Azinger seeks long-term RC solution, not quick fix

By Rex HoggardOctober 15, 2014, 4:15 pm

If we’ve learned anything from the 2014 Ryder Cup it is that from inflated expectations can come colossal disappointment.

The Tom Watson experiment was supposed to stem the American slide, which has now been extended to eight losses in the last 10 matches. To put that in context, this year’s most successful U.S. Ryder Cup players – Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed – were still in diapers the last time the American team won back-to-back matches (1991 and ’93).

In retrospect, the expectations for Watson and an admittedly depleted U.S. team were decidedly unrealistic. In the rush to win at all costs the PGA of America and president Ted Bishop dusted off an aging legend and hoped for the best.

In the wake of another loss, the association will now turn to a blue-ribbon task force for answers in 2016, when the matches will be played at Hazeltine National, with an idea pinched from Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling: “The best way to have a great idea is to have a lot of ideas.”

But that optimism, however misplaced, comes with a built-in set of pitfalls. Following the U.S. team’s loss at Gleneagles the vitriol has reached an all-time high, a reality that will only be compounded by two years of king building.


Video: Azinger discusses possible 2016 Ryder Cup captaincy


However extensive the nip/tuck of the current Ryder Cup process may be, the crescendo leading up to the ’16 matches will only set the stage for even more handwringing if the United States can’t wrest itself from the trash heap of pedestrian play.

Paul Azinger knows all too well the heights the Ryder Cup road will travel the next two years and the danger of arriving at a cliff as opposed to a catapult in 2016. It at least partially explains why he chose to pass on the opportunity to sit on the 11-member task force, instead taking his ideas to the PGA powers in a more private setting.

Azinger already has a plan sketched out – “it’s ready to go,” he said – and will meet with the PGA of America early next month to discuss his ideas.

“It’s more than just how you pick the captain. I want to have my discussion with them in private. I don’t want to have an ultimatum with the PGA of America; I want to work with them,” he told the “Morning Drive” crew on Wednesday.

’Zinger, more than anyone, knows that the American Ryder Cup problem goes well beyond the need for pods and more timely captain’s picks. The margin between victory and defeat goes much deeper than a timely putt here or a fortunate bounce there.

The 2008 captain also realizes the inherent dangers of a quick fix and the red, white and blue elephant in the room – where does the U.S. side go if the result is another defeat in two years?

“If the two teams are perfectly even, the European team still has an advantage,” he explained. “Just look at the way they pick their captains. At Gleneagles I saw lots of past captains on the fairway, a lot of future captains. We don’t have a contingency plan. We don’t have the same continuity that they have.”

Although Azinger was reluctant to give specifics of the plan he will present to the PGA next month, it is clear his ideas go well beyond a Band-Aid. Forget potential pairings and horrid foursomes play, for the former captain, America’s issues start with the concept of a lack of ownership.

“I want to look at this Ryder Cup from 360 degrees; (Europe) may have a bigger advantage because right now they are a little bit better,” Azinger said. “They are invested in the Ryder Cup because it is owned by the European Tour and that makes a difference as well.”

In 2008 ’Zinger was a task force of one, creating a winning atmosphere, but it didn’t translate to a winning legacy. Just ask Phil Mickelson.

In fact, four years later it led to what appears to be the reactionary decision to pull Watson out of retirement and now a high-profile roundtable with the ultimate mandate – make the matches matter again.

The alternative is a continued march to irrelevancy. While Rory McIlroy dismissed the notion that a lopsided Ryder Cup is a bad Ryder Cup, falling back on a historical advantage the U.S. side enjoys (25-13-2), that must seem like ancient history to the current crop of American players.


Video: Azinger discusses Ryder Cup relevancy


But asked if he could envision a time when arguably the game’s greatest event could lapse into a predictably anticlimactic cycle, Azinger’s answer was telling.

“It could, yeah. America needs to win one,” he told your scribe. “It’s really interesting irony that you can’t focus on winning and you certainly can’t focus on losing. You want to focus on process. It’s razor thin and the future is bright for the Ryder Cup and the American team can still play well and win these matches.”

Just don’t try to tell that to the Europeans, who have become the Harlem Globetrotters to the U.S. side’s Washington Generals.

With tongue firmly planted in check, it is a measure of Europe’s confidence that Ian Poulter tweeted this week that the secret password for the newly minted task force was “0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 0” – the U.S. team’s Ryder Cup record the last 10 matches.

The PGA of America answered with a task force and a blank canvas, but the problem is that such drastic measures leave nowhere to go if it turns out the emergency button doesn’t work.

Getty Images

Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

Getty Images

Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

Getty Images

Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

Getty Images

Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.