Punch Shot: Who should be on Ryder Cup task force?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 14, 2014, 8:00 pm

The PGA of America announced its Ryder Cup task force Tuesday. Paul Azinger, the most recent victorious U.S. captain, was noticiably missing. GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with other names who should have been part of the panel.


Johnny Miller.

Few have seen the Americans’ futility up close quite like the NBC Sports analyst. With NBC first televising the event in 1991, Miller has been in the booth for eight of the 10 U.S. losses. (Phil Mickelson, for instance, has been on every team since ’95.) In a setting that might be uncomfortable for current players to criticize their contemporaries, Miller would have no qualms analyzing, critiquing and providing insight – after all, it’s his job.

Though he occasionally will swing and miss, at least give Miller credit that he’s not afraid to speak his mind. With virtually everything on the table – captains, picks, event-week activities – this is the time to bring in a constructive, critical, authoritative voice in an effort to initiate change.


One problem with this newly formed task force is that it's trying to procure a culture of winning by gathering a group of players and officials who haven't won.

There's a certain chicken-or-the-egg conundrum going on here. Like the recent college grad who can't get a job because he doesn't have experience, the U.S. team is trying to learn how to win without having done so.

The answer is that the task force shouldn't be comprised solely of individuals who have been involved in past Ryder Cups. It should include a business leader, a proven winner from another sport, even a military strategist, if the PGA wants to get this serious.

I'll steal a page from ESPN's Jay Bilas, who tweeted after the U.S. loss at Gleneagles that Jerry Colangelo, the man responsible for the swift comeback of USA Basketball, should be part of this committee.

The team has looked inward for too long. It's time for an outsider's perspective. Someone who has already returned a winning tradition would evoke the right message.


When the PGA of America’s task force to reinvent the U.S. Ryder Cup team assembles to address the American side’s issues there will be a broad cross section of experiences to pull from.

From former captains to current and future players the PGA has covered almost every contingency. Almost.

Kerry Haigh has been with the PGA since 1989 in various roles from golf course set-up man to his current designation as chief championships officer. Only Mickelson, who played in his 10th Ryder Cup last month, comes close to Haigh’s longevity and institutional insight.

Long considered one of the best at setting up championship caliber golf courses, Haigh has also become a team room staple.

The mandate for the task force is to examine the entire Ryder Cup process, including the schedule of events during the week of the matches. Few, if any, understand the nuances of Ryder Cup week as well as Haigh.

And if all that wasn’t enough, consider that the task force’s mission is to essentially figure out what the Europeans do so well. Haigh, an Englishman, might be a good place to start asking.


Paul Azinger is obvious. How is it possible he isn’t on this task force?

He’s such a glaring absence it almost discredits the whole task force venture. His absence seems symptomatic of the PGA’s larger Ryder Cup problem. Whatever is actually behind the disconnect between Azinger and the PGA of America on this issue should trouble other task force members. Whatever kept Azinger off this task force ought to be something addressed as potentially a larger problem in the entire organizational failure that is the American Ryder Cup effort. If Azinger simply declined, why? Something’s not right there and just might be something that needs to be fixed.

And then there’s Fred Couples.

When did he officially become the PGA’s red-headed step child? Yes, obviously, there is politics at play with Couples taking a Presidents Cup captaincy before the Ryder Cup was offered, but he just as obviously has something important to offer the task force after leading the last three American teams to victories at the Presidents Cup. And what about Ben Crenshaw? Leaders who have actually won international team events might have something important to offer.


If I’m adding to the PGA of America’s newfound task force, the first call I make is to the Ol' Ball Coach.

Steve Spurrier may be busy coaching South Carolina’s football team, but he knows plenty about winning and as a single-digit handicap (not to mention Augusta National member), he knows enough golf to be a productive addition to the group.

More importantly, Spurrier knows how to coach a team, and he is an expert at the mental side of things – both motivating his squad and rattling his opponent. He has even reportedly taken the mind games to the course himself, where he has yet to lose a match to a Gamecock player, former or current.

With the creation of the task force the Euros smell blood in the water, and the Americans are admitting at least a bit of vulnerability in the biennial affair. A jolt to the system may be needed, and a fresh perspective from outside the game could provide it. If nothing else, Spurrier’s presence would liven up the proceedings at any task force presser.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.