Stellar Play Blurs Langers Captaincy

By George WhiteApril 15, 2004, 4:00 pm
A strange thing is happening on the way to Oakland Hills in September. Bernhard Langer has gone about his Ryder Cup captaincy in a most peculiar way, posting scores that look suspiciously like a potential team member. No way hes giving hints that he is a captain only.
 
Langer doesnt get it, really. Ryder Cup captains routinely pour the muscles and minds and souls into preparations and fare terribly during the year of their leadership. And Bernie? Well, Hal Sutton, Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw, Raymond Floyd and Curtis Strange be hanged. Hes doing just fine, thank you.
 
Pity poor Langer. If he keeps this up, the questions about his captaincy are going to get much more racuous than they were at the Masters, where Langer was well in contention for a third green jacket until he plopped one in the water on 15 Sunday.
 
Langer gets a bit peeved when he is asked if there is any chance he will A, step down, or B, if there is a chance he might be a playing captain. But this is just April ' what will the cacophony be like if he is still competing for wins by the time the European Tour really heats up next month? Obviously Bernhard didnt realize he was going to play this well. Most of us thought this would be a typical captains year ' you prepare, you watch the other guys, and you stay well under the radar when you post your own scores.
 
Folks, I hate to say this (especially if you are a European fan), but Bernhard Langer, at age 46, looks about as good as any player who will make his team.
 
The World Rankings, which relies on results of the past two years, places Langer at No. 52 in the world. It ranks 11 other Europeans ahead of him. That might be correct placed on the rolling scale of two years, but since this season began, there certainly havent been 11 Europeans who have played better.
 
Lets see Padraig Harrington, over the last three months, has probably played as good as anyone in the world. Darren Clarke, though he has been inconsistent, has more top finishes than Langer. But the weather-beaten German can look any other Euro in the eye and say, Show me that youre better.
 
Heres the straight scoop ' Langer has yet to miss a cut this year, and thats through nine tournaments. Three times he has finished in the top eight. He has played all nine in America ' he has a home in South Florida and children in school there. He just finished placing in a tie for fourth at the Masters. Hes about to go overseas for the heart of the European schedule, and if he doesnt slow down a little, those demanding that he PLAY in the Ryder Cup instead of just coach will number about the same size as the German army.
 
Langer toyed briefly ' very briefly - with the idea of stepping down over the winter. In the extremely unlikely event that he absolutely burned up the rankings this year, he said, then he might consider turning over the Ryder Cup squad to another captain.
 
That caused a lot of disbelief in Nick Faldo, for one, who wondered when Langer would finally decide ' when he had picked out the color of the team sweaters? Langer was obviously offended, though he composed himself long enough to reply that, under no circumstances would he consider playing.
 
A query to that effect came last week. No sir, no way, not a chance, said Langer in a bit of a huff.
 
I have always said I will not play in the Ryder Cup. I don't know why everybody keeps asking once I make up my mind - that's it, said Langer.
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'I want to be the captain so I won't play. I've put a lot of work into the captaincy already. There are a lot of personal touches and a lot of things to be decided and I'm not going to change my mind, no matter how well or how bad I'm going to play.
 
If you know Langer, you know he is not going to be swayed - particularly not after Faldos remarks.
 
Those in front of Langer on the rankings list are Harrington, Clarke, Fredrick Jacobsen, Paul Casey, Thomas Bjorn, Sergio Garcia, Miguel Angel Jimemez, Colin Montgomerie, Ian Poulter, Alex Cejka and Brian Davis. Montgomerie has a win in the Caltex Singapore Masters last month, but not much else on the world stage. Davis won the ANZ (Australia-New Zealand) Championship, with Casey coming in second. But except for Harrington and possibly Clarke, no one has played better than Langer.
 
'I figured I had it in me to be playing well enough to make the team if I wasn't captain, said Langer. After all, I played very well in the last one (Ryder Cup), and that was just two years ago. I knew if I got my game together that I could possibly play my way into the team but a couple of months ago I decided to leave it. I am going to be the captain and let the other guys play.
 
Far be it from me, but just what does a Ryder Cup captain do before the match, anyway? It obviously entails a lot that I dont know about. Oh, I know there is a lot of pomp and ceremony concerning the clothing, a lot of media conferences, a lot of rubbing the tour officials the right way. There obviously is a huge amount of work to which I am not privy.
 
Now, once the buzzer sounds and the teams come together at Oakland Hills, I understand what a challenge it is. For perhaps a month ahead of time, the captain is briefing himself, going over potential pairings, etc. And there is no way that the captain, having to prepare his teams twice a day, can be both a player and a captain.
 
Why doesnt the European Tour braintrust wait a couple of months and see if their captain actually is among their top five players? I dont know, I guess that is only something a Ryder Cup captain can answer. Faldo, Montgomerie and Ian Woosnam were mentioned prominently when Langer was chosen. How about letting Woosnam be on the ready in case Langer continues his steady play throughout the summer?
 
I know, I know ' there must be much that goes on behind the scenes which I cant see. Some would say it's the captain's responsibility to put Europe's 12 best men out on the field. But I do know one thing - the U.S. team stands to catch one huge break.
 
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Related links:
  • Current Ryder Cup World Points List
  • Full Coverage - 35th Ryder Cup
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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.