If Watson's team can't pull off miracle, where does U.S. turn next?

By Randall MellSeptember 27, 2014, 7:33 pm

GLENEAGLES, Scotland – This is the recurring nightmare for American golf.

A scoreboard bluer than Tom Watson’s eyes.

That infuriating song – “Ole, ole, ole, ole” – already echoing to the far corners of the Scottish Highlands.

It’s only Saturday night, but Europe’s poised to turn Sunday singles into another victory parade through the American ranks. The champagne’s on ice. Scottish bagpipers are prepping their blow sticks, ironing their kilts.

With a near clean sweep of Saturday’s afternoon foursomes, Europe built a commanding 10-6 lead.

“We got shellacked this afternoon,” U.S. captain Tom Watson said.

Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie, a Ryder Cup star and winning captain, doesn’t see much hope for the Americans.

“I can’t see Europe losing,” Montgomerie said.

No, it’s not officially over. We’ve seen epic comebacks in this event before. We saw the Americans overcome that same deficit at Brookline in ’99. We saw the Europeans do it just two years ago at Medinah, but that powerful phenomenon so integral to these Ryder Cups is rolling all downhill on the Americans. Momentum favors the Euros as they seek to win this event for the sixth time in seven tries and the eighth time in the last 10.

The merciless way Europe finished Saturday makes you believe a record rout is more likely than an epic comeback.


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With the Americans looking as if they might salvage one stinking point in the afternoon foursomes, the Euros wouldn’t take a foot off their necks.

Teaming with Martin Kaymer, Europe’s Justin Rose holed a 5-foot birdie at the last to win a half point in the last match on the course against Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who looked to be in control until Reed missed an 18-inch putt at the 16th hole.

“We were just talking about that in the locker room just now, talking about how important Justin's putt on 18 was,” Europe’s Graeme McDowell said. “Because any glimmer of momentum that [the Americans] had, say they win that match, they take something with them into the locker room.”

McDowell remembered how important that was to the Euros two years ago, when they came roaring back on Sunday at Medinah. Ian Poulter’s hard charge on Saturday evening, his five-birdie finish to win a match that kept the Americans from taking an 11-5 lead into Sunday, resonated through Europe’s team room.

“That's why that putt for Justin was so huge, because it gave them nothing to take away this evening,” McDowell said.

European captain Paul McGinley has been striking the right notes all week, from bringing Manchester United soccer legend Sir Alex Ferguson into the team ranks, to his almost shaman-like devotion to some secret architectural template unique to Europe’s Ryder Cup effort, to the inspirational images and messages he has posted in the team room.

One image was particularly relevant Saturday night.

“It’s a picture of a European rock in the middle of a raging storm,” McGinley said.

That’s what McGinley’s expecting from the Americans Sunday. He’s expecting them to storm Gleneagles, but he’s expecting something else, too.

“We will be that rock when the storm arrives.”

That’s the inspirational message McGinley said is printed out below the image.

All of this brings Capt. Watson to a moment of truth.

Can he fix what’s so dreadfully wrong with the American Ryder Cup effort? This is his time. This is his moment. And this is a crossroads for the PGA of America. It’s why the organization broke tradition so boldly, bringing Watson back at age 65 to see if he could work one more magical victory in Scotland, where he won four of his five British Opens.

“You might think it’s a given that the Europeans are going to win, but I sure as hell don’t,” Watson said.

The woeful plight of the American Ryder Cup effort, and the depth of its desperation, is evident in the singles lineup Watson is sending out. He is putting rookies Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed out first and second in a front-loaded lineup.

Spieth (21) and Reed (24) combined to win 2 1/2 points in fourballs and foursomes on Friday and Saturday. They were the best American team this week. They were also the youngest American pairing in the history of the Ryder Cup.

“As I told the rookies, you could be the future soul of the Ryder Cup,” Watson said. “I like their attitudes. They are fiery. I like the look in their eyes.”

Is this where the American Ryder Cup effort is at? Rebuilding for the future? Hoping there’s something better for these rookies to lead someday?

Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley were the best new American team in years at Medinah. Watson sat them both sessions Saturday.

Watson is frontloading his lineup with youth. He’s sending Rickie Fowler (25) out third behind Spieth and Reed.

“Every player here is going to have to fight their guts out,” Watson said looking over his singles lineup.

If Watson’s all out of golfing miracles, if the Euros finish this shellacking, where does the American Ryder Cup effort go next?

Back to Paul Azinger? Do they bring back the last captain to lead the Americans to victory? His pod system in ’08 at Valhalla, his intricate architectural construct, seems closer to whatever template McGinley secretly guards than anything the Americans offer. McGinley spoke all week about how certain principles and practices have been handed down by past European captains. The Americans don’t have anything like that in place. They go in a new direction every two years.

The writing’s on the wall for Capt. Watson. There are two fates awaiting him in the history books, it seems. He’ll be remembered as one of the greatest American captains ever, the savior and demigod who rescued the U.S. effort. Or he’ll be the icon whose legend got gashed, the old man who was too far removed from today’s game, too out of touch with today’s players, to make a difference.

That’s the way it is for Ryder Cup captains these days, all or nothing.

If reaching for Watson was a desperate act, where does the desperation reach next?

What about following the lead of corporate America? What about outsourcing? What about doing what American sports empires do best? Go after the other team’s best coaches and players. Sign ‘em up as free agents. Change the American Ryder Cup rules. Forget about requiring players and captains to be American born. Sign up Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Graeme McDowell. They live in Orlando most of the year, anyway. Sign up Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood. They’ve got homes in South Florida. Sign up Bernhard Langer as captain. He lives in Boca Raton.

OK, that’s a joke, but if Watson doesn’t bring home the Ryder Cup, the PGA better have some radical new template in mind, because it makes no sense that the United States should have so many highly ranked players who can’t win a Ryder Cup.

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Teenager Im wins Web.com season opener

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 10:23 pm

South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Web.com Tour.

Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Web.com Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.

Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.

Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Web.com Tour event at age 20.

Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Web.com Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

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Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.


11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.


11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.


1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

The reward now?

''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

And not the Masters.

He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

Except for that first week in April.

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The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

Yeah, you heard that right.

“I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on

Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

“I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

Here's two more just for good measure.

Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.