Punch Shot: Biggest question marks at Ryder Cup

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 24, 2014, 12:45 pm

There are lots of unknowns entering the 40th Ryder Cup. Who are the biggest question marks on both sides? The GolfChannel.com team on site in Gleneagles, Scotland offers its opinion.


Phil Mickelson is the biggest question mark for the U.S. team.

I don’t mean that as a sign of disrespect to the 10-time Ryder Cupper, but coming off a FedEx Cup playoff run during which he often spoke of his frustrations before literally vanishing overnight, there’s no telling which Mickelson will show up this week at Gleneagles.

Throughout most of the year, he looked tired – and maybe even injured at times. But this event has a way of replenishing the fuel supply, and pairing with Keegan Bradley should get him as excited as he’s been in a long time.

For the European side, the biggest question mark is Victor Dubuisson.

The Frenchman has been deemed an enigma by teammates. He’s the wildest of wildcards that we’ve seen at the Ryder Cup in a long time, which is to say that he could thrive in the match play format and become a driving force for the Europeans, but he could also just as easily flame out under the intense spotlight of a high-pressure environment.

Dubuisson certainly has the short game and flair for the dramatic necessary to succeed here, but it remains to be seen whether the rookie can triumph in this type of atmosphere.


It’s tempting to say any of the American rookies. You don’t know how Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Jimmy Walker will react under Ryder Cup pressure for the first time. It’s also tempting to say Phil Mickelson, because Lefty is the most decorated American in the Ryder Cup ranks, but given Mickelson’s struggles this year, how much do we really expect? The biggest question mark is Jim Furyk. He’s a decorated and respected American veteran who will be expected to lead. And unlike Mickelson, Furyk brings very good form to Gleneagles. Furyk’s Ryder Cup record, though, isn’t good. He’s 9-17-4. He didn’t have a good Ryder Cup at Medinah two years ago, losing a pivotal match to Sergio Garcia in singles that helped the Euros mount their epic comeback. He has won just one match over the last two American Ryder Cup losses. If Furyk turns his Ryder Cup fortunes around, will the Americans follow suit? 

On the European side, Ian Poulter is the largest question mark. With his impressive Ryder Cup record (12-3), his aura and leadership role, Poulter is a symbol of European dominance. His form has been off this year, but it doesn't matter. He still embodies the European spirit in these matches. If Poulter goes down early and hard, will the Euros follow?


When U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson looks at Phil Mickelson it’s still not clear whether he sees a leader or a liability.

Lefty did, after all, go undefeated in team play in 2012 at Medinah paired with Keegan Bradley and has assumed the role of elder statesman in the U.S. locker room.

But he is also the same player who failed to qualify for the Tour Championship for the first time in his Hall of Fame career this season and if not for a late push at the PGA Championship would not have earned an automatic spot on this year’s Ryder Cup team.

Perhaps an even more concerning question for European captain Paul McGinley is what to expect from Ian Poulter, the wild-eyed magician of Medinah who has earned, as many of his contemporaries figured, a lifetime exemption onto the Continent’s team with his inspired play.

But the Englishman begins his fifth Ryder Cup in perhaps the worst form of his career, posting just a single top-10 finish on the PGA Tour in 2014. There is no question that McGinley should have made Poulter one of his captain’s picks, but there will be plenty of questions when he sets out on Friday.

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Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:

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Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

"The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

"You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

"But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."

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The Social: G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T.

By Jason CrookJanuary 23, 2018, 6:00 pm

Tom Brady compares himself to Tiger Woods, who coincidentally is returning to the PGA Tour this week, Jordan Spieth hangs out with some decent company and kids these days ruffle some feathers with their friendships.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

Well, it’s finally Farmers Insurance Open week and Woods has been spotted practicing for his official return to the PGA Tour on Thursday.

Some thought this day might never come after a 2017 filled with mostly downs for the 14-time major champ.

But as he has taught the golf world time and time again, you just can't count Tiger out.

So even as Jon Rahm attempts to overtake Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world this week at Torrey Pines, all eyes will be on one of the greatest we've ever seen do it, even if that guy is ranked No. 647 in the world.

Speaking of greatness …

There’s not many who can just offhandedly compare themselves to Tiger, but if anyone gets a pass, it’s Tom Brady.

The 40-year-old New England Patriots quarterback led his team back to the Super Bowl for the second straight year despite playing the AFC title game with a cut on his throwing hand.

When asked about it after the Patriots come-from-behind victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady answered, “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”

So there you have it. A 40-year-old Brady is winning AFC Championships with his C game. Good luck, Eagles; you’re going to need it.

Also, if for some reason you wanted an update on Justin Thomas' life, it's still awesome:

Yeah, that's last year's PGA Tour Player of the Year hanging with Cy Young winner Cory Kluber in a suite at the Patriots game and teasing us with a possible #SB2K18 cameo.

Curtis Strange likes his competitive golf straight up, hold the friendliness.

This, according to Curtis Strange.

The two-time U.S. Open champ took to Twitter during the CareerBuilder Challenge to vent his frustration regarding the constant chit-chat and friendliness between Rahm and Andrew Landry:

This, of course, makes sense in theory. But good luck watching golf – or really any sport – from here on out. Sure there will be a few old school guys who buck the trend here and there, but for the most part, it’s really hard to share a private jet/dinners/vacations/(insert awesome thing here) with someone, and then completely turn off the friendship coming down the stretch of a big tournament.

Damn millennials. They ruin everything.

By now you've all seen that poor Philadelphia Eagles fan who lost his battle with a subway station pillar (from multiple angles), so instead here is a video of a man attempting to stand on an egg. Bet you can't guess how that goes.

Tony's gonna stand on an egg

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Seriously if you haven't seen the video of that Eagles fan, here's your last chance in this column. You'll be glad you did.

Jordan Spieth, Michael Phelps and Bryce Harper walk on to a golf course … there’s no punchline, that actually happened last week in Las Vegas.

Was the whole thing just a big advertisement for Spieth’s new Under Armour shoe? You bet.

But that doesn’t make the optics of three of the biggest superstar athletes on the planet teeing it up for a round any less awesome.

Off to the next. #Spieth2 #TEAMUA

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The trio has three major wins, five All Star Game appearances and 28 Olympic medals between them, and there they were over the weekend just fake laughing for the camera and driving around individual golf carts with their own personalized logos on them.

Just guys being dudes. Nothing better than that.

Matt Kuchar. Still good at golf. Still overly polite. This according to European Tour pro Eddie Pepperell who had the privilege of hitting on the range next to Kuuuuuch in Abu Dhabi last week.

That image is burned into your brain forever now, thanks Eddie. From now on when you think of Kuchar you're going to think of those Sketches ads and "oopsies."

Which, I suppose is better than a, "Did you get that?"

Blayne Barber's caddie, Cory Gilmer, collapsed and hit his head while at a restaurant at the Sony Open and has been mostly unconscious in the neurological intensive care unit ever since.

The outpouring of love and support from the golf community has been overwhelming on social media, and a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the mounting medical costs for Gilmer and his family.

Check out the link below for more info or to donate to a worthy cause:

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Top-ranked amateur wins LAAC, earns Masters invite

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 5:38 pm

Joaquin Niemann walked Augusta National Golf Club as a patron last year. He’ll be a competitor in 2018.

Niemann, the top-ranked amateur in the world, shot 8-under 63 Tuesday at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Santiago, Chile, to win the Latin America Amateur Championship.

And with the title, both redemption and an invitation to the Masters Tournament.

Full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

Niemann finished runner-up in last year’s LAAC to fellow Chilean Toto Gana. He followed Gana around Augusta grounds, watching as his best friend played two rounds before missing the cut.

Niemann, who was going to turn professional had he not won this week, started the final round one back of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz. Niemann was sluggish from the start on Tuesday, but then drove the 313-yard, par-4 eighth and made the eagle putt. That sparked a run of five birdies over his next six holes.

Niemann was bogey-free in the final round and finished five shots clear of Ortiz, at 11 under.