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.

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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.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.