Too many qualified candidates for 2014 Euro Ryder Cup captain

By Jason SobelOctober 23, 2012, 2:00 pm

So there’s this boy – let’s call him Paul – who is in love with a girl. He’s like your prototypical nice guy from the movies. Helps her with homework. Listens to her problems. Gets her home safely when she’s had too much to drink.

Paul is infatuated with this girl. He knows her favorite color. Makes her a new mix tape every week. The guy’s even written sappy poetry about her.

So what’s the problem? She still only sees him as a friend. Anytime they’ve discussed the possibility of a relationship, he offers up those puppy dog eyes only to have her look right into them and like a knife to the heart proclaim, “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.”

There’s another boy – let’s call him Darren – who is falling for this girl, too. He just has a different way of showing it.

Darren is one of the cool kids. Walks cool, talks cool, wears cool shades. Everybody swoons over him and the girl has started to take notice and do some swooning of her own.

And why wouldn’t she? He’s the proverbial life of the party, the kind of boy who has a good time wherever he goes. They’ve recently started spending more time together and, well, she’s starting to think this could be a long-term type of thing.

All of which leads to the question I know you’re dying to ask: What does any of this have to do with golf?

The answer: Everything. Because Paul is Paul McGinley and Darren is Darren Clarke – and the girl is the 2014 European Ryder Cup captaincy.

And yes, someone could easily make a cheesy ‘80s film about the flirtations and dalliances that McGinley and Clarke have made toward being the next man in charge of the European squad that will defend its title at Gleneagles.

Prior to the historic come-from-behind win at Medinah a few weeks ago, it was believed that McGinley was in the driver’s seat for the role. He served as vice captain two years ago at Celtic Manor and again this time, reporting directly to Jose Maria Olazabal.

That gives him an impressive 2-0 record as an assistant, but his resume hardly ends there. McGinley was 3-0 as a Ryder Cup competitor, helping the team to victories in the 2002, 2004 and 2006 editions of the event, where he compiled a 2-2-5 overall record. He also played for the winning side twice in the Royal Trophy and twice in the Seve Trophy, then twice served as captain in the latter for the GB&I team and – you got it – won them both.

Add ‘em all up and that’s an 11-0 record for all major professional international team competitions in which he’s been involved. Not too shabby.

McGinley may not own the playing pedigree of other captains – he has just four career European Tour wins and has never finished better than sixth place in a major championship – but he has the respect of every player who has competed alongside him.

That’s not to say Clarke doesn’t, though. After likewise serving as vice captain for Olazabal this year, his stock began to soar – so much so that last year’s Open Championship winner took to Twitter to deny claims that he had already been offered the job.

'To clarify..I have not been offered the Ryder Cup captaincy,' he tweeted on Oct. 10. 'It's not decided by the committee until January. Would be a huge honour if asked.'

Why is Clarke suddenly surging ahead like the European team on Sunday at Medinah? The prevailing feeling is that the girl whom everybody wants is most attracted to the cool guy who has a good time wherever he goes.

Even some major players acknowledge those traits.

“He's a major champion, a very good public speaker, which has to be taken into account,” Lee Westwood recently told reporters. '[He's] tactically very astute. Darren has a lot of things going for him.'

In offering up a comparison between the two candidates, Westwood added, 'Paul has played three [Ryder Cups], Darren has played five and got a major championship and won a lot more tournaments than Paul. You have to have a criteria somewhere and I think Darren just edges it for me.'

The truth is, each man vying for that girl’s affection can make a case for why he should be the one to win her over. In due time, she may be with each of them, but there are many other potential suitors knocking at her door, too.

Thomas Bjorn and Miguel Angel Jimenez – each of whom also served as an assistant under Olazabal – are among candidates for the open position, and others aren’t too far away from throwing their hats into the ring, either.

'I think these two [Clarke and McGinley] deserve a chance, but I think Thomas deserves a chance and also Paul Lawrie,' Olazabal said after winning. 'Once those guys do it, we have Lee [Westwood] and Padraig [Harrington].'

Hey, a girl’s got a reputation to uphold. She can’t be with every boy in town.

Therein lies the biggest problem for the European Tour’s tournament committee, which will ultimately make the decision.

While the American side rips a page from “The Fugitive” – looking in every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse for a man who can lead its team to victory – the reigning champion apparently has too many qualified candidates. What it means is that much like Larry Nelson and Mark O’Meara have never captained a U.S. team, worthy European skippers will likely see their opportunities vanish for no good reason at all, other than somebody else beating them out for the job.

As for this time around, only one boy will get the girl. It’s starting to look like the cool guy is winning her over, potentially leaving the lovelorn nice guy with a broken heart once again.

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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."

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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.'"

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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."

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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."

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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.