Punch Shot: Who should captain Watson pick?

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 2, 2014, 12:45 am

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson makes his three wild-card picks Tuesday night in New York. Who will he take? That won't be announced until 7 p.m. ET (on Golf Channel). Who should he pick? Our writers offer some advice.


Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan, Billy Horschel.

Bradley is the no-brainer pick of the trio, given not just his form this season but his potential pairing with Phil Mickelson. He eats, breathes and sleeps the Ryder Cup, and Tom Watson could use as many of those guys as possible.

Mahan makes sense, too, after his playoff-opening victory at The Barclays and back-to-back top-15s at Bridgestone and the PGA. More than that, though, it’s worth exploring the redemption factor. During the last Ryder Cup overseas he was America’s last hope in the final match against Graeme McDowell, and his chunked chip has been replayed hundreds of times since.

Despite his ghastly chunk on the 18th hole Monday, I’d also take Horschel. He’d be the U.S. team’s Ian Poulter – screaming, fist-pumping, eyes bulging. All along Tom Watson has said that he wants guys on his team who have “heart.” Billy Horschel’s is roughly five times the normal size.


If silence is golden the only certainty heading into Tuesday’s U.S. Ryder Cup picks is that captain Tom Watson could go anywhere with his selections. But where he should go is straight to Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Chris Kirk.

Although Bradley is more than two years removed from his last PGA Tour victory, his play at the 2012 matches, when he went undefeated paired with Phil Mickelson, is proof enough he has the match-play goods and his fiery demeanor make him the U.S. side’s answer to Ian Poulter.

As for Mahan, his victory at The Barclays broke an inexplicable winless drought and his record at the WGC-Match Play – where he has finished first, second and T-9 the last three years – is proof of his match-play prowess.

As for Kirk, who would be a rookie on the team, Paul Azinger’s entire motivation in 2008 when he overhauled the U.S. selection process was to put a focus on the hot player and after his victory at TPC Boston Kirk is simmering. That he played the final round at the Deutsche Bank Championship paired with Rory McIlroy, who will be the European side’s team leader, is also worth noting.

To put Kirk’s performance on Monday in context, he would have beaten McIlroy, 4 and 3.


In the immortal words of former Ryder Cup captains Snoop Dogg, Ice-T and Big Daddy Kane: Pickin’ ain’t easy.

That’s about all I know in assessing Tom Watson’s recent role, one which will culminate with him selecting three captain’s picks to the U.S. squad on Tuesday.

I’m a firm believer that picks should be players who will best help the team win, rather than simply a reward for who barely missed automatically qualifying or played well in the past few weeks. And yet, guys who I like – fiery competitors such as Billy Horschel and Erik Compton – just didn’t do enough to make me feel secure in picking them.

On the other hand, I also don’t think the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship should be a de facto Monday qualifier. Great win for Chris Kirk, but I don’t think that means he’s any better equipped to win points at Gleneagles than he was before.

So I’m going to split the difference with three players who I think give the team both a chance to earn points and have showed solid form as of late: Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson.

I don’t think there’s a “right” answer to the question of who should Watson select, but I can take heart in believing that these three very well might also be the answer as to who he will select on Tuesday, too.


Give me three players who have beaten nerves and formidable foes on grand stages.

Give me three players with some good form going for them.

Give me Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Hunter Mahan.

Bradley’s a major championship winner with Ryder Cup experience who will bring some fire to a potential pairing with Mickelson again. Bradley finished T-4 three times this summer and is coming off a T-16 at Deutsche Bank.

Simpson is another major championship winner who finished third at Greenbrier in July and T-5 at Wyndham and T-9 at Deutsche Bank over the last month.

Mahan just won Barclays and has Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup experience. Stage presence without form doesn’t matter. Form without stage presence can work. But I’m liking my chances better with both.


While Tom Watson doesn’t exactly have a bevy of viable candidates for his three picks, the names I would pull out of the hat would be Keegan Bradley, Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka.

Bradley seems like the consensus pick – a team guy who pairs well with Phil Mickelson and who, if Medinah is any indication, thrives under the pressure and the spotlight of the Ryder Cup.

He’s a major champion, has had a solid if unspectacular season, and his length off the tee will be an asset in early matches.

While Snedeker missed the cut in each of the first two playoff events, he reeled off a stretch of seven top-25 finishes in eight starts before that. I’m willing to chalk up some of his poor play in the last 10 days to fatigue, since his last off week was in mid-July. Snedeker’s putter is the key, as it has been heating up throughout the summer and an underdog American team will need someone that can go lights-out on the greens, a la Ian Poulter in 2012. Sneds could be that guy.

The Koepka pick won’t happen, but hey – this is about what should happen, right? The Americans face an uphill battle at Gleneagles, so if I’m Watson I get risky with my final addition and take a rising star.

He also happens to hit the ball a mile off the tee, has a pair of top-10 finishes in majors this year and having played the Challenge Tour in 2013, has more recent experience on the other side of the Atlantic than any other prospective pick.

Koepka could pair with fellow rookies Jordan Spieth or Patrick Reed and embrace the environment of matches on foreign soil like a football team traveling for a rivalry game in hostile territory.

I mean, since conventional pick methods haven’t fared that well over the past 10 years ...

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Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.

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McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, five shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.