Cut Line: Analyzing the Ryder Cup task force changes

By Rex HoggardFebruary 27, 2015, 3:59 pm

In an all task-force edition, Cut Line examines the good (Davis Love III), the bad (Fred Couples) and the ugly (fall schedule fallout) of the group’s sweeping changes.

Made Cut

Task masters. While some have dismissed the task force as an overreaction to another American loss, the alternative was not an option.

Whether the changes the PGA of America initiated – everything from a legacy program for future captains to a revamped points structure – produce positive results really doesn’t matter since the only other option was to continue the status quo and hope for better.

“Look, Europe is a very talented team and they are very well structured and they have great leadership. Some of those guys play better in the Ryder Cup than they’ve ever played individually,” task force member Phil Mickelson told GolfChannel.com. “They were beating us when we were a better team, and now they are arguably a better team.

“For us to compete we have to bring out our best golf. We have to play together as a team; we have to be put in positions to succeed. We can’t have challenges to overcome and expect us to beat such a good team.”

Opening Day. With a nod to the realities of the PGA Tour’s wrap-around schedule, the Frys.com Open – which kicked off the circuit’s 2014-15 season in October – and Hyundai Tournament of Champions – the first event of the new year – felt more like soft openings than a big kickoff.

By comparison, consider this week’s Honda Classic where Danny Lee, currently No. 49 on the FedEx Cup point list, is making his 13th start of the season while world No. 1 Rory McIlroy is embarking on his debut.

This week’s field includes 27 of the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking, including the winners of three of last year’s four majors, and is another measure of how far the Honda Classic has come in the last decade since moving to PGA National.

From a second-tier event bouncing from bad golf course to bad golf course, to the Tour’s unofficial opening day, not a bad climb.

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Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Captain obvious. While it’s now clear that Davis Love III was an overwhelming favorite to captain the 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup team – according to various sources the only member of the task force that didn’t vote for Love was Love – it’s still not clear why Fred Couples was never seriously considered.

“When they all got home, they said, ‘We need you to do this,’” Couples told Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte in November.

Just days later, however, at the task force’s first meeting Love quickly emerged as the only choice.

“I don’t think it’s a question of why it’s not Fred, or why it’s not someone else. It’s why it’s Davis. He seemed to be the right person at the right time for what the Ryder Cup is trying to do,” PGA chief executive Pete Bevacqua told GolfChannel.com. “When you are talking to the players and captains he was the person who emerged. It felt like an obvious choice.”

Maybe Freddie lacked the organizational skills to lead America into a new era, as some observers have opined, and it’s clear Love was the players’ choice, but if Couples really wasn’t the answer to the U.S. side’s woes Cut Line isn’t sure what the question was.

Law and disorder. The busiest offices at Tour headquarters this week weren’t the rules staff or agronomy department. If the recent frenzied give-and-take is any indication, it has been the legal department that is putting in the overtime lately.

The Tour is dealing with lawsuits on two fronts and last week both cases heated up, with attorneys for the circuit challenging Vijay Singh’s ongoing deposition phase with as many as nine additional Champions Tour players with “affiliations” with S.W.A.T.S., the company that provided Singh with the deer-antler spray that sparked his brush with the Tour’s anti-doping policy.

Attorneys for the Tour also informed lawyers for the caddies in an ongoing class action lawsuit that the circuit plans to request a change of venue, from the Northern District of California to the Middle District of Florida, where the Tour is headquartered.

We live in a litigious world, but it’s getting to a stage where success on Tour will be measured in billable hours, not points lists or money earned.


Missed Cut

Fall-ing away. One of the more subtle yet telling moves made by the Ryder Cup task force was to rework the points structure for Team USA qualifying.

Amid the small print came the realization that the Tour’s fall events are irrelevant, as evidenced by the fact that none of the money earned during the fall will be reflected on the Ryder Cup points list.

Players will earn 1 point for every $2,000 won in the World Golf Championships and The Players in 2015 and 1 point for every $1,000 earned in this year’s majors.

Beginning in January 2016, players will earn 1 point for every $1,000 in “stand-alone sanctioned events” and 2 points for every $1,000 earned in next year’s majors.

Lost in that structure, however, are the fall events in the Tour’s wrap-around schedule.

“If you count money for those last three or four months, you're giving the bottom half of the Tour a three‑month head start over ultimately the top guys,” Mickelson explained. “So you wanted to start that money in 2015 but the money list on the Tour list starts in September or October. So it was getting confusing.”

Perhaps, but what’s truly confusing is Love’s involvement in a make-over that robs fall events of any relevance. It’s a move that hurts events like the McGladrey Classic, which Love hosts.

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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


FALLING

Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.