Punch Shot: Presidents Cup man of the match?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 7, 2013, 8:23 pm

Another Presidents Cup is in the books and so is another U.S. victory. While Tiger Woods' stellar play lead the Americans, was there a unsung hero who was overshadowed? And the Internationals tried their best to cut into a large deficit on Sunday, led by Jason Day and Graham DeLaet. So who was the MVP for both teams? GolfChannel.com writers debate.


By REX HOGGARD

Considering the amount of rain that swamped Muirfield Village during the Presidents Cup, most would agree Paul Latshaw, the club’s taskmaster superintendent, was the man of the match.

Picking each team’s MVP, however, is not so clear cut.

For the winning U.S. side, Tiger Woods gets the nod. The world No. 1 was the leading points earner for the home team (four) and secured the winning point for the third consecutive Presidents Cup with his 1-up victory over Richard Sterne; while part-timer Steve Stricker (3-2-0) deserves a solid honorable mention for his play and the way he partnered with newcomer Jordan Spieth.

Despite another loss for the Internationals, there was a silver lining amid the gloom that blanketed Muirfield Village.

Jason Day and Graham DeLaet would have to share man of the match honors for captain Nick Price’s squad. Day, whose debut in Australia two years ago was less than stellar, teamed brilliantly with the Canadian and rolled over Brandt Snedeker in singles play, 6 and 4.

As for DeLaet, in the quest to find some sort of parity in the biennial blowout, the newcomer had all the markings of a game-changer. Infused with energy and effortless ballstriking, he ignited the crowd early Sunday when he chipped in for birdie at the 18th hole to halve his foursome match against Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley. Hours later he capped his first Presidents Cup with another chip-in birdie at the last for a 1-up singles victory over Spieth.


By JASON SOBEL

It wasn’t a vintage Tiger Woods performance this past week for the U.S. – quite frankly, he played better at both Harding Park and Royal Melbourne – but as we’ve seen plenty of times in the past, even something less than his best is often still good enough.

The lone competitor to earn four points at Muirfield Village, he deserves the honor in a not-so-close race over Jason Dufner, Bill Haas and Matt Kuchar.

Speaking of Kuchar – and stop me if you’ve heard this one before – perhaps the most important thing to come out of this week was that Tiger now looks like he’s got a formidable partner going forward. I know, I know. We said the same thing about Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker, too, but it would be very surprising if he and Kuchar aren’t pegging it together at Gleneagles next year.

For the losing squad, it was Graham Delaet. In their news conference after the loss, the International team sounded as if it had gathered to pay homage to its lone Canadian member. Nick Price sang the praises of DeLaet. So did Jason Day and Ernie Els. And why not? He’s a likeable guy who becomes even more likeable when he’s winning points for your team.

It wasn’t just that he won, though. DeLaet displayed a flair for the dramatic that we haven’t seen at a team competition in years. On Sunday morning, he earned a halve with Day by chipping in on the final hole of their foursomes match against Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley. Later that afternoon, he holed a bunker shot to defeat Jordan Spieth in singles.

There aren’t many players who hit their best shots when the pressure was at its peak, but DeLaet was able to do that. Els, Day and Brendon De Jonge all played well, but these honors go to the Canadian.


By RANDALL MELL

This would’ve been an easy week for Tiger Woods to put his game on cruise control, but he grinded hard winning more points than any other player in this Presidents Cup.

It was just two weeks ago that Woods confessed to playing under “tired” legs at the Tour Championship. It has been a long season, tough on his body with back, neck and elbow issues. Still, Woods, 37, played all five matches this past week through aggravating stop-and-start conditions with three rain delays. Most impressively, he played in three different matches on Saturday, the suspended finish to foursomes, a fourball match and a suspended start to the next foursomes session. Woods helped deliver two points and accounted for seven birdies and an eagle over 31 holes on that very long day.

In the end, with his back finally giving out on the back nine in Sunday singles, Woods still delivered the clinching point for the Americans. As much grief as he has received in these international events over the year, big-time credit is due for the commitment this past week.

Graham DeLaet's introduction to the Presidents Cup was distinguished by his closing skills. He didn't finish like a rookie in these team matches and that makes him the man of the match for the Internationals.

The Canadian chipped in at the 18th Sunday morning to gain a half point for his team in the conclusion of a suspended foursomes match and holed out from a greenside bunker there in the afternoon's singles to secure a 1-up win over American upstart Jordan Spieth. DeLaet's 3-1-1 mark equaled Jason Day for most points won on the International side. 

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.”

Getty Images

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.” 

Getty Images

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.