Ryder Cup Has Changed and Its All for the Better

By Nick FaldoSeptember 23, 2002, 4:00 pm
I can't begin to tell you how differently the Ryder Cup is now from the year when I first played. I first played in 1977, and I remember what our optimism was like back then - it was zero. No one thought we had a chance. As it developed, I guess they were right.
The big change came in 1983. At last we were getting enough talent that we felt we could play with the Americans. Seve Ballesteros and Sandy Lyle had come aboard in 1979. In 1981, Bernhard Langer made the team. Ian Woosnam was there in 1983. And in 1983, we lost the Cup by just one point.
Going into the matches in '83, probably half believed it could be done and the other half didn't. But after we came so close that year, all 12 guys believed it was possible. It WAS possible in 1985 - we won - and from then until now it's been equal footing.
The Ryder Cup has so many joyful and memorable moments for me, as well as some that aren't so joyful. Certainly there have been great partnerships - Peter Oosterhuis, Woosie, Sam Torrance, Bernhard, Colin Montgomerie. Obviously the match most people talk about today is the one I played with Curtis (Strange)- this year's American captain - in 1995.
I remember it pretty well myself - I had gotten down early, we were like the 11th match on the course, there was so much tension. Our team was such big underdogs there at Oak Hill.
I finally tied it and on 18, I had about a 95-yard shot into the green. It was as nervous as I've ever been on a golf course. When I went down to the shot and my knees went boinggg! I had never done that before!
Then I had a four-foot putt that was very tricky. There was a lot of break, the ball would have to be played outside the hole. So I knew that, if I missed, it would roll far enough away that I'd still have another putt. But I didn't want to dribble it down there, I wanted to stand up and hit the darn thing. Of course, it did go in and I won the match. But that was a pretty good up-and-down, that one. I would have prayed if it would have helped at the moment, but of course I didn't have time!
We've had to go with only eight or nine players most years, though. The tone was set by Tony Jacklin back in the mid-'80s when he was European captain. He called us together back then and said, 'Guys, I've got eight men playing great and I'm going to keep playing those eight guys.'
We've never had 12 really strong players. We're always struggling. Of course, there have been a year or two that we've been better than that. But I think this year, we'll be all right. I doubt there are more than two or three guys that the captain is intending to go all five matches. The only one I can think of is Garcia.
The rest of the guys have injuries and what have you, so it actually might help this time that he (Torrance) won't be able to go with many guys every time. I think he is going to have to play just about everybody. There might be a few guys who go out three or four times, but those days of having to play five times are about over.
This year will be different, of course, in that this is really 2001's team one year after. You can't expect the players to be all on top of their game. There are about four guys on each team who are struggling, either because of injuries or loss of form. We knew that would happen when they postponed it for a year. It was inevitable that at least two players would be playing worse. But the press hasn't really dwelled on who or who isn't playing poorly. It's like, 'Hey that's the team, now get on with it.'
Both sides will be hurt somewhat. But it IS match play, so that really doesn't matter. If he shoots 75 and you shoot 74 - you've won. The important thing is to win your match, it doesn't matter how or by what bloomin' score, it's just you've got to win a point. That's what you've always got to remember.
Match play has always been intriguing. The big difference is, you play more aggressively than in stroke play. Every shot you go for, because if you miss the green, you can still chip it in. You're not thinking, 'This is awfully difficult to get up and down.' You always are thinking about just one thing - get the ball in the hole.
That's the great thing about match play - you never think about the next shot; whereas, in stroke play, you're always thinking about the next shot. And if you lose one hole, you forget about it immediately and think about the next hole. You can really survive on your adrenalin and determination. You go for everything - within reason, of course.
There are so many butterflies on the first tee, but you've got to realize that you only control what you can control. You can't control anything outside the ropes - you can't control the gallery or the TV or the Ryder Cup officials or anything else. The only thing you've got control over is yourself. And you should have one overriding thought - 'There's the fairway and I've got to hit it.'
I've put my name forward for Ryder Cup captain. I feel like I'm ready for it. To be honest, I don't know what the procedure is, so we'll just have to see what happens. But whatever it is or however you go about, I feel as though I am ready.
But, I love the concept behind the Ryder Cup. May the best team win, and let's begin the matches.
Full Coverage of the 34th Ryder Cup Matches
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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.

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Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 17, 2018, 7:00 pm

The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”

For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.

There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.

“It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”

But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by GolfChannel.com paints a different picture.

Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”

“I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”

Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.

“No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”

It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.

Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”

The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”

You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.

How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?

“The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.

Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.

The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.

Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.

Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.

“If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”

It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.

Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.

The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.

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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.