Players need to buy in for U.S. to have Ryder Cup success

By Jason SobelSeptember 29, 2014, 8:33 pm

GLENEAGLES, Scotland – This ain't your grandfather's Ryder Cup anymore.

Unless your grandfather is 65-year-old Tom Watson, that's not a knock on the recently outclassed United States captain. It's a realization that the times have changed – and the U.S. team has failed to change along with them.

Gone are the days when a captain only needed to ensure there were enough sweaters for three days and enough bubbly for the celebration. If we've learned anything in the 15 years with just two American victories, it's that superior talent can win and superior talent can lose.

The deciding variable isn't which team has the better players or more experience or proper motivation.

No, there's only been one constant throughout this generation's Ryder Cup champions: The team which is most prepared to win always does. Every single time.

This was the crux of Phil Mickelson's controversial comments immediately after Sunday's final session had resulted in another drubbing at the hands of Europe, this one by a 16 1/2 to 11 1/2 score. He didn't imply that Paul Azinger was a successful captain because the team won; he insisted that the team won because Azinger was a successful captain.

Those who paid close attention to the two most recent captains understood the wide dichotomy between their approaches.

Watson is an eight-time major champion who presumed that his intuition would guide the team to victory. His main tactic for getting his team members to play better was to tell them to play better. And if that didn't work, well, the captain would throw his hands in the air and maintain the team was outplayed, not outcoached.

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Compare that with Paul McGinley, who treated his role with the deft precision of a Fortune 500 CEO. He planned, he prepared, he delegated. McGinley's vision for the week went far beyond putting a team together and hoping they played well. Instead, he built a successful business model and developed it. He measured each step of the process as if he was working directly off a flow chart.

There are plenty of stories which speak to McGinley's attention to detail, but none highlight his preparation as well as this: During the 2012 Ryder Cup, noting Graeme McDowell's innate leadership, he decided that if he ever became captain, McDowell would lead off his team's singles session.

This past week, he relayed that story to his player on Wednesday. As if scripted perfectly, McDowell trailed early to Jordan Spieth, but displayed that leadership in a late rally that not only earned the team a full point, it galvanized his other teammates on the course.

In searching for its next Ryder Cup captain, the PGA of America must find a person who will not only erase the arrogant stigma emboldened by Watson that he could simply show up with a dozen great players and win. The organization needs to find someone who will strip the blueprint from Europe's playbook and put his own stamp on it.

That's exactly what Azinger did a half-dozen years ago. His players weren't on the team for one week; they were on the team for two years. He didn't rule with an iron fist; he got players personally invested in the team and let them make their own decisions for its well-being.

When the Americans' most recent Ryder Cup disappointment ended without any of this taking place, Mickelson – and, trust this, many of his quieter teammates – remained flummoxed as to why a proven winning strategy could be so casually dismissed.

When asked whether he had been trusted with personal investment into the team prior to last week, the 10-time team member answered, "Uh, no."

That needs to change. If the PGA of America and the next captain and the potential players want to return to the days of celebrating with bubbly on Sunday night, if they want to treat this event as more than a glorified exhibition, they need to change with the times.

While the press room might not have seemed like the right time to air that dirty laundry, Mickelson understands how to be a catalyst for these changes. This couldn't be done under cover of secrecy within the PGA's sheltered walls.

By speaking publicly, the team's most veteran player invariably placed the ball back onto the tee for its governing body.

Now it's their turn to swing away. The last few shots have been fired with varying degrees of failure, but as any golfer understands, the next one can always be better. Simply realizing that notion is the first step in the right direction.

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.