Player Makes Politically Correct Choice

By Ian HutchinsonAugust 13, 2007, 4:00 pm
In golf terms, PC is an abbreviation used for the Presidents Cup and, in making one of his captain's picks for his International team, Gary Player definitely went PC, as in politically correct, but does that doesn't necessarily make it the correct choice.
 
Player answered the question that had been on Canadians lips since it was first announced that the Presidents Cup will be played late next month at Royal Montreal. Mike Weir seemed to be a lock back then, but he wobbled into the PGA Championship and missed the cut just before Player made his picks.
 
Player, who spoke often about picking players with hot hands, still went with the 2003 Masters champion, who also withdrew from the Bridgestone Invitational with a neck injury after tying for 34th at his national Open three weeks ago.
 
Those less than impressive results contradict Player's hot hand theory, but there was more at stake with the selection of Weir than just natural talent and strong play of late.
 
'Mike, as we know, won the Masters and has been a very good player through the years -- a very, very good match player even though he didn't finish in the top 10,' said Player.
 
'Mike is a terrific competitor. He's a real fighter and I've got tremendous confidence in him. You couldn't ask to have a better team player than Mike. If you don't put him in, he doesn't sulk. If you put him in, he says he's always willing to play anybody,' added the Black Knight.
 
It's impossible to argue with Player on any of those points, but considering the flat tires suffered by Weir lately, it appears his heritage as much as anything had a role in him being picked.
 
'If we didn't have a Canadian on my team, I can assure you, in my opinion, the series would be quite flat amongst the Canadian people,' said Player.
 
While Canadians wouldn't have like any decision to not include Weir, it's unlikely Presidents Cup attendance would have suffered because of it. What Player needed to consider was how his Internationals might have lost home field advantage without a Canadian on the team.
 
'Mike is a hero in his country, deservedly so, and I'm sure the Canadian people are going to be relieved because I continuously had questions every week, 'Are you putting Mike in?' and I said we have to wait to the end.'
 
It now appears that the decision to include Weir was made well before his unveiling as an International team member. Weir is the golden golfer of Canada despite his recent struggles, but how will the world react should he falter in Montreal?
 
A legitimate case could be made that Weir wasn't even the best Canadian when Player made his picks as Calgary's Stephen Ames was ahead of Weir in Presidents Cup standings, world rankings and on the PGA Tour money list, but couldn't win the popularity contest.
 
While much has been made about Ames wilting in the presence of Tiger Woods in the final round of the PGA Championship, he did put himself in that position in the first place, but it appears his only chance to make the International team was by getting an automatic selection.
 
'He played so well at the PGA,' said Player. 'The way we worked it out, he had to finish in the top four, which I actually thought he would do the way he was playing. If he finished fourth solo, he would have got into the top 10. Unfortunately, he didn't have a very good last round.
 
'Everybody was on my mind,' added Player. 'It's a very difficult thing to select a team. You've got a lot of people when they hear the selections will say, 'Well, I thought I deserved to play.''
 
Player could hear more of that should Weir stumble in his home and native land, but that is far from predetermined despite his recent play. His recent swing changes could click in and he does have an impressive 8-6 overall record and the experience of three Presidents Cups behind him.
 
'It was tough the last couple of weeks,' said Weir. 'I ran into a little bit of bad luck with pulling a neck muscle at Firestone -- bad timing. I didn't want to be hampered by that the last couple of weeks, but that was the way it was. I knew I had been playing well the last couple of weeks leading into that.
 
'I've always thought highly of the Presidents Cup and I've enjoyed playing the last three and I thought it was such a great competition. Being in Canada, I wanted to play. I felt like, sometimes, I was maybe trying too hard.
 
'Now that Gary's made me a selection, maybe I can relax a bit more and play some real good golf leading into the Presidents Cup.'
 
That would make Player's choice very PC, as in popular in Canada.
 
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    Toronto Sun Editor's Note: Ian Hutchinson is golf columnist for the Toronto Sun and senior writer for Pro Shop Magazine, a Canadian golf trade publication, and Canadian Golfer Magazine. He is also a frequent contributor to Golf Scene and Golf Canada Magazine, the official magazine of the Royal Canadian Golf Association.
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    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

    Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

    In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

    “I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

    The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

    Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

    The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

    The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

    “My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

    It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

    Tweet of the week:

    It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

    The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

    Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    “I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

    McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

    He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

    Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

    “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”