The USA Basketball blueprint the PGA should follow

By John FeinsteinOctober 22, 2014, 3:40 pm

When the 2004 Olympics came to a conclusion in Athens, Greece, NBA commissioner David Stern knew he had a crisis on his hands. Twelve years after the Dream Team had been the talk of the Barcelona Olympics, the U.S. had been humiliated – barely managing to win a bronze medal in basketball. Two years earlier, in the World Championships, the U.S. had finished a stunning sixth, losing three times during the competition.

Not only was the country that invented basketball no longer dominant in the sport, it was no longer very good at it. American basketball hadn’t just taken a beating in Athens, it had been humiliated, with players carping at coaches and vice versa.

Sound familiar, golf fans?

“It was time to do something,” the now-retired Stern said recently, remembering those dark days 10 years ago. “When we first got involved in the Olympics and in international basketball, I thought we should defer to people. We let USA Basketball control things. In fact, we let FIBA (the International Basketball Association) control things internationally. Basically, the U.S. just supplied players and coaches.

“After Athens though, I realized that wasn’t working,” Stern said. “We weren’t in charge, but we were taking the blame when things went wrong. I decided if we were going to get blamed, we might as well be in charge.”

Stern didn’t appoint a committee to study the problem. Along with his deputy commissioner Russ Granik, he decided what needed to be done, and did it.

“I’ve always believed if you’re dealing with a bureaucracy, any bureaucracy, you figure out what needs to be done first,” Stern said. “Then you let the bureaucracy think it has come up with the solution. It isn’t all that difficult to do.”

Video: Basketball analyst Jay Bilas on USA Basketball and Ryder Cup

Stern put Jerry Colangelo in charge of USA Basketball, creating a managing director title for him so that none of the bureaucrats who had been running the organization were displaced. They were just told quietly that Colangelo would be making all the important decisions going forward. Then, Stern, Granik and Colangelo decided that Mike Krzyzewski would be the next coach.

Since the advent of the Dream Team in 1992, the Olympic coaches had all come from the NBA. Krzyzewski was a college coach, having won three national championships at Duke. If Stern and Colangelo had left the selection of a coach in the hands of any sort of committee, there is no way a college coach would have been selected to lead NBA players.

“My thought was that this wasn’t just about picking the next Olympic coach,” Stern said. “We needed a change in culture. We needed to somehow convince players – not just the stars of our league but, perhaps more importantly, young elite players who hadn’t played internationally yet – that, corny as it may sound, representing your country is not only a good thing but is something you should strive for; something that should be a goal.

“That hadn’t been the case in the past. Players took part because they thought they were obligated to or perhaps because it might help their marketing. Those aren’t the reasons you want someone to be on your team.”

Sound familiar?

Stern wanted Krzyzewski for reasons that went beyond basketball.

“He had gone to West Point,” he said. “He had served overseas in the Army. He could talk first hand to players of all ages about what it means to really represent your country in a way that may be a little bit tougher than setting a hard screen or taking a charge. He could take our teams to military bases and to West Point and say, ‘I was a player, I was a coach, but I did this ,too.’ And he could introduce them to men and women who were doing this. Most of all he could bring real passion for the whole thing to the table. He passed that passion on to the players at all levels.

“He got LeBron James to buy in but he also got kids coming out of high school to buy in, too. That’s why we’ve not only been dominant in the Olympics and World Championships (the U.S. has won the last two Olympics and the last two World Championships) but also at the junior levels, 19-and-under tournaments, things like that.

“He and Jerry have built something that should serve USA Basketball well for a long time. We’re dominant again – which is as it should be.”

Solving the U.S. problems in the Ryder Cup may not be nearly as easy. But Stern’s model would seem to make a lot more sense than the notion of having 11 men somehow try to reach a consensus on what is or is not important and on who should captain the U.S. in 2016 and beyond. As Stern noted, any kind of bureaucracy slows down decision-making and often results in wrong decisions made for the wrong reasons.

The PGA of America needs to put someone in charge – the way Stern did with Colangelo – and let that person decide who, as captain, can best help change the culture of American golf.

There’s little doubt that the biggest gap between the American Ryder Cup team and the European Ryder Cup team the last 20 years hasn’t been talent, it’s been passion. The European players grow up believing that there’s no event that’s more important than the Ryder Cup. You will never hear an American player say that, as a kid, he stood on the putting green at sunset and told himself, ‘This putt is to clinch the Ryder Cup.’

American’s dream of the Masters and the U.S. Open. Europeans dream those dreams, too – but they dream about the Ryder Cup just as often.

What needs to be done is not so much about appointing the next captain or even changing the rules for selecting the team, but it’s about the culture. You can’t create passion just by saying, ‘let’s be passionate,’ or by putting a pingpong table into the team room. You have to make Americans understand long before they turn pro, or even get to college, that the Ryder Cup should matter to them every bit as much as the Masters.

Phil Mickelson claimed in his post-singles anti-Tom Watson rant that Paul Azinger’s style as captain had made the players more invested in the Ryder Cup. If a captain has to convince players to be invested in winning, the U.S. is in trouble. Years ago, when Tiger Woods was asked about his relatively mediocre Ryder Cup record his response was: “What was Jack (Nicklaus)’s Ryder Cup record?” The point being that no one remembers you for playing well in Ryder Cups; they remember you for winning majors.

That’s not true in Europe. Colin Montgomerie is in the World Golf Hall of Fame because of his Ryder Cup record. Ian Poulter, who has never won a major, is a huge star because of his heroics in the Ryder Cup.

The best man for that job right now would be David B. Fay, the retired executive director of the USGA. It may seem anathema to the PGA of America to hire someone who spent his life at the USGA, but it would be a smart move. What’s more, Pete Bevacqua, the PGA of America’s CEO, worked for Fay and knows how bright he is.

Fay is pragmatic and would have a plan. His ideas would go beyond picking a captain. Maybe he could convince the PGA Tour to make the President’s Cup into an under-23 event to help younger players prepare to represent their country and to get into the spirit of an international team event after they turn pro and can’t play in the Walker Cup.

There’s no one right idea or an easy or quick fix. But, rather than appoint committees, the PGA of America should pick one leader and say to him, ‘make this better.’

That’s what Stern did 10 years ago. It worked out pretty well.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.