Love has confidence in four Ryder Cup rookies

By Randall MellSeptember 26, 2012, 9:22 pm

MEDINAH, Ill. – U.S. captain Davis Love III took special interest in his four Ryder Cup rookies when they went out to play their first practice sessions Tuesday at Medinah Country Club.

With some of the largest crowds you will ever see watching practice rounds, Love was curious how the Americans making their first Ryder Cup appearances would react.

Would they look wide-eyed? Or overly nervous? Or unusually uncomfortable in any way?

Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Webb Simpson and Brandt Snedeker are the X-factors in this year’s biennial competition. While the United States appears evenly matched with the Europeans in so many ways, the Europeans boast more experience. The Euros have just one rookie (Nicolas Colsaerts) on their roster.

Ryder Cup: Teams | Articles | Videos | Pics | Social

The four American first-timers arrived with little idea what pressure awaits them, but they also arrived with no Ryder Cup scars.

“The Ryder Cup to me is like the last nine holes of a major when you’ve got a chance to win, except it starts Friday morning on the first tee,” Love said. “And it never lets up.

“I honestly don’t think you get any more nervous on Sunday trying to win your singles match than you are on Friday morning trying to hit your first tee shot.”

That pretty much makes Ryder Cup practice rounds feel like the early rounds of a major. So Love watched, looking for clues as to how his first-timers were feeling.

“They were nervous on the first tee, and some of them admitted it, and they were shocked at how many people were out there, but while they were telling me that, they never missed a shot,” Love said.

With Europe having won four of the last five Ryder Cups, the American rookies will have a lot to say about whether the United States can turn around Europe’s dominance. One-third of Love’s team has never played in a Ryder Cup before. Whether that makes them fearless or fearful will become clear early in Friday’s foursomes, the toughest format in the event. It’s alternate shot, the truest “team” competition in golf in that a player suffers more in that format when a partner hits a bad shot. It ratchets up the pressure on every shot.

How many rookies will Love put out right away? How many will he wait to introduce in fourballs?

Love looked for confirmation in what he was seeing in the practice rounds, in his rookies looking as good as he thought they did. He found it cozying up to swing coach Butch Harmon out on the course.

“Butch was watching a lot of them, and he goes, `Holy cow, these guys are playing unbelievable, aren’t they?’” Love said.

Love said the toughest part of his job isn’t figuring out pairings but figuring out who to sit out because so many of his players appear to be in good form.

“They’re all playing great, they all look like veterans,” Love said.

Bradley, Dufner, Simpson and Snedeker may be playing in their first Ryder Cup, but they hardly fit the mold of rookies. They’re all among the top 14 in the world rankings, three of them among the top 10.

“They’re major championship winners, they’re FedEx Cup winners,” Love said. “They’ve done a lot. They’ve played a lot of great golf, and they’re really comfortable, confident guys.”

Simpson, 27, won the U.S. Open this year and played on last year’s winning American Presidents Cup team.

Bradley, 26, counted the PGA Championship among his two titles last year. He won the WGC-Bridgestone this year.

Snedeker, 31, just won the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup last week. He has won twice this year.

Dufner, 35, also has two victories this year.

Phil Mickelson is playing in his ninth Ryder Cup, more than any player in these matches, but he says the veteran nucleus of the team is getting as much from these rookies as they’re giving to them.

“We need that excitement, that energy that the rookies provide as much as they need a little bit of guidance,” Mickelson said. “We need that positive outlook, that desire to win, because our highlights, our moments that we look back on are ’99 and ’08, the two times that we’ve won. We want to create another memory, another special week.

“I’m going to be playing a lot with Keegan Bradley, that’s no secret here. It’s fun playing with Keegan because this is his first team event. He is so excited, and that exuberance and energy, you feed off it.”

Bradley isn’t the only rookie who appears to have found a natural partner.

Simpson looks like a good match with Bubba Watson, and Dufner with Zach Johnson.

Snedeker looks like a possible match with Jim Furyk or Tiger Woods if Woods and Stricker are split up.

The American rookies take a lot of confidence into their pairings.

“I feel confident, right now, at an all-time high,” Snedeker said. “I’m playing the best golf of my career. I beat some of the best players in the world last weekend, so I feel like my game is ready the rest of the week.”

Dufner thinks his temperament should help him this week.

“Obviously, the pressure and the environment of this event is going to be nothing like I’ve experienced,” Dufner said. “So, I’m just looking forward to being out there and in that moment and seeing how I respond to it. I generally stay pretty even, not too up, not too down. It might be a good fit for me.”

The Ryder Cup hasn’t really started and Bradley’s already ranking the week as one of his best experiences.

“Walking to the first tee [for Tuesday’s practice round] was probably the proudest moment of my entire career,” Bradley said. “I’ve had the most fun I’ve maybe ever had on a golf course. It was, honestly, one of the highlights of my career. I kind of expect that to happen every day this week.”

That’s music to Love’s ears.

Click to check out Golf Channel's and NBC Sports' Ryder Cup coverage.

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.

Getty Images

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?

Getty Images

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.