Watson picks Bradley, Mahan, Simpson for U.S. team

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 2, 2014, 11:30 pm

There was an unmistakable theme Tuesday night with U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson’s three wild-card picks. 

Redemption.

Live from NBC’s famous Studio 8H – the home of “Saturday Night Live” in New York City – Watson announced that Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson would round out the 12-man team that likely will be a significant underdog when the biennial matches begin Sept. 26-28 in Scotland.

Bradley, 28, seemed destined for a pick months ago. Though winless since August 2012, he recorded six top-10 finishes this season and possesses the kind of aerial attack that should play well at Gleneagles. Still fresh in many fans’ minds is Bradley’s spirited play alongside Phil Mickelson during the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah, when the duo combined to go 3-0 while energizing the crowd.

It still wasn’t enough for a U.S. victory, as the Americans saw a 10-6 lead disappear on the final day in one of the most dramatic finishes in tournament history. 

“I made no secret of how important this team is to me, and how bad I want to go back and win the Ryder Cup,” Bradley said. “This is a redemption year for guys who were on the team (in 2012). It’s going to be an unbelievable trip over to Scotland.” 

Mahan, 32, sealed his spot on his third team with his superb play over the past month, when he ran off three consecutive top-15 finishes, including a victory at the playoff-opening Barclays. 

Plus, Watson said, “Match play seems to be his forte.”

Mahan is a former winner of the WGC-Match Play Championship, but he has scar tissue of his own. He was one of the central figures during the Americans' last trip overseas in 2010, when in the final match against Graeme McDowell he stubbed a chip on the 17th hole to give Europe a one-point victory. He was left off the 2012 team. 



“I think ‘redemption’ is going to be a strong word amongst all the players,” he said, before adding: “For some reason losing lingers. It hangs with you. It still bites at you a little bit.” 

Like Bradley, Simpson was also part of the 2012 team in Chicago. The 29-year-old went 2-0 in four-balls with long-hitting partner Bubba Watson, the No. 1 points-earner for this year’s squad.

Watson admitted that the final decision came to him Monday morning, when perusing the results from the most recent matches. 

“I had a revelation,” he said. “I said, ‘That’s gotta be the guy.’”

The list of disappointed players is a long one.

Bill Haas and Chris Kirk warranted serious consideration – Haas for his good standing with his Tour frat brothers, Kirk for his 11th-hour victory in Boston. Of the six multiple winners this season, Kirk, 29, is the only one who will not participate in the Ryder Cup.

“It was a difficult phone call to talk to Chris today,” Watson said. “He said, ‘Well, if there’s any consolation, just after I won a golf tournament I can take this bad news a little bit better.’ He took it like a man.”

Other players left playing the “what if?” game included Brandt Snedeker, one of the world’s best putters but a player who missed his last two cuts in the FedEx Cup playoffs; Ryan Moore, a decorated match-play performer in his amateur days and a winner earlier this season in Malaysia; and Ryan Palmer, who led both the PGA Championship and Deutsche Bank in the early stages. 

With both teams now set, the U.S. (16.3) has the edge over Europe (18.6) in terms of the players’ average world ranking, but the home team (13) has collected more worldwide titles this year than the American players (nine).

Looking to give the U.S. side a spark, the PGA of America went outside the box with the selection of Watson, who turns 65 later this month. He was the captain the last time the Americans won on foreign soil, in 1993. The U.S. has lost five of the past six Ryder Cups, though each of the past two matches has been decided by one point.  

“There are a lot of players starting to play well from the American side, and that’s a good thing,” Watson said. “We’re going to need it – the European team, on paper, is being touted as the favorites. But I have a fundamental belief in our team, and more importantly our players have a fundamental belief in themselves that they can go and win the Ryder Cup.” 

Getty Images

Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

Getty Images

Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

Getty Images

Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

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

RISING

Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



FALLING

Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

Getty Images

Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”