Quest for the cup: Ryder Cup Q&A

By Jay CoffinSeptember 27, 2012, 2:43 pm

MEDINAH, Ill. – After months of hype and three days of practice rounds, the 39th Ryder Cup is nearly upon us. We gathered our team of experts on-site at Medinah to break down all the angles of this week’s matches.

Who will be the more effective captain?

COFFIN: Davis Love III has done nothing to make me believe he won’t be a great captain, but Jose Maria Olazabal gets the nod. Somehow, he’ll channel Seve Ballesteros and find a way to be masterful.

HOGGARD: Like coaches, captains receive too much credit when their team wins and too much grief for a loss. But if effort and emotion count for anything, the nod would have to go to Davis Love III. The road to his four picks was exhaustive, and he’s moved heaven and table-tennis tables this week in an effort to defuse golf’s most intense member-member.

MELL: Davis Love III brings a Ph.d in Ryder Cup Captainology. The man appears to have studied every move and every word of every American captain over the last two decades, but it all comes down to winning. Love has the two ingredients required to be the most effective skipper: great putters and home-field advantage.

LAVNER: Jose Maria Olazabal may be better able to inspire his team, evoking the memory of the late Seve Ballesteros, but Davis Love III is a better tactician. The U.S. team already has a few ready-made pairings (Tiger-Stricks, Phil-Keegan) and it’ll be Love’s unheralded groups – the ones he paired after much deliberation – that make the difference.


Which player on the U.S. side will have the worst record?

COFFIN: First instinct is to say Jim Furyk, since he hasn’t handled pressure well this summer and is the lowest-ranked player on the U.S. squad. But I’ll go with Jason Dufner. He seems calm, but this is a big stage for him.

HOGGARD: It won’t be from a lack of trying, but Jim Furyk will find the friendly confines of Medinah no more inviting than Celtic Manor was two years ago. Although he’s playing well and went 5-0 at last year’s Presidents Cup, a combination of bad timing and bad partners has produced this generation’s worst Ryder Cup record (8-15-4).

MELL: Sorry, Dustin Johnson, but you’re the pick here. You are loaded with talent, and you’ll win more than one major in your career, but your short game gets exposed this week.

LAVNER: As a whole, the U.S. team is much deeper, but it could be a player such as Matt Kuchar, if only because it may be difficult to find him a successful partner. He went 1-1-2 in 2010 at Celtic Manor, but was paired in team play with Stewart Cink, who did not qualify this year. His Presidents Cup record isn’t great, either: 2-4-3. Kooch has only one top 10 since early August, and that was a T-10 at last week’s 30-player Tour Championship.


Which player on the European side will have the worst record?

COFFIN: Martin Kaymer believes he’s found something with his game the past couple weeks that will help him play well this week. I’m not buying it. I think he’ll struggle.

HOGGARD: Per the captain’s agreement, each team will place a player in a sealed envelope on Saturday that will determine who will sit in the event a player on the other team is unable toplay Sunday singles, with each side earning a half point. For Europe, that player will be Martin Kaymer, who hasn’t finished better than 15th in a stroke-play event this year on the PGA Tour and has slipped to 32nd in the world ranking.

MELL: Martin Kaymer appears to be finding some form again, but Ryder Cup pressure will test any crack in his armor. The German’s battle with confidence this summer will be severely tested this week.

LAVNER: Despite his good form (win and T-6 in his past two Euro tour starts), Paul Lawrie has failed to play well in the States this season, and could struggle on a beefy layout such as Medinah. And unlike 1999, he wouldn’t be able to rely on Colin Montgomerie as a partner. (For the record, Kaymer won’t play well, either.)


Who will be the breakout star of the matches?

COFFIN: Brandt Snedeker putts lights-out and was just cool enough to win $10 million a week ago. He’s cool enough to keep that putting stroke going this week under extreme pressure.

HOGGARD: Brandt Snedeker has waited his entire golf life to make this team, and he won’t disappoint. The FedEx Cup champion may be the hottest player in golf right now, with a runner-up and a victory in his last four starts. More importantly, he’s the Tour’s best putter (No. 1 in strokes gained-putting).

MELL: Tiger Woods! What? He’s already a star, you say. Sure, but he hasn't distinguished himself in the Ryder Cup. That all changes with his best Ryder Cup ever.

LAVNER: It will be a big week for Keegan Bradley, who is bubbling with enthusiasm this week and is a player who will have a comfortable pairing with friend, mentor and frequent practice-round partner Phil Mickelson. On a team with many good putters, Keegan is one of the best.


Who will have a better overall record, Tiger or Rory?

COFFIN: Rory, but only because I think he’s more likely than Tiger to play all five matches. Rory and Graeme McDowell are stellar together, and they’ll shine. He’s good for at least 3 points.

HOGGARD: Rory because his supporting cast, Graeme McDowell, is playing better than Tiger's presumed partner, Steve Stricker. We fixate on Tiger’s relatively pedestrian Ryder Cup record (13-14-2), but most of those losses (nine) have been in team play and, as Woods is fond of pointing out, he can only control his game.

MELL: Tiger trumps Rory on a golf course that Woods practically owns.

LAVNER: They both will perform well at Medinah, but Rory has a slight edge, simply because he’s playing better at the moment, has a better partner in Graeme McDowell and figures to get five chances.


Who will be the Man of the Matches?

COFFIN: Sergio Garcia is miffed that he was on the sidelines two years ago and will take advantage of this opportunity. He pairs well with anyone and seems to bring out the best in each playing partner. He’ll play well for fellow Spaniard Olazabal.

HOGGARD: Rory McIlroy will have better statistics, but Tiger Woods will be the MVP because his play and, yes, even his leadership will ultimately decide the outcome (see below). Woods has played on just one winning Ryder Cup team, a confounding statistic that motivates him almost as much as Jack Nicklaus’ 18 majors.

MELL: In a year in which Tiger Woods has flashed returns to his best form, he puts all the pieces together this week.

LAVNER: Not to be ordinary, but Tiger Woods will be MVP of the U.S. victory. He has the potential to play all five matches, and his 13-14-2 record in these biennial matches is more a product of bad luck and bad partnerships, not some indictment of how he’s wired only for individual play. This will be his best Ryder Cup yet.


Who will win the Ryder Cup?

COFFIN: The Americans are deeper, but the Europeans have four of the top five ranked players in the world and three strong pairings that rarely lose. It’ll be close and come down to the last three matches on Sunday, but Europe will prevail,15-13.

HOGGARD: The U.S. wins in a Sunday shootout, 14 1/2 to 13 1/2, after the two sides play to a near-draw in team play on Friday and Saturday. Ryder Cups are won by good putting, and this time, the Americans have the best putters.

MELL: The Americans! They’re due. They have everything going for them this time: motivation, home turf, terrific putters. That’s the winning formula.

LAVNER: Last weekend, I believed this was one of the most evenly matched Ryder Cups in recent memory – so much so that it may even result in a draw (and Europe retaining the cup). Now, for various reasons, I’m not so convinced. The U.S. team is deeper, top to bottom. Tiger Woods and the rest of the veterans are inspired to play well. The late-season FedEx Cup playoffs have kept the Americans sharp. The home crowd is worth at least a point. The Euros’ camaraderie factor is overplayed. The result: U.S. 16, Europe 12.

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.


Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery


A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.

Love's hip surgery a success; eyes Florida swing return

By Rex HoggardNovember 22, 2017, 3:31 pm

Within hours of having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday Davis Love III was back doing what he does best – keeping busy.

“I’ve been up and walking, cheated in the night and stood up by the bed, but I’m cruising around my room,” he laughed early Wednesday from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., where he underwent surgery to replace his left hip. “[Dr. James Flanagan, who performed the surgery] wants me up. They don’t want me sitting for more than an hour.”

Love, 53, planned to begin more intensive therapy and rehabilitation on Wednesday and is scheduled to be released from the hospital later this afternoon.

According to Love’s doctors, there were no complications during the surgery and his recovery time is estimated around three to four months.

Love, who was initially hesitant to have the surgery, said he can start putting almost immediately and should be able to start hitting wedges in a few weeks.

Dr. Tom Boers – a physical therapist at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic in Columbus, Ga., who has treated Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Brad Faxon – will oversee Love’s recovery and ultimately decide when he’s ready to resume normal golf activity.

“He understands motion and gait and swing speeds that people really don’t understand. He’s had all of us in there studying us,” Love said. “So we’ll see him in a couple of weeks and slowly get into the swing part of it.”

Although Love said he plans to temper his expectations for this most recent recovery, his goal is to be ready to play by the Florida swing next March.

Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018

By Will GrayNovember 22, 2017, 12:53 pm

He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.

Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:

3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

5/2: Rory McIlroy

7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

9/2: Justin Rose

5/1: Brooks Koepka

15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey

10/1: Adam Scott

12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed

15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson

20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer

25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman

30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes