The Man of the Matches

By Mercer BaggsOctober 12, 2009, 11:24 am

U.S. Presidents Cup team

THE PRESIDENTS MEN: Before we get to Jordan, we'll start with the actual matches [with a nod to Tim Finchem]: The United States won the Presidents Cup, 19 1/2-14 1/2 at Harding Park. The victory gave the U.S. a 6-1-1 record in the biennial competition, which dates back to 1994. The Americans are a perfect 5-0 on home soil.
Backspin When Great Britain and Ireland were getting beat down every two years in the Ryder Cup, they invited continental Europe to join the battle. Unfortunately for the International team, they have no cavalry to call. Some say the Rest of the World needs to win to legitimize this event. Actually, being competitive would just be nice. Would you be more inclined to care about the Presidents Cup if the U.S. lost every now and again? Unless you live outside the States, the answer is probably no. Because, honestly, do you even really care if the U.S. wins? You just want to be entertained, regardless of who wins – and regular routs aren't fun to watch.

Steve Stricker

MR. PERFECT: Tiger Woods became the third player in Presidents Cup history [Mark O'Meara, 1996; Shigeki Maruyama, 1998] to go 5-0-0. Woods won four team matches with Steve Stricker as his partner and then punished Y.E. Yang for beating him at the PGA Championship, 6 and 5, in the Sunday singles.
Backspin Tiger might not lose any sleep when he plays poorly in a team event, but he still wants to win. That was evident in his reactions down the stretch Saturday evening and in the way he icily dismissed Yang in the singles. You had to feel for Y.E. Remember when Norman begged off a singles match against Woods in 1998 and then lost, 1 up? Maybe this was like a frat boy finally getting to haze someone after enduring it himself.

Phil Mickelson

 MR. ALMOST PERFECT: Tiger Woods wasn't the only U.S. team member to go undefeated. Phil Mickelson, who once went 0-5-0 in the Presidents Cup, tallied a 4-0-1 record. Unlike Woods, who had Steve Stricker has his partner in all four team sessions, Mickelson played with three different teammates over the first three days: Justin Leonard, Anthony Kim and Sean O'Hair.
Backspin Mickelson without a loss? Mickelson the emotional rock for his partners? Phil Mickelson? The same Phil Mickelson who tunes out golf after the August like the NFL? We kind of like this Phil Mickelson.

Michael Jordan

DUDE, I'M MICHAEL JORDAN: Standing at 6'6' and weighing in with six NBA championship titles, basketball legend Michael Jordan nearly overshadowed the entire Presidents Cup competition. Jordan, who was made an 'assistant-assistant' by U.S. captain Fred Couples, played a practice round with the U.S. team Monday, was asked to quit smoking on the course Tuesday, was reportedly asked by the Tour brass to not partake in the opening ceremonies Wednesday, and whizzed around  from group to group in his own golf cart Thursday-Sunday.
Backspin Jordan awed many, angered some and befuddled others. He said his job was to inspire and motivate the U.S. team, but it's not like they really needed inspiration or motivation to win this event. What he ultimately did was take some of the focus off the Americans and add some levity and cohesion to the team room. He may have his detractors, but Corey Pavin might want to measure him for outfits in Wales.
Camilo Villegas and Vijay Singh

UP STREAM WITH A PADDLE: The U.S. team's behind-the-scenes Ping-Pong matches once again made headlines. And as evidenced above, even the International players got in on the action. Tiger Woods, Zach Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Kenny Perry and several others were peppered with questions about who was beating whom and who was the best. The intense table tennis matches have become the highlight of team-room camaraderie during Presidents and Ryder cup matches.
Backspin If the Ping-Pong matches were taped and televised at the same time as the actual Presidents Cup matches, I guarantee you the former would get the higher ratings. Golf is such a guarded sport, regarding the players' private lives, that we want any kind of glimpse we can get into what they do outside the ropes or behind closed doors – even if it's with red, rubber paddles and a yellow ball.

Greg Norman and Fred Couples

HEY, SKIPPER: Fred Couples captained the United States to victory over Greg Norman's International team. It was the first time either man had been at the helm in a Presidents Cup. Couples participated as a player four times, going 9-5-2. Norman played three times, with a 7-6-1 record.
Backspin Norman could serve as captain again as the teams square off in 2011 in Australia, where the Internationals won their only cup in 1998. Couples, meanwhile, might make for a regular U.S. skipper. He might not be best suited for Ryder Cup formality, but he seemed to be a perfect fit for the Friday casual Presidents Cup.

Adam Scott

NOT EASY TO WATCH: Each captain had one of their wildcard selections impress, while the other pick panned. Hunter Mahan went 2-1-1 for the U.S. side, while U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover went 0-3-1. For the Internationals, 18-year-old rookie Ryo Ishikawa went 3-2-0 with veteran Adam Scott going 1-4-0.
Backspin The American picks were never scrutinized, but the International selections were definitely on the hot seat. Ishikawa validated his spot on the team and showed this may be the first of many Presidents Cup appearances. Scott, on the other hand, not only lost four times, but looked like a beaten man. Not even a little help from a partner could snap Scott out of his funk.

Anthony Kim and Robert Allenby

BIG SHOES TO FILL: After falling to Anthony Kim in the Sunday singles, 5 and 3, Robert Allenby took a swipe at his 24-year-old opponent, calling him the 'current John Daly.' Allenby says friends of his spotted Kim 'come in sideways' at 4 a.m. Sunday morning, less than 6 hours before their tee time. Kim denied the accusations, calling Allenby's statements 'absolutely false.'
Backspin First of all, it doesn't say much for Allenby that he got smoked by a guy whom he believes got snockered the night before. Secondly, why would he make these statement to the press based on hearsay? And finally, even if Kim does have a love of late-night partying, what is it of Allenby's business? We're quite sure Allenby didn't make the above statements because he's concerned about a friend.

Michael Phelps and Tiger Woods

WELCOME TO THE OLYMPICS: Golf was added to the 2016 and 2020 Olympics, the International Olympic Committee announced Friday. The sport last participated in Games in 1904. The format will consist of 72-holes of stroke-play for men and women, with 60 players in each field.
Backspin As Rex Hoggard pointed out, there are still plenty of hurdles to clear to make golf a successful Olympic sport. But one thing people seem to be forgetting is that the Rio de Janeiro games are still seven years away. By then Tiger Woods will be 40; Phil Mickelson 46; Padraig Harrington, who lobbied hard for golf's participation, nearly 45. Who knows what will become of the current crop of players in their 20s and early 30s? The point being: the best players in the world today, on both the men's and women's side, may not be the best players in seven year's time. The re-introduction of golf into the Olympics could be the initial introduction of a lot of fresh faces to the world.
Ross McGowan

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:  England's Ross McGowan won his first European Tour event at the Madrid Masters. ... Christopher Baryla won his first Nationwide Tour event at the Chattanooga Classic. ... Nathan Smith won his second U.S. Mid-Amateur title. ... Martha Stacy Leach won the U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur title.
Backspin McGowan used a Saturday 60 to launch him to victory. ... The Canadian moved from 57th to 20th on the season money list, with the top 25 getting 2010 PGA Tour cards. ... Smith also won in 2003. ... Leach is the sister of three-time U.S. Women's Open champion Hollis Stacy.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.