Cut Line: Hope for America's future in Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardOctober 3, 2014, 3:30 pm

The PGA Tour’s 15-minute offseason is winding down, the first shot of the 2014-15 season goes in the air Thursday morning at the Open, but the break was hardly event-free. In a “hot stove” edition of Cut Line we take a look back at America’s Ryder Cup woes and the possible future of the WGC-Match Play.

Made Cut

Ole, Ole, Ole. Give the Continent full style points, for the European team’s five-point triumph last week at Gleneagles, and the seamlessness of how 12 players from vastly different backgrounds and countries meld so easily every two years.

All week captain Paul McGinley told anyone who would listen that it was the European template, not his leadership, that united and focused his team. Perhaps, but there was no denying the Irishman put his own stamp on the proceedings.

“Complacency, concentration,” Rory McIlroy offered when asked about the European team’s secret formula, followed by Graeme McDowell’s take, “Wave after wave.”

“When the storm comes, we'll be the rock,” Justin Rose offered.

“Have fun,” Lee Westwood smiled.

It was all part of the larger message and a winning template that McGinley may not have invented, but he certainly perfected it.

Lefty right on mark. Maybe Phil Mickelson should have kept America’s dirty sweater vests behind team room doors. Maybe the man who is so adept at reading a room miscalculated.

But know this about Lefty’s subtle indictment of the current U.S. Ryder Cup system, if eight losses in the last 10 matches have taught us anything it is that the process is broken and only a major change of course can fix it.

Mickelson, the only U.S. player to participate in 10 Ryder Cups, knows this better than anyone. He also knew that Sunday’s post-cup news conference was going to be the biggest stage he would ever have to be an agent of change.

The exchange, which began with Mickelson suggesting that the U.S. go back to the model Paul Azinger used in 2008 at Valhalla, was uncomfortable and even a little contentious, but if his words lead to real change it will have been worth it.

Tweet of the week: @PaulAzinger “Momentum is like the wind. You can’t see it, but it’s very powerful!”

Azinger was referring to the U.S. Ryder Cup team’s start on Day 1 at Gleneagles, but in retrospect considering the groundswell of support for his return to captain the Americans again in 2016 it could become an apropos forecast.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Best intentions. To be clear, the blame for the U.S. team’s loss last week in Scotland should be shared equally between the 12 players – many of whom failed to earn a full point in two foursomes sessions – Tom Watson and PGA of America president Ted Bishop.

Watson was ill equipped for the nuances of a modern Ryder Cup, and Bishop overestimated the legend’s cachet among today’s players. Any other mistakes, either real or perceived, are just background noise.

Lost in the vitriol, however, is the obvious notion that Bishop, Watson & Co. embraced this year’s matches with the best of intentions.

“I think the PGA of America is willing to change from a certain stand point,” Bishop told this week. “We are willing to try to put all the appropriate pieces into place to collectively make a good decision going forward.”

The Watson experiment did not work, but that doesn’t mean their hearts weren't in the right place.

Musical WGCs. Professional golf’s version of March madness has been in a state of perpetual uncertainty since Accenture pulled the plug on its sponsorship earlier this year and the Tour pulled out of Tucson, Ariz.

The circuit reinvented the event for 2015, going to a round-robin format that will include group play for the first three days and moving the championship to TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.

The Tour announced on Tuesday that Cadillac would step in and sponsor the event for one year, a short-term lease the circuit normally tries to avoid, and has made it clear the move to Harding Park is a “one off” transition.

Donald Trump, whose complex at Doral currently hosts the WGC-Cadillac Championship, has expressed interest in swapping out the 72-hole stroke play event for the Match Play, which would suggest a move to south Florida could be in the making.

The only thing that is certain is that the game’s most volatile event is still a tournament in transition.

Missed Cut

Hope returns. In other tournament news, the Tour announced that Humana would be ending its sponsorship of the Coachella Valley event because the company’s “business is changing rapidly.”

Humana was contracted to sponsor the event through 2019 and may have been one of the circuit’s best partnerships considering the tournament’s health care theme and collaboration with The Clinton Foundation.

The loss, however, leaves the Tour with an opportunity to make things right. When Humana took over in 2012 officials stripped Bob Hope’s name from the event.

Hope’s name had been associated with the event since 1965, and whoever steps in after Humana should make it a priority that the comedian returns to the top of the marquee.

Sign-ing off. It wouldn’t be a golf season without a bizarre scorecard snafu, and the LPGA stepped in late to fill the void last week.

At the second stage of Q-School, Holly Clyburn shot a first-round 71 in Venice, Fla., and slid her scorecard to playing partner Justine Lee to sign, but Lee – who was reportedly frustrated after an opening 78 – failed to affix her “John Hancock” and Clyburn was disqualified under Rule 6-6b.

While there are plenty of victim-less crimes in golf, Clyburn’s fate seems entirely unjustifiable. In the age of electronic scoring for a player to be held accountable for another’s miscue is blatantly arcane and capricious.

Clyburn’s career, at least in the short term, is now on hold because of an honest mistake. In this case, the punishment certainly doesn’t match the crime.

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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.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.