To all the no-shows: You guys blew it

By Joe PosnanskiAugust 14, 2016, 7:47 pm

To: Jordan Spieth

Cc: Jason Day; Rory McIlroy; Dustin Johnson; Adam Scott; Hideki Matsuyama

Bcc: Vijay Singh

Subject: Rio!

Hi guys, sorry for the bulk email. I just wanted to see if you had a chance to watch any of that Rafael Nadal-Juan Martin del Potro tennis match from here at the Olympics. It was pretty thrilling stuff. Those two guys blasted thunderclaps at each other for three crazy sets. Then the third set went into a tiebreaker. Each point was like a novella. The crowd was delirious, practically incoherent with joy. It was incredible.

Anyway I know tennis is not your sport but I was wondering if you happened to see Nadal in that tiebreaker. You know, Nadal is a pretty accomplished guy. Fourteen Grand Slam titles. Nine French Opens in 10 years. Four-time Davis Cup champ.

And there he was in that tiebreaker, grinding with all his heart, playing with every ounce of emotion in his body, caring so deeply. Why? Because this is the Olympics.

I guess the point is, all due respect, you guys blew it.

Sure, I understand why you decided not to come to Rio to play golf. I get it. Golf is a weird fit for the Olympics. The Olympic Games really should be the Mount Olympus for sports, meaning it should be each sport’s most important event like it is for track and swimming and gymnastics and dozens of other sports. It can never be Olympus for men’s golf. No, men’s golf has the Masters and the U.S. Open and the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup and The Open and the PGA Championship and the World Golf Championships and The Players Championship – so many championships.

And yes, it’s true, golf wasn’t in the Olympics when you were kids, so you never dreamed about being here, never planned a spot in your life for the Olympic Games.


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And, yes, there were concerns about Brazil, are concerns about Brazil, about Zika and crime and security and political upheaval and logistical breakdowns. I get it.

But you blew it, guys.

You blew it in two ways. One of those ways has been discussed at length but it remains true – you blew it for golf. It seems that in the countless warnings and cautions and bad omens leading into these Rio Games, you forgot something basic: Just how BIG the Olympics really are. Leave it to USA Boxing coach Billy Walsh, in his glorious Irish brogue, to explain: “There were, what, 40 million people around the world watching Pacquiao-Mayweather?” he asked. “We have 3.5 BILLION people watching the Olympics. Forget everything else. This is the biggest (bleeping) show on earth.”

The biggest (bleeping) show on earth, guys, and you had a chance to be a part of it. You had a chance to show new parts of the world just how wonderful your sport is. You had a chance to support women’s golf, to support amateur golf, to blow the mind of some kids who might never have seen this crazy game before.

Yes, you had a chance to give the sport you love, the sport that has given you dream lives, a boost, a big stage. I don’t like the phrase “grow the sport.” But everybody knows that golf is in a bit of a lull. Nike just pulled out of the equipment business. Participation stagnates. The Tiger hangover isn’t going away anytime soon. Nobody expects that the Olympics turns everything around. But it’s something new and fresh. It’s an opportunity.

“They don’t want to promote golf and they don’t realize how lucky they are,” an angry Gary Player told reporters. “They don’t realize what the Olympic Games can mean for the sport.”

Thing is, I suspect you did realize it. You just decided to pass anyway. You’ve talked about it. Rory, you talked bluntly and with admirable honesty about your disinterest in growing the game. “I don’t feel like I’ve let the game down at all,” you said. “I didn’t get into golf to try and grow the game. I got into golf to win championships and win major championships.” I respect you being that honest. And I think it’s an astonishingly bad attitude about a sport which earns you tens of millions of dollars.

But forget what being here might have done for golf. I’m more interested in the second way you blew it – guys, you blew it for yourselves.

This was, literally, a once-in-a-lifetime chance for you. Yes, there will be other Olympics and at least one of them will have golf in it. But it will never again be the FIRST Olympics with golf. It will never be like it is here on Sunday, with a beautiful blue Brazilian sky and a miraculous little golf course carved out of nothing and a sellout crowd coming out to see a sport many of them have never seen before.

You will never play in a tournament that has the spirit of this one, where all the odds were stacked against it and yet it came off and people had the time of their lives.

You will never again see it like it was at the 18th when fans gave Brazilian Adilson da Silva such an ovation that he broke down in tears.

Or how about that moment when Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson got to go hang out at the practice pool with the U.S. swimmers. As they left, the swimmers rang the bell. This is what they do whenever one of them heads out for a race.

Fowler and Watson did not know what was happening, so they turned around. And they saw and heard the U.S. swim team, the greatest swim team in the world, chanting “USA! USA!” for them.

“Words can’t really put it into perspective,” Fowler would say.

You think that happens at the Buick Championship?

Or how about a group of Brazilian fans following around Matt Kuchar just so they can shout “Koooch!” as he charges on Sunday.

Or how about coming down the stretch on a Sunday at the Olympics with what turned out to be a fantastic leaderboard – Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson and Matt Kuchar shooting it out for themselves, for their countries, for a little piece of history.

This isn’t just a golf tournament. This is different. You play golf, sure, but then you go watch some of the best athletes in the world – and they’re all incredible. The athleticism you see at team volleyball or rowing, it’s overwhelming. You walk around with synchronized swimmers and team handball players and shooters and archers and judokas and gymnasts, and they all speak different languages, and they all look so different. And you’re connected to them. You’re all Olympians.

You missed it. Hey that’s not to say that it’s perfect here – it isn’t. Rio is a sprawling and complicated place and while there is so much spirit here, there is anger too, there is poverty, there are inconveniences, issues, mosquitoes, risks. Just like everywhere. You guys don’t live in a bubble. This is a big and tangled world. You don’t let these things keep you from living.

In the end, I don’t know if golf belongs in the Olympics. But that’s not the point – golf IS in the Olympics, and you guys had a chance to be here at the start, to be part of this bold experiment for the game you grew up playing. And you decided to stay away. You had a chance, Rory, to win Ireland’s first gold medal at these Games and only the second gold medal in the last 20 years. You had a chance, Jason and Adam, to be part of the Australian Olympic team, which is like one giant party train moving through Rio.

You had a chance, Jordan, to be part of the happiest week in golf. And that’s what it is here: Happy. It isn’t like any other golf event on earth. Nobody is saying it is as important as a major championship or the Ryder Cup or any other big money tournament. It isn’t as important.

But that was never the point. Why does it have to be like a major? When Rafael Nadal was playing Juan Martin del Potro in that third-set tiebreaker, with a shot at a gold medal on the line, he wasn’t thinking: “Yes, I will try, but this isn’t as important as Wimbledon.” He wasn’t thinking, “I would sure like to win, but I do not feel the same emotions I would feel in New York at the U.S. Open.”

No, he pushed to the same level of extreme, and he got lost in the moment, and he was utterly heartbroken when he lost, because these are the Olympics. True, it’s not a 100-meter race against Usain Bolt. It’s not the 200-meter butterfly against Michael Phelps. It’s not a balance-beam duel with Simone Biles. But it is the Olympics. The biggest (bleeping) show on earth. I’m sorry you missed it.

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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


FALLING

Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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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.