Its Plan B for Americas Lehman

By George WhiteAugust 22, 2006, 4:00 pm
36th Ryder Cup MatchesA pessimist would probably say that it makes absolutely no difference whom Tom Lehman picked to fill out the U.S. Ryder Cup ' these guys arent going to win, anyway. But an optimist would look at Stewart Cink and Scott Verplank and say, hey, these guys are a possible difference in America winning and losing.
Lehman admitted what is painfully obvious Monday - that his stated goal of picking players who have lots of wins wasnt an option this year. And it wasnt an option because he just didnt have too many Americans who have won this year. So Lehman had to go to alternative No. 2 ' get a couple of guys who are good chippers and putters, and, secondarily, men who have experience in the Ryder Cup arena.
A sermon from this corner explained why the Americans should not be considered favorites this year. The last couple of months have not been kind to most of the Yanks. Ergo, Lehmans choices were made excruciatingly difficult because there were no clear-cut selections.
Jerry Kelly? Davis Love? Maybe a John Daly or a veteran like Corey Pavin? Fred Couples? Lucas Glover or Tim Herron or maybe Shaun Micheel?
But as much as all of these men have characteristics that probably would have made them acceptable, none had talents that would have made them stand out. Cink and Verplank have their faults, but Lehman decided to pick them because they give him what he needs most from this squad ' day-in and day-out, a gutty, solid performance.
Cink would have made the team under the old format. Its a little disheartening to say that he was chosen because he had a lot of finishes that were in the 20-30 range, but thats what has happened. And the last two months he has performed pretty steadily, finishing T5 in the Buick Championship, T5 in the International, and T4 in the Cialis Western.
Verplank? Because of the diabetes which he has battled his entire career, you can never be sure just how hes going to play. But when he has been close to healthy, he has played pretty consistently. This year he had the double whammy of playing with a shoulder injury much of the season, eventually dropping out of the EDS Byron Nelson.
But he is third among the PGA Tour players in putting this year, and sixth in scrambling, which primarily measures the ability to chip it close. He doesnt hit it far at all ' hes currently 187th in driving distance. But the Ryder Cup venue, The K Club in Ireland, isnt overbearingly long, either. An inability to drive it long wont be particularly painful.
Cink led the tour in putting as late as 2004, and this year he has been pretty consistent, though he stands just 59th. He stands 18th on the scrambling rankings.
The point is, you could put either player with anyone else on the team and he would certainly be acceptable.
With four rookies on the team, Lehman could just not afford to gamble on a what-if or a maybe. Maybe Kelly would pick the week of September 18-24 to have his career performance. Maybe Glover would, or Love would rebound and play like he used to five years ago. But Lehman, unfortunately, does not have the luxury of finding out. Therefore, he had to go with two guys who maybe dont have that upside potential, but then they dont have the downside, either.
One oddity here ' in 2001 (the matches were played in 2002), Verplank was Curtis Stranges wildcard pick at the expense of one Tom Lehman. Lehman, who had a 5-3-2 record and was 3-0 in singles, was in the top10 for most of the year. But an injury knocked him out late in the year, and he missed the cut in the PGA. Strange picked Verplank, the first time in history that a rookie was U.S. wild-card pick, and Paul Azinger and left out Lehman.
Verplank rewarded Strange by going 2-1, including a win in singles against Lee Westwood. And now, Lehman himself puts the finger on Verplank.
Now, Lehman will take this American squad to Ireland. What is there to be optimistic about? Not much, if you look at the American players and what they have done this year. Not much, if you consider they will be opposed by Colin Montgomerie, Sergio Garcia, Jose Maria Olazabal, Padraig Harrington, maybe Thomas Bjorn or Lee Westwood or Darren Clarke.
But all is not well in the European camp, either. Some of the Euros have been struggling of late. Clarke recently lost his wife after a lengthy illness. Westwood has not been particularly impressive, and neither has Miguel Angel Jimenez, all of whom were counted on to play big Ryder Cup roles at the start of the season.
This American team, as a matter of fact, looks a whole lot like what the Europeans have been throwing up against us the past 10 years or so. For Lehmans sake, Cink and Verplank have to think that, too.
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    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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    Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

    When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

    Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

    "I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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    The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

    Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

    "It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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    DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

    World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

    Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

    "It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

    Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

    Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

    "I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

    Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

    "If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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    LPGA lists April date for new LA event

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

    The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

    When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

    The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

    The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.