Stock Watch: Eur up; Watson and Watson down

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 30, 2014, 6:05 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

European dominance (+10%): We expected a blowout and that’s precisely what we got, thanks to sublime and timely play from nearly every member of the European team. The Euros will lose again on home soil eventually, but man, at this rate, it might not be for another quarter-century.   

Europe’s Big 3 (+9%): Justin Rose (3-0-2) was the man of the match, but Europe also benefited from impressive performances by Graeme McDowell, who went 3-0 while shepherding rookie Victor Dubuisson around Gleneagles, and Rory McIlroy, who authored a fitting end to a historic summer, going 2-1-2 and royally thrashing Rickie Fowler in singles. 

Paul Azinger (+7%): Why wait until the end of the year to announce his appointment? He’s the guy, for 2016 AND ’18.

P-Reed (+6%): Emotional. Unpredictable. Fiery. He’s everything that the U.S. team has lacked for so many years. Best to fully embrace him now, because he’s not going anywhere.    

Paul McGinley (+5%): Meticulously prepared, he pitched a near-perfect game during his Ryder Cup captaincy, from his thoughtful news conferences to his wild-card picks to his handling of the rookies. It’s no coincidence that he went 6-0 as a player, assistant and captain.  

V-Dub (+4%): Sure, Ryder Cup stars have flamed out before, but at 24 Dubuisson seems poised to become Europe’s next big sensation.  

Phil (+3%): Seething about being benched, frustrated by another loss and smart enough to know that back-room bickering and anonymous sources won’t elicit change, Mickelson acted as the team spokesman when he called out Watson to his face with the whole world watching. It was, in a word, perfect.

Jordan Spieth (+1%): His singles match set the tone for yet another U.S. loss, but Spieth found a longtime partner in Reed and should have plenty of motivation for Hazeltine.


FALLING

News conferences (-1%): Is it a bad sign that the post-match pressers were more riveting than any of the action that preceded it? OK, thought so. 

Ian Poulter (-2%): His Ryder Cup legend took a hit with a pedestrian performance at Gleneagles. Coming off arguably the worst year of his career, and turning 40 in January 2016, it’s not a stretch to wonder whether he has played his last cup.

Ted Bishop (-3%): The PGA should be applauded for its outside-the-box thinking, but don’t forget that it was the outgoing president who coveted Watson. At least we know significant changes are forthcoming. When that happens Bishop and his decision to break from tradition for 2014 may deserve some of the credit.

Presidents Cup (-4%): Maybe the “Redeem Team” was just waiting to reassert its dominance in South Korea.

Bubba (-5%): The only U.S. player who failed to record a point in Scotland, Watson better hope he qualifies on his own for future Ryder Cup teams, because no captain will be foolish enough to pick him based on his record (3-8) or his belief that he’s “too nice” for the biennial matches. 

Nick Faldo (-6%): Oh, the irony in him calling Sergio “useless” during the 2008 matches at Valhalla (after Garcia had recently broken up with his longtime girlfriend). Sir Nick is widely considered one of the worst European captains in recent memory and remains the only one to lose this century.

U.S. team uniforms (-7%): Hey, at least the players are covered for this year’s ugly sweater parties.

Tom Watson (-10%): He made virtually no effort to get to know his players during the run-up to the cup, offered head-scratching rationales for his wild-card picks and butchered several of the key decisions at Gleneagles. There’s no other way to put it: His captaincy was a complete and utter disaster.

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McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

“I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.” 

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Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

“This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson. 

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?