is, never paying one. He now is, in a word, hopeless.
Faldo is another puzzle. He was, without a doubt, the greatest player walking upright in the late '80s and early '90s. He began to slip when he moved to the U.S. in 1995. By 1997, when he ended his professional relationship with instructor David Leadbetter, the metamorphosis was complete. Since then, he has gone through instructors almost as fast as Ballesteros. Some blame a confusing personal life, some say he was too much of a mechanical man. Whatever the reason, his plummet has been the biggest surprise.
Faldo's big problem is that he just doesn't get much distance out of his swing. His average swat is 261 yards, 189th on the Tour rankings. He ranks first in fairways hit, his putting is much better, but he sacrifices two and three clubs in length to other players. That, simply, is too much to overcome.
Woosnam has, in his own words, been 'lazy.' And he has been plagued with a problematic back. He has tried the short putter, the long putter, now back to the short putter. He may win again, but his days of being consistently successful are through.
Langer, alone among the five, has been surprisingly good since his return to the U.S. this year from Europe. He finished third in the Players Championship, tied for sixth in the Masters and tied for third at Hilton Head in his last three events.
That Fab Five was better than anything the Yanks could muster during those glory years. But what has happened in the meantime?
Well, 43 doesn't seem particularly old, not if you're playing on the U.S. tour. Hoch, for example, is probably better than any of them with the possible exception of Langer. Hal Sutton, himself 43, is playing his best golf ever. Tom Lehman is 42 and he remains a dangerous man. So does Mark Calcavecchia at 41. Scott Simpson at 45 made some serious noises last week before he finally acted his age.
But it's a shame, really. Ballesteros had been great for so many years, and it's such a shock to see him undergoing so much humiliation. He and Lyle can't make a cut. Faldo was such an artist in winning the six majors and holding down the top spot in the world rankings. Watching him fiddle-faddle now is torturous. Whatever happened to him? And Woosie should be in his glory years. Instead, nowadays it's hit-or-miss. And it's 'miss' much more often than 'hit.'
All these gentleman have done quite well financially, so that shouldn't be a problem. But unfortunately, we will have to live on memories. And memories are all they can offer.

More on Nick Faldo
More on Ian Woosnam
More on Bernhard Langer

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.