10 Reasons Captain Hal Has America on Track

By Kraig KannSeptember 15, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 Ryder CupBLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Hes the right man for the job. I didnt have many doubts coming into this weeks Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills. Now, after sitting in on Suttons Tuesday news conference, I have absolutely none.
 
For the record, Sutton is a man of four previous Ryder Cups with a record of 7-5-4. This week, his line of thinking and his point of direction might lead to 12 men walking off the course come Sunday as winners. His sense of direction appears that strong.
 
Hal Sutton, he of 14 career wins and more than 15 million dollars in earnings, is a man of strong desire and a tremendous belief that winning comes from believing. And this week Sutton, for all his speeches and pep talks, is finding it within himself to leave his troops to themselves in search of their own self-motivation. In other words, keep em guessing but keep em focused. And at all times, keep a belief in the plan.
 
Example #1: Bernhard Langer chose to present his players with Rolex watches as gifts before the matches begin. Suttons response ' He put a lot of pressure right off the bat, didnt he? Yes, we bought gifts, but Im not going to give it to the players until a little later on in the week. I want it to be a surprise.

Example #2: Suttons team dinner on Monday night upon arriving at Oakland Hills was a held at a restaurant chosen by Suttons wife Ashley. The special guest ' Michael Jordan. Jordan was called in for a quick speech and a lengthy appearance. The NBA legend has a fond affection for golf and a good deal of experience in handling pressure at its highest level. As Sutton told it, Jordans zest for the Ryder Cup and the American Ryder Cup team made him the prefect man to make each and every player feel special about just being a part of it.
 
Example #3: Langer actually had masseuses on board the European team flight to Detroit in an effort to get his team relaxed. When asked about how he will try to keep his team loose with such lofty expectations and a recent record in International team competition that isnt exactly glittering, Sutton responded, Not through masseuses. I think weve got a comedian coming in a little bit later or a trickster of something like that.
 
Example #4: Sutton shot back at a perception that the Americans havent displayed a strong sign of nationalism, patriotism or whatever it takes. And when asked if he was summoning things to convince his team that it has to care as much as the Europeans, Sutton simply turned around in his chair and pointed to the back of his powder blue shirt. Do you see whats on my back? Sutton asked. Yall see that flag? Anything I can summon up, thats what were going to do.
 
Hal Sutton gets it. Period. Thats not to say that Lanny Wadkins didnt. Or that Tom Kite wasnt a good leader, or that Curtis Strange wasnt passionate enough, or that Ben Crenshaw, despite winning, wasnt just perfect.
 
I just see something different in Sutton. And I have from the get-go. He seems to push all the right buttons and SAY all the right things.
 
Example #5: When asked about possible stylistic differences between the Americans and Europeans, Sutton fired off one of his best lines of the day. Theres always that perception that the Americans play the ball in the air and the Europeans play it on the ground, Sutton said. I think, as a matter of fact, if you go out there, (Tuesdays practice round) they dont have any trouble getting it in the air.
 
For all his quick-witted thinking and quips made in media news conferences, Sutton has made it clear that this is HIS team, and it will be left up to him and ultimately only him as to how to send it on its way.
 
Example #6: When asked about possible pairings for Fridays morning fourball matches, Sutton didnt tip his hand. In fact, hes told his team the same thing hes told the media. Hell let them know sometime around the noon hour. I told them last night that I wasnt going to set the pairings for the practice rounds. Dont read anything into anybody youre playing with. Be prepared to beat the other two guys by yourself and if I give you a little help, then thats a bonus.
 
Suttons two assistant captains Steve Jones (winner of the U.S. Open in 1996 at Oakland Hills) and Jackie Burke (7-1-0 in five Ryder Cup appearances in the 1950s) have been tossing around ideas about certain things. Some have been received well. Others as Sutton put it are not negotiable. And Sutton is a man who wants no confusion about where he stands on his decision making.
 
Example #7: Sutton in response to questions about how hes handling his own expectations thus far went like this: Probably yall are not going to write one article at the end of this week that said Jackie Burke made some decision that cost the American team from winning, or youre not going to say the same thing about Steve Jones, BUT, that is a possibility where Hal Sutton is concerned. So, I will be decisive and assertive with what I think is in the best interests of the team.
 
And you know what? The players like that from a Captainat least this captain.
 
Example #8: Jim Furyk was asked about Suttons tactics thus far. Hes a guy I played along side of, Furyk said. Hes got a lot of spirit.

He has a formula for what he wants to do. Not all of it (pairings) has been conveyed yet. Were getting bits and pieces every day. And hes letting us be individuals as well as being part of a team.
 
Hal Sutton has made things perfectly clear about preparation. Do it on their own. Do what they do. They know how to do it. Sutton said that if a player knows who his partner might be he might start worrying about his partners game instead of their own.
 
And as for Tiger Woodsleave no doubt about his form coming in and what impact that might have on his role on this team. And if this quote wont get Tiger to jump in step, then what will?
 
Example #9: Sutton on Woods. I dont think hes in any sort of slump right now. I mean, I aspire to be in his slumps!
 
So, no, no dont be worried about Tiger Woods. If thats your only worry, you have no worries.
 
I think yall might see some of Tigers greatest golf this week, so buckle your chin straps.

One final message was sent Tuesday by Sutton. He was baited by a European journalist on the topic of ambition on both sides of the
Atlantic leading to emotions that have spilled over that some felt were not in the spirit of golf. Brookline specifically was mentioned, and Sutton fired one last parting shot.
 
Example #10: Sutton to the journalist. Look, yall have been kind of like a bad marriage partner. Weve apologized for five years for what happened in 1999. So yall need to forget about that. If we had it to do over again, we would not have run out on the green. But the truth of the matter is, were going to be ourselves. So we are going out there and were going to be ourselves. No more apologies or anything else.
 
And thats how Suttons news conference ended. And for me, thats all I needed to hear. Hal Suttons team might not win back the Ryder Cup this week. But Sutton is proving to be a winner of a Captain already. At least thats how I see it.
 
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
 
Related Links:
  • Photo Gallery

  • U.S. Ryder Cup Team

  • European Ryder Cup Team

  • Full Coverage - 35th Ryder Cup
  • Getty Images

    Rahm, with blinders on, within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

    SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

    The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

    Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

    It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

    “It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

    Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

    According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

    “I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”


    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos


    Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

    And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

    As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

    He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

    “I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

    If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

    Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

    “I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

    Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

    Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

    “If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

    Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.

    Getty Images

    Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

    After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

    With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.


    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos


    “Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

    “I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

    Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. 

    Getty Images

    Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:53 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    “I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.

    “I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”


    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos


    On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”

    Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”

    Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.

    “We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.” 

    Getty Images

    Tiger grouped with Reed, Hoffman at Torrey Pines

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:35 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods will make his 2018 debut alongside Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman.

    The threesome will go off Torrey Pines’ South Course at 1:40 p.m. ET Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open. They begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday on the North Course.

    Woods is an eight-time winner at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open, but he hasn’t broken 70 in his last seven rounds on either course. Last year, he shot rounds of 76-72 to miss the cut.


    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos


    Reed, who has grown close to Woods after being in his pod during the past two international team competitions, is coming off a missed cut last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Hoffman, a San Diego native, has only two top-10s in 20 career starts at Torrey.

    Other featured groups for the first two rounds include:

    • Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker: 1:30 p.m. Thursday off South 1, 12:20 p.m. Friday off North 10

    • Rickie Fowler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele: 12:30 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:30 p.m. Friday off South 1

    • Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama: 12:40 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:40 p.m. Friday off South 1