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.

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.

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With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."