Watson officially introduced as '14 Ryder Cup captain

By Ryan LavnerDecember 13, 2012, 1:30 pm

The PGA of America is turning back the clock in hopes of reversing the Americans’ recent Ryder Cup fortunes.

Nineteen years after he last led the team to victory on foreign soil, Tom Watson was officially introduced as the next U.S. Ryder Cup captain Thursday in New York City.

“I was waiting for about 20 years to get the call,” he said. “I loved it the first time. It’s a great honor to be able to do it again.”

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Watson, who becomes the Americans’ first repeat captain since Jack Nicklaus in 1987, will be 65 when the matches begin at Gleneagles, making him the oldest captain ever on the U.S. side by eight years. The span between his two stints as captain – 21 years – is also the longest ever. A fixture on the Champions Tour, Watson still makes a few cameos each year alongside today’s players, and in 2009, at age 59, was 8 feet away from capturing the Open Championship at Turnberry.

If nothing else, Watson may help neutralize Europe’s home-course advantage. Having won four of his five Open Championships in Scotland, he is revered in those parts and figures to be an even bigger attraction at Gleneagles than either candidate on the European side, whether it’s 2011 British Open winner Darren Clarke or Paul McGinley.

Asked about what message his appointment might send to his European counterparts, Watson replied, “That we’re going to pull out all the stops to beat you guys. The bottom line is to win. That’s the most important thing. We’re tired of losing.”

Watson was first contacted by the PGA about the 2014 candidacy long before the Americans’ stunning collapse at Medinah. He said Thursday that Bishop initially reached out about 13 months ago. “I’ve been waiting for this call for a long time,” Watson told him.

Bishop was so determined to have Watson return as captain, he produced an 85-page document detailing the reasons why the eight-time major champion should get the gig at Gleneagles.

“The PGA of America has an obligation to pick and find a captain that we feel will put our team in the best position to win,” Bishop said. “I think I speak for a lot of people when I say we’re just really tired of losing the Ryder Cup.”

Watson’s appointment signals a stark departure from the norm for the PGA, which for the past 30 years has used the same criteria to select its Ryder Cup captains: a 40-something former major champion who is still active on the PGA Tour.

David Toms, the 2001 PGA champion, seemed to fit that mold and was the only candidate to formally reach out to the PGA expressing an interest in the opening. Recently, there had been a groundswell of support for three-time major winner Larry Nelson, twice snubbed for the Ryder Cup captaincy in the mid-1990s. Though a longshot to captain the team, he said he received thousands of tweets and messages from fans who hoped the 65-year-old would finally get his chance.

Instead, Bishop said he is “breaking the mold” with the selection process.

That might be a good thing for the U.S. side.

The Americans have lost seven of the past nine Ryder Cups, including a stunning meltdown this past year at Medinah in which they surrendered a 10-6 lead entering the final day.

Said Watson, “It’s my challenge to maybe set the stage with a little extra inspiration along with some Watson luck.”

Tiger Woods, a member of only one winning Ryder Cup team (1999) in seven tries, also applauded the decision, saying in a statement, “I think he’s a really good choice. Tom knows what it takes to win, and that’s our ultimate goal. I hope I have the privilege of joining him on the 2014 United States team.”

The two Stanford alumni have had a frosty relationship in recent years, stemming from the unraveling of Woods’ personal life in late 2009. A few months later, Watson opined that the 14-time major champion should “show more humility to the game” and “clean up” his on-course language and behavior.

When asked about their relationship now, Watson replied, “My relationship with Tiger is fine. Whatever was said before is water under the bridge. No issues.”

Watson said that he hoped Woods would make the team on points, but added, “If he’s not on the team, you can bet that he’s going to be No. 1 on our pick list.”

The number of captain’s picks Watson will have at his disposal remains to be seen, however. Despite having very competitive matches in the past three Ryder Cups, Watson said he would consider having only two wild-card selections in 2014 after seeing how Hunter Mahan’s late-season swoon cost him a spot on this year’s team.

“I want to have the team be positioned to have the best players on the team to win the matches,” Watson said. “On the other side, I want to have the players who fought all year to qualify all year to have the advantage of being on that team.”

In his first captaincy, in 1993 at The Belfry in England, Watson’s no-nonsense approach as leader helped guide the Americans to a 15-13 victory.

They haven’t won on foreign soil since.

Lanny Wadkins, who played for Watson on that ’93 team, said Wednesday: “He doesn’t go out there to have fun. He goes out there to kick butt and get the job done.”

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

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Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."

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Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 10:33 pm

After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.

La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.

"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."

Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.

The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.

"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."