Mahan a part of the 'American young talent' conversation?

By John HawkinsFebruary 27, 2012, 3:01 am

So the guy wrongly accused of killing the U.S. rally at the 2010 Ryder Cup is the new WGC-Accenture Match Play champion, beating a Northern Irishman in the finals, no less, making it a week when justice did more than just prevail. It high-stepped its way to the goal line and broke into an end-zone dance.

Hunter Mahan beat three of the top 14 players in the World Ranking en route to his second WGC title, all three of whom he vanquished after the field was reduced to 16. The last of those victories came against Rory McIlroy, who didn't face anyone in the top 30 until drawing Lee Westwood in the semis. Mahan won 31 holes and lost just 12 after surviving Zach Johnson in his opening match. Most impressively, he never trailed an opponent after winning the fourth hole of his second-round bout against Y.E. Yang.

By any measure, it was an exceptional performance by a guy who has drifted in and out of those 'America's best young golfer' conversations that have proven so popular in recent years. Mahan turns 30 in May, and if the common perception is that a shoddy short game has prevented him from becoming one of the game's best players, the statistics do little to support or debunk such a claim.

In 2011, for instance, Mahan had by far his best all-around season, ranking in the top 25 in putting, birdies, greens in regulation and scoring average. He was a respectable 66th in sand saves and 58th in salvaging par from inside 30 yards. He also didn't win a tournament, and for all the FedEx Cup points and millions of dollars he accumulated, success is measured in Ws, not dollars or overnight-shipping digits.

'Ballstriking is a strength of mine, but I have to chip and putt if I want to win,' Mahan said after deposing of McIlroy. It is especially crucial at the majors, where Mahan has underachieved to the point that he is still searching for his first top-five finish. His performance this past weekend will lure some into thinking he’s ready to become a superstar – I strongly suggest we downplay such chatter, if not ignore it entirely.

Mahan is a very good player, strikingly similar to Westwood, if you’ll pardon the pun, in that he excels from tee to green. The ability to economize strokes when you’re not hitting it precisely, however, is a difficult skill to acquire and even harder to rely on consistently. A vast majority of the world’s best being a superb short game with them to the pros – chipping a golf ball is largely a right-brain exercise mastered by those who find the touch at an early age.

Putting, meanwhile, is a maddening mix of confidence and science. Perhaps it’s worth noting that all four Match Play semifinalists use a standard-length putter to get their ball in the hole, which isn’t likely to quell the protests of those who believe long putters should be illegal. The topic led to some provocative discussion during the Golf Channel’s “State of the Game” forum and remains one of the more persistent issues in my live chats for

Maybe it was the 45-foot broomstick bomb made by Bill Haas to win the playoff at Riviera, the strength of the dissenting cry or a mere surge of common sense, but I have gone from somewhat neutral on the matter to strongly in favor of a long-putter ban. We’re not talking about a “competitive advantage” here, per se, but the inarguable notion that anchoring the club ifies the most obvious (and important) physical task required in putting: prudent lateral movement of the arms and hands.

No question, the growing number of prominent young players who use long putters is both alarming and relevant to the issue itself. You simply cannot push or pull a putt if the instrument is braced against your body, and thus, the “diminished skill” factor is something the Royal & Ancient and USGA must address immediately. 

I honestly don’t care if the 16 handicap at my club shows up with a long putter. What bothers me is that pro golf’s competitive landscape absolutely has been affected – that the game’s most significant pressure-related activity is made easier by something that resembles a crutch in both length and purpose. Long putters may not be saving careers, but you can’t look me in the eye and tell me they aren’t compromising the game’s integrity.

On the seventh hole of his quarterfinal match against Matt Kuchar, Mahan hit a spectacular approach from just over 200 yards, stopping the ball about 6 feet from the flag. Kuchar, whose second shot had barely reached the front of the green, pulled out his bellystick and rolled his 50-footer just inside Mahan’s mark, leaving him 5 feet for par on almost the exact same line as his opponent.

When Mahan burned the right edge, life didn’t seem fair – he’d played the hole much better than his foe but was sure to walk away with a halve. Alas, Kuchar also missed wide-right, anchor and all, at which point a tiny little dose of justice had been served. Golf can be like that sometimes.

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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.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.