My 2014 moment: Ryder Cup news conference

By Nick MentaDecember 19, 2014, 4:00 pm

(Editor's note: This is part of a series in which staff reveal their favorite or personal moments of 2014.)

If only we would have known in advance. 

Maybe there could have been an 11th-hour deal struck to get the news conference simulcasted on MTV as part of some kind of Grow the Game initiative.

This is what happens when millionaire athletes stop being polite, and start getting real.

The only drawback is that Phil Mickelson might have unburdened himself in one of those confessional rooms, and we might never have seen the look on Hunter Mahan’s face.

Mickelson’s post-Ryder Cup campaign against Tom Watson, in specific, and the PGA of America, in general, actually began before the team sat down in the media center. Before the closing ceremonies and not long after the European celebration began, Mickelson planted the seeds in an interview with Golf Channel’s Steve Sands for what soon would follow.

Mickelson was the only one on that stage Sunday afternoon - save for maybe Jim Furyk, who was ultimately involved against his own will - with enough cache to call out the 65-year-old, six-time major winner.

I implore you to watch it all again below … 

… but if you don’t have the spare 30 minutes, the four best parts of this remarkably awkward and captivating half hour are as follows:

1. Watson being asked to respond to Mickelson openly criticizing his leadership, then having to deflect the barbs as merely a “difference of opinion,” trying to pretend as if his head wasn’t on fire.

2. Mickelson, who walked into the news conference with a clear agenda, proceeding to play dumb about exactly what he was doing, telling a reporter, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” when it was suggested he was ripping apart Watson in public.

3. Mahan staring blankly forward, a true deer in the headlights, moving once in a while to contort his facial muscles and study the stitching of his jacket.

4. And Furyk, summing up the entire situation: ““What's the winning formula? What's the difference year-in, year-out? If I could put my finger on it, I would have changed this s--- a long time ago.”

Though poor Mahan proved the focus of a few funny memes, it was Mickelson’s laughable attempt to walk back his own comments, while at the same time continuing to tear into Watson and the PGA process that had wedded him to the 2014 team, that was, well, laughable.

As much as it was the losing, and the mistrust, and the general crustiness of the captain, what made that news conference so compelling was the arrangement. When, if ever, do you see 13 people interviewed at once? What happened Sunday at Gleneagles was a unique occurrence because it was born of unique circumstances. Mickelson chiding Watson’s leadership to one reporter was juicy at the time in an "inside baseball" kind of way, but to openly rip Watson in front of a group of reporters, the entire team and Watson himself, that was explicit. 

In a way, Mickelson got away clean. His fans still love him, and his detractors still don’t. There was no real change in the status quo.

And that's why it was Watson who ultimately lost both the Ryder Cup and some part of his own mystique. In 2009 at the Open Championship, Watson was the then-59-year-old legend making one last run at glory. No one was rooting for Stewart Cink, other than his wife and children.

Now, five years later, we’re still watching MasterCard commercials of Watson surprising fans at the driving range and derisively pronouncing “Snee-deker” and something seems different. Something did change. 

In the end, other than Ted Bishop, it was Watson who lost the most.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.