Punch Shot: Should Tiger be a Ryder Cup pick?

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 8, 2014, 11:00 pm

Tiger Woods missed the cut at the 96th PGA Championship and will not finish among the nine automatic qualfiers for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Captain Tom Watson has three wild-card picks to make on Sept. 2. Should he use one on Woods? The GolfChannel.com team weighs in from Valhalla Golf Club.

By REX HOGGARD

The 96th PGA Championship was always going to be a Hail Mary for Tiger Woods, an 11th-hour attempt to salvage a season that has been on life-support since he missed the 54-hole cut at the Farmers Insurance Open.

For Woods it was a scrambling attempt to play his way into the PGA Tour playoffs with an eye toward earning a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team in September. The result, however, was two more mediocre rounds, an assortment of new questions about his health and a very difficult decision for U.S. captain Tom Watson.

Whether Woods will be a captain’s pick is an esoteric debate for the coming weeks. Whether he should be a pick is a far easier choice. The former world No. 1 has done nothing to prove that he is either a) playing well, or b) healthy, which was Watson’s criteria early and often when asked if he’d make him a pick.

Woods is currently 69th on the Ryder Cup point list, and hasn’t finished better than 25th anywhere in the world this year. He has broken par just once since March and, most concerning of all, hobbled his way to another missed cut on Friday at Valhalla Golf Club.

None of that passes Capt. Tom’s litmus test.


By JASON SOBEL

Tiger Woods should absolutely be a captain’s pick – if we’re talking about the captain of his yacht and he’s considering an offseason ocean cruise.

But the Ryder Cup? No way. This is the same guy who just spent two days losing to senior tour players and club pros. The same guy who just last weekend walked off the course because of back pain. The same guy who is only four months removed from surgery and looks like he could use another four months on the couch before coming back.

Woods’ health clearly isn’t where it needs to be right now, especially for an event where 11 teammates – not to mention the rest of the country – are relying on him. And here’s the real kicker: Even if he is able to get his back pain-free in the next six weeks, his game is still pretty far from Ryder Cup form.

So, no, of course Tiger shouldn’t be named to the team when selections are made on Sept. 2.

You know what he could use instead? Maybe a nice relaxing few weeks on an ocean cruise.


By RYAN LAVNER

A captain’s pick is meant to supplement the rest of the team. Maybe that’s a guy who has experience in team competition, or who catches fire at the right time, or who holes the most putts.

Four starts after back surgery, Tiger Woods offers … what, exactly?

Not leadership – Woods has enjoyed incredible success because of his singular focus, but he hasn’t always played well with others. Not good form – his missed cut at the PGA ended what (very) slim chance he had of extending his season. And certainly not good health – he rushed back for the PGA after another injury setback, and he labored around Valhalla like a marathoner on his 24th mile. At this point, not even a six-week layoff can fix all that ails Woods.

Sure, newbies like Ryan Moore, Brendon Todd and Chris Kirk might melt in the crucible of the Ryder Cup. They still offer something to the team that Woods can’t – hope.  


By JAY COFFIN

Tom Watson absolutely should not pick Tiger Woods for the U.S. Ryder Cup squad. Woods' current form has no redeeming Cup qualities and he would be both a distraction and a liability.

It’s sad, but I’ve seen enough the past month. Think about it: Woods likely wouldn’t be well enough to comfortably play 36 holes a day the first two days, no matter how much his health improves over the next six weeks. And Watson could not, under any circumstances, put Woods in foursomes. He’s driving it so erratically that you couldn’t saddle him with anyone, like a Matt Kuchar-type, who Woods paired with successfully last year at the Presidents Cup.

Woods has shown the past few years that he’s grown fonder of the cup events, but that still doesn’t mean his presence is a huge boost in the team room. Couple that with the state of his game and the decision is simple.

If he's ultimately picked it’ll only be because his name is Tiger Woods. It won’t be because he did anything to warrant it.


By JASON CROOK

The only thing Tiger Woods’ presence will help this September at Gleneagles is TV ratings and interest in the Ryder Cup. Last time I checked, Tom Watson is the captain of the U.S. team, not a television executive.

So if I’m him, there’s no way you can pick an unhealthy 38-year-old coming off back surgery, who hasn’t been close to contending this year and has a 13-14-2 all-time Ryder Cup record, and somehow claim it’s for the good of the team.

The U.S. will already enter this event as big underdogs; if Watson puts Woods on the team it will send a message to the rest of his players that they aren’t really there to win. They might as well not even show up.

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Sergio can now 'relax and trust it' after Masters win

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 4:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Sergio Garcia says he didn’t let down his guard after winning the Masters and coast through the rest of the PGA Tour season.

If anything, he says, he burned more to win after claiming his first major championship title last spring.

“I was hungry or hungrier than I was before,” Garcia said while preparing for his first PGA Tour start of 2018 at the Honda Classic. “It doesn't change ... After the Masters, from The Players until probably the middle of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, I wanted to do well so badly.”

Garcia said his push to build on that Masters win probably caused him to be more erratic, trying to make things happen.


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“That's why my game would be very good a couple of rounds, and then a couple of rounds not quite as good, for putting that extra pressure,” Garcia said. “And then when I started to kind of relax and say, ‘You know, just keep doing what you're doing, you're playing well, you're playing great, just trust it and keep at it.’ That's when things started coming along a little bit easier.”

That “relax and trust it” attitude helped Garcia win the Andalucia Valderrama Masters in the fall and the Singapore Open last month.

After 15 years with TaylorMade, Garcia agreed late last year to a new multi-year equipment deal with Callaway, to play their balls and equipment.

Garcia on making the transition: “It was very easy, I think, for a couple of reasons. One of them, I moved to a great company that makes great equipment, and second of all, usually, I get used to new equipment quite easily, even in my old brand. I used to be one of the first ones to change the new equipment.”

Garcia played the Chrome Soft X when he won in Singapore.

“It hasn't been a stressful move or anything like that,” Garcia said. “I really love the golf ball. I think the golf ball, for me, it's been a step forward from the past years.”

Win or not, this will be a big spring for Garcia. His wife, Angela, is expecting their first child in March.

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For better or worse, golf attracting the mainstream crowd

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 4:26 pm

A split second after Bubba Watson launched his tee shot at the par-4 10th hole on Sunday at Riviera Country Club the relative calm was shattered by one overly enthusiastic, and probably over-served, fan.

“Boom goes the dynamite!” the fan yelled.

Watson ignored the attention seeker, adhering to the notion it’s best not to make eye contact. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to turn a deaf ear.

The last few weeks on the PGA Tour have been particularly raucous, first with the circuit’s annual stop at the “world’s largest outdoor cocktail party,” which is also known as the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and then last week in Los Angeles, where Tiger Woods was making his first start since 2006 and just his second of this season.

Fans crowded in five and six people deep along fairways and around greens to get a glimpse at the 14-time major champion, to cheer and, with increasing regularity, to push the boundaries of acceptable behavior at a golf tournament.

“I guess it's a part of it now, unfortunately. I wish it wasn't, I wish people didn't think it was so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we're trying to hit shots and play,” said Justin Thomas, who was grouped with Woods for the first two rounds at Riviera.



Although overzealous fans are becoming the norm, there’s a particularly rowdy element that has been drawn to the course by Woods’ return from injury. Even last month at Torrey Pines, which isn’t known as one of the Tour’s more boisterous stops, galleries were heard with increasing regularity.

But then Tiger has been dealing with chaotic crowds since he began rewriting the record books in the late-1990s, and it’s easy to dismiss the chorus of distractions. But it turns out that is as inaccurate as it is inconsiderate.

“It might have been like this the whole Tiger-mania and these dudes, but I swear, playing in front of all that, [Woods] gives up half a shot a day on the field,” reasoned Rory McIlroy, who was also grouped with Tiger for Rounds 1 and 2 last week. “It's two shots a tournament he has to give to the field because of all that goes on around him. ...  I need a couple Advil, I've got a headache after all that.”

There’s always been a price to pay for all of the attention that’s followed Woods’ every step, but McIlroy’s take offered new context. How many more events could Tiger have won if he had played in front of galleries that didn’t feel the need to scream the first thing that crossed their mind?

“It's cost me a lot of shots over the years. It's cost me a few tournaments here and there,” allowed Woods after missing the cut at Riviera. “I've dealt with it for a very long time.”

For Woods, the ubiquitous, “Get in the hole,” shriek has simply been an occupational hazard, the burden that he endured. What’s changed in recent years is that behavior has expanded beyond Tiger’s gallery.

While officials two weeks ago at the Waste Management Phoenix Open happily announced attendance records – 719,179 made their way to TPC Scottsdale for the week – players quietly lamented the atmosphere, specifically around the 16th hole that has become particularly harsh in recent years.

“I was a little disappointed in some of the stuff that was said and I don't want much negativity – the normal boos for missing a green, that's fine, but leave the heckling to a minimum and make it fun, support the guys out playing,” Rickie Fowler said following his second round at TPC Scottsdale.

What used to be an entertaining one-off in Phoenix is becoming standard fare, with players bracing for a similar atmosphere this week at PGA National’s 17th hole, and that’s not sitting well with the rank and file.

“I guess they just think it's funny. It might be funny to them, and obviously people think of it differently and I could just be overreacting, but when people are now starting to time it wrong and get in people's swings is just completely unacceptable really,” Thomas said in Los Angeles. “We're out here playing for a lot of money, a lot of points, and a lot of things can happen, and you would just hate to see in the future something happen down the line because of something like that.”

This issue reared its rowdy head at the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah, and again two years ago at Hazeltine National. Combine thousands of patriotic fans with a cash bar and what you end up with is an atmosphere closer to Yankee Stadium in October than Augusta National in April.

It’s called mainstream sports, which golf has always aspired to until the raucous underbelly runs through the decorum stop signs that golf clings to.

This is not an endorsement or a justification for the “Mashed Potatoes” guy – Seriously, dude, what does that even mean? – and it seems just a matter of time before someone yells something at the wrong moment and costs a player a title.

But this is mainstream sports. It’s not pretty, it’s certainly not quiet and maybe it’s not for golf. But this is where the game now finds itself.

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Nicklaus eager to help USGA rein in golf ball distance

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 3:16 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Jack Nicklaus heard words that warmed his heart over dinner Sunday with USGA executive director Mike Davis.

He said Davis pledged to address the distance the golf ball is flying and the problems Nicklaus believes the distance explosion is creating in the game.

“I'm happy to help you,” Nicklaus told Davis. “I've only been yelling at you for 40 years.”

Nicklaus said he first confronted the USGA in 1977 over ball and distance issues.

In a meeting with reporters at the Honda Classic Tuesday, Nicklaus basically blamed the ball for the troubles the game faces today, from slow play and sagging participation to soaring costs to play the game.

Nicklaus brought up the ball when asked about slow play.

“The golf ball is the biggest culprit of that,” Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus said the great distance gains players enjoy today is stretching courses, and that’s slowing play. He singled out one company when asked about push back from manufacturers over proposals to roll back the distance balls can fly.

“You can start with Titleist,” Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus would like to see the USGA and R&A roll back the distance today’s ball flies by 20 percent. He said that would put driving distances back to what they were in the mid-‘90s, but he believes Titleist is the manufacturer most opposed to any roll back.

“Titleist controls the game,” Nicklaus said. “And I don't understand why Titleist would be against it. I know they are, but I don't understand why you would be against it. They make probably the best product. If they make the best product, whether it's 20 percent shorter ... What difference would it make? Their market share isn't going to change a bit. They are still going to dominate the game."

A Titleist representative declined to comment when reached by Golf Channel.

“For the good of the game, we need to play this game in about three-and-a-half hours on a daily basis," Nicklaus said. "All other sports on television and all other sports are played in three hours, usually three hours or less – except for a five-set tennis match – but all the other games are played in that.

“It's not about [Titleist]. It's about the people watching the game and the people that are paying the tab. The people paying the tab are the people that are buying that television time and buying all the things that happen out there. Those are the people that you've got to start to look out for.

“And the growth of the game of golf, it's not going to grow with the young kids. Young kids don't have five hours to play golf. Young kids want instant gratification.”

Davis said last month that increased distance is not "necessarily good for the game." R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers added earlier this month in relation to the same topic, "We have probably crossed that line."

Nicklaus said he would like to see golf courses and golf balls rated, so that different courses could be played with different rated balls. For example, a ball rolled back “70 percent” would fit courses rated for that ball. He said players could still play those courses with a 100 percent ball, but handicapping could be factored into the game so players could compete using differently rated balls.

“And so then if a guy wants to play with a 90 or 100 percent golf ball, it makes it shorter and faster for him to play,” Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus believes rating balls like that would make shorter courses more playable again. He believes creating differently rated balls would also make more money for ball manufacturers.

“Then you don't have any obsolete golf courses.” Nicklaus said. “Right now we only have one golf course that's not obsolete, as I said earlier [Augusta National], in my opinion.”

Nicklaus said Davis seemed to like the rated ball idea.

“The USGA was all over that, incidentally,” Nicklaus said.

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Sponsored: Callaway's Chrome Soft, from creation to the course

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 21, 2018, 2:38 pm

Those boxes of Callaway Chrome Soft and Chrome Soft X golf balls that you see on the shelf orignated somewhere. But where? The answer is Chicopee, Mass., a former Spalding golf ball plant that Callaway Golf purchased 15 years ago.

The plant was built in 1915 for manufacturing automobiles, and was converted to make ballistics during WWII. Currently, it makes some of the finest golf balls in the industry.

Eventually, those balls will be put into play by both professionals and amateurs. But the journey, from creation to the course, is an intriguing one.

In this Flow Motion video, Callaway Golf shows you in creative fashion what it's like for these balls to be made and played. Check it out!