Ryder Cup task force shows U.S. serious about winning

By Jason SobelOctober 14, 2014, 11:42 am

The idea of a task force originated with the first militaries, becoming more popularized in an official capacity with the United States Navy and its process of increasing operational flexibility during World War II. In April of 1941, the U.S. Pacific Fleet was reorganized into task forces; by October of that year, additional changes were made in order to streamline these task forces to maintain readiness for war.

Since then, task forces have not only served as a standard part of military terminology; the phrasing has permeated any manner of society where a hotly contested issue has given reason to take up a cause. There’s a task force to solve the potential effects of climate change. There’s one to tackle preventative measures against the deadly Ebola virus. There are several to protect the rights of children in cases of abuse.

By those comparisons, the PGA of America’s recently established task force, created with the goal of finding a more effective way of preparing for and eventually winning the next Ryder Cup, appears somewhere on the spectrum between overly self-indulgent and insufficiently self-aware.

That notion, though, may only underscore the prevailing rationale here: Desperate times call for desperate measures.

If there needed be another definitive line of demarcation for when this biennial competition elevated yet another level in its degrees of seriousness, here it is. It would be naïve to suggest that until recently this event was a mere whimsical exhibition, but instituting a blue-ribbon task force in an attempt to ensure the next result is different raises the stakes again.

Call it a task force or an ad hoc committee or a just bunch of guys who are trying to reclaim old glory for Old Glory, the message still rings true. Status quo wasn’t good enough, so the PGA of America is changing the game. The organization is taking a more specialized approach toward that stated end goal.

Of course, as those attempting to solve the effects of climate change have probably found out, there’s a difference between creating a task force and creating a successful one.

The panel consists of Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Raymond Floyd – the four most losing players in U.S. team history, with a combined 68 match losses among them. Throw in Rickie Fowler, who has yet to win a Ryder Cup match in eight career opportunities, and multiple PGA officials who didn’t preside in their current roles the last time this team prevailed in 2008, and you’re left with a task force charged with finding a way to win that hasn’t often accomplished that feat.

That isn’t to suggest that any of these task force members are ill-equipped to help steer the U.S. squad toward its second triumph of this century two years from now at Hazeltine. Just putting them in the same room – or at least on the same conference call – represents a step in the right direction.

Placing an increased emphasis on victory should have figurative impact, if not literal. Even if this task force doesn’t magically uncover the perfect captain to lead the team, even if it doesn’t find the secret formula to balancing qualification points and wildcard selections, even if it doesn’t mean the team will be favored on home turf, it will prove to officials and competitors alike that priorities have been ratcheted up a few notches.

This is the “personal investment” that Mickelson famously (or infamously, depending on your point of view) spoke about following the recent loss at Gleneagles. It can be argued that European players have treated their tenures on the roster as a series of continuous two-year stints, while their American counterparts see it as more of a one-week assignment.

Just placing an increased onus on the importance of the Ryder Cup should serve as a wakeup call to everyone involved that collective focus on the event needs to begin sooner and run deeper.

Therein lies the greatest role of the newly formed task force. The main focal points from outsiders will be literal alterations – the next captain, the number of wildcard picks, the ordering of team sessions. Purely centralizing on those measures, however, would be missing the point.

This is about getting players more heavily involved; it’s about letting them make decisions to forge that personal investment. The happy byproduct will be an increased importance on the Ryder Cup, not just during that week but for the next two years, and not just on making the team but helping the team to victory.

Sure, the idea of a task force to win an international golf competition sounds overly self-indulgent compared with most task forces, but that underscores the major theme of what’s taking place right now. It’s time for the U.S. to start getting more serious about the Ryder Cup.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."