Task force: Love better fit for captain than Couples

By Jason SobelFebruary 17, 2015, 11:27 pm

LOS ANGELES – Longtime football coach Wade Phillips made headlines recently after being hired to run the Denver Broncos' defense. “I was a lousy head coach,” he told the Denver Post, “but I am a pretty good defensive coordinator.”

That self-realization was newsworthy because it served as an unabashed admission that in three separate stints as the man in charge of a team, he wasn’t the right one for the position. But the reaction underscores a bigger theme here: Being proficient at any job doesn't translate to being equally proficient on the next step of the corporate ladder.

This phenomenon is hardly unique to football. The leading go-getter in your company might struggle when graduating to a manager position in the corner office; conversely, the pencil-pusher stuck in a mundane cubicle could flourish in the more authoritative role.

When it was reported by Golf Channel that Davis Love III will be named the next U.S. Ryder Cup captain, much of the public response came in the form of one quizzical question: But what about Fred Couples?

The three-time Presidents Cup-winning captain was instantly labeled a snub, a logical choice bypassed for a man who already had his turn in the role and famously came up woefully short of victory.

That would be an inaccurate reaction to the news.

Couples has always appeared aloof in his leadership role. When choosing a lineup for each Presidents Cup session, he often deferred to an assistant -- usually Jay Haas -- for the final say. During daily interview sessions with the media, he was certainly cordial enough, but always seemed like he was daydreaming of being back in the team room instead, slapping backs with Michael Jordan after a doubles ping-pong match. And from his own words, he cared less about the team's much-talked-about attire than most couch potatoes watching from home.

Love won't confirm, deny becoming next Ryder captain

There's no mistaking the Ryder Cup for the Presidents Cup. Each session's lineups are finely picked apart for years, not minutes. The media obligations are doubled - or maybe tripled or quadrupled. The outfits are subject to national scrutiny.

The Ryder Cup is a different animal. Not only does every player insist there's greater pressure, that feeling has been compounded through years of frustrating losses. It's easy to connect some dots here: The team plays loose under Couples; it needs to play looser in the Ryder Cup; therefore, Couples should be the captain. But such simplistic theories fail to account for the multiple variables between the biennial cousins.

The reality is, for most of Couples' tenure as Presidents Cup captain, he simply had to ensure every player was present and accounted for before collecting another triumph over the inferior International squad.

And therein lies the hidden secret as to why Love is getting the nod this time instead.

In football terminology, Couples is better suited to be a defensive coordinator than head coach.

Or at least that's what the PGA of America's 11-man task force believes.

All of which means that Couples will likely own an important role on next year’s team without the headaches and hassles of being the man in charge.

Buddies with Love for decades now, each has served as an assistant when the other was in the role of captain. And while Love was mum on the impending appointment Tuesday, there’s no reason to believe that will change anytime soon. The selection of one man doesn’t ensure the omission of the other. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

Just as in 2012, Love won't rule with an iron fist; he won't employ Tom Watson's my-way-or-the-highway approach. Meanwhile, Couples will own a considerable role as his consigliere; he'll be able to help set the team's mood without all of the organizational rigors of the captaincy.

The head coach and the coordinator. Each in the role which suits him best.

While Love would neither confirm nor deny the report of his impending captaincy, he sounded Tuesday like a man already strategizing for a second chance.

“The best thing I’ve taken out of this task force process is I learned a lot,” he told Golf Channel at Riviera Country Club, site of this week’s Northern Trust Open. “I learned that I made some mistakes. There are some things that I could have done better. I could have shared more information with former captains and former players. So we’ve learned a lot from the whole thing and I think going forward, we can help future captains, because we’ve had a lot of great discussions about it.”

It’s this kind of forward thinking that won Love the gig, but it shouldn’t be said that Couples lost it. He’ll hold a pre-tournament news conference on Wednesday at Riviera, where he’ll undoubtedly be asked about this turn of events.

There’s a good chance the three-time Presidents Cup-winning captain won’t echo Wade Phillips during his answers, but there’s an even better chance that he’ll be satisfied with his upcoming role.

Getty Images

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?''

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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. 

Getty Images

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

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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.