Punch Shot: Will Watson's decision work for U.S.?

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 20, 2013, 3:32 pm

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson has decided to trim his wild-card picks from four to three for the 2014 competition at Gleneagles in Scotland. We asked our GolfChannel.com writers if the change is a good or bad move for the U.S. squad, or if it doesn't matter.


At best, Tom Watson’s decision to have three captain’s picks for next year’s Ryder Cup, instead of four, has a shotgun solution feel, a move to do anything to stop the American side’s slide into irrelevance. At worst, it feels like change for the sake of change.

Either way, Captain America’s adjustment to the selection process will have little, if any, impact on the 2014 matches in Scotland. That may sound defeatist, but consider the facts.

Under Paul Azinger’s retooled selection process the U.S. has a victory (16 ½ – 11 ½) in 2008, a narrow loss in Wales (14 ½ – 13 ½) in 2010, and a meltdown at Medinah (14 ½ – 13 ½) in 2012.

If that doesn’t exactly sound like a winning formula consider that before Azinger’s handiwork the U.S. was on a 1-for-6 losing streak and had dropped consecutive matches in ’06 and ’04 by a combined 18 points. By any measure, the practice of picking four players over two was progress.

Which brings us to the real question: Why change?

If Watson wants players who are on form heading into next year’s bout then pick Nos. 1 through 9 off the points list. Or Nos. 1 through 12, for that matter, but limiting your options by giving up a potential pick defies logic.

The U.S. must do something to wrest the red, white and blue off the schneid, but changing the number of picks available to Watson feels more like window dressing.


It's too narrow of a viewpoint to claim that Tom Watson's reduction from four captain's picks to three doesn't matter.

Just last year, Hunter Mahan would have made the team as the ninth automatic qualifier. This would've altered the dynamic of the roster, as one of the four picks wouldn't have been there.

How would this have changed the result? That's obviously a hypothetical question which can't be answered. Maybe Mahan would have caught fire and been the key to a U.S. victory; maybe he would have performed worse than whomever he replaced on the team. We don't know.

And that's why we can't say for certain today whether Watson's decision was a good one or a bad one. It will matter if it results in a player making the team who otherwise wouldn't have been picked. But we'll have to wait another year-and-a-half to find out if it was a beneficial move.


Bad move.

Here is Tom Watson, on March 15, 2013, just five days ago, on the overriding theme for how he would comprise his U.S. Ryder Cup team: “Are (players) on the upswing or downswing?”

Today, Watson says he’s trimming his number of captain’s picks, from four to three.

Am I missing something here? If you want the hottest players on your team, don’t you prefer more picks, not fewer?

Last year, Hunter Mahan, a two-time winner earlier in the season, struggled with his game for months, slipped from first to ninth and didn’t make the team on points. Didn’t get picked by the captain, either.

Under Watson’s format, he would have made the team. No offense to Mahan, but he hadn’t finished in the top 10 since April. That’s a player on the “downswing,” to use Watson’s word.

In the Ryder Cup, the more captain’s selections, the better – especially if you want to identify players on the “upswing.”


Tom Watson’s instincts have won a lot of major events over the years, but this Ryder Cup change feels like a tee shot into the rough.

Maybe it ends up being a good lie, but we won’t know until we see the lie, until we see who is the No. 9 automatic qualifier. It feels like a shot in the rough only because Watson stated his aim is getting players who are in good form going to the Ryder Cup. If Watson’s plan was in effect last year, Hunter Mahan would have made the team. While that ultimately might have worked well for captain Davis Love III, Mahan was not in good form in the few months leading up to the Ryder Cup. Four captain’s picks allows more leeway in picking a hot player who isn't an automatic qualifier.


Much like a football coach trimming his staff of assistants after a couple losing seasons, Tom Watson’s decision to move from four captain’s picks to three seems like change simply for the sake of change, and ultimately it doesn't matter that much.

While this decision will certainly bolster the cause of armchair quarterbacks speculating about how last year’s event might have been different with Hunter Mahan in the mix, at the end of the day, the matches will not be won or lost when Watson names the team’s final members. Whether the captain has two, three, four or 12 picks at his disposal, the event week is what inevitably will carry most – if not all – of the weight.

Moving forward, players are well aware of the position they need to reach in order to qualify for Gleneagles, and three selections will still allow Watson to put his personal stamp on the squad, with plenty of room still available to add the late-charging “hot hand.” Regardless of how the next 18 months play out, the U.S. will take a talented group of players to Scotland. What they do once they get there will be far more important than the process by which they earned their ticket.

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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.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.