Through Day 1, McGinley 1 up on Watson

By Jason SobelSeptember 26, 2014, 8:24 pm

GLENEAGLES, Scotland – It’s a tradition as old as the Ryder Cup itself, this business of analyzing and second guessing and Monday morning quarterbacking the captains’ decisions every two years. Much of it is hypothetical speculation. Specific strategies can’t be proven wrong since there’s no way of ever proving a different move correct.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for analysis. Rather than certain maneuvers, though, the analysis should grade the attitude as a whole. Did the captains play it cool under duress? Did they make rash decisions? Did they stick to the original plan?

We’re just two sessions into the 40th edition of the Ryder Cup, but already these questions can be posed toward European captain Paul McGinley, whose team owns a 5-3 advantage, and United States captain Tom Watson. Just after each announced their Saturday morning fourball pairings, it was easy to answer some of these questions, simply by listening.

McGinley: “I'm looking at the big picture, something I can't reveal at the moment, but you'll see on Sunday night. I'm working to a plan. I'll reveal a little bit more Sunday night.”

Watson: “The pairings that are made for tomorrow morning I think are strong pairings, as strong as we can put out there and we'll see what happens."

There it is. Confidence versus doubt. Calm versus anxious. Planning versus reassessing.

These personality traits have already trickled down to their players, as well.

Ryder Cup: Articles, videos and photos

One by one, the Europeans strutted off the course after Friday’s matches back slapping and needling. They appeared comfortable with one another, which only makes sense when you consider that McGinley looked comfortable in his own skin, too.

Meanwhile, the American players seemed tight, stressed, maybe even a little nervous. When their captain, Tom Watson, sat down to meet with the media, he immediately began backpedaling, insisting that his rationale behind benching the winning team of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed during the afternoon session was classified information.

All this and, yet again, the score is only 5-3 – hardly insurmountable with 20 more matches remaining.

Matches aren’t won with good moods alone, but brooding certainly doesn’t help. It may take a few changes in attitude for the U.S. team to cover the board in red. Heading into Saturday, the captain is hardly taking a “What, me worry?” stance, instead choosing to go with some good-ol’-fashioned stern lecturing to turn things around.

“I told them, ‘I want more than even,’” Watson said. “And they are buying into that. Even though they are disappointed, there was the attitude, ‘Alright, let's go get this thing done.’”

That go-getter attitude might fire up the troops, but clearly part of the plot has already been lost.

Watson entered the first day with specific pairings, sort of pod system-lite in a nod toward the strategy enabled by Paul Azinger in 2008, the last time the American team came away victorious. When he announced his Saturday morning fourball pairings, however, the captain listed his first two teams as Bubba Watson-Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan-Jim Furyk – duos that just 24 hours earlier likely weren’t being considered.

It has all the appearance of throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks.

A two-point differential is no time to abandon ship and reassess the original plan, but it’s difficult to see Saturday’s pairings – at least a few of them – as anything else.

Meanwhile, McGinley countered with three tandems which each won at least a half-point together on Friday, plus a fourth in Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter that enjoyed rousing success two years ago at Medinah.

It’s all part of a plan that he knows won’t be tossed aside with a few losses.

“It's something I've learned from José Maria [Olazabal] and learned from Monty [Colin Montgomerie] and learned from the guys I've been vice captain under and guys I've played under,” said McGinley. “You're not going to win every session. We've lost more sessions than we have won in recent times. But it's important not to panic and it's important, I believe, to look at the 24-hour period rather than just one session and then assess and then go again. I think you've got to do a mixture of both.

“It's not black or it's not white. I had an overall, as I call it, a skeleton plan, and you bob and weave.”

Just one day into the Ryder Cup, the European captain’s bobs and weaves have been countered with backpedaling and sidestepping from his American counterpart.

It doesn’t mean anything yet. It doesn’t mean the European team will definitely win or the American team will absolutely lose. But at a biennial event where analyzing and second guessing and Monday morning quarterbacking are as much traditions as the actual golf, so far McGinley is 1 up on Watson.

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

Getty Images

DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... 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."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

Getty Images

LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.