Euros mapping out road to Medinah, Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 11, 2012, 7:45 pm

Talking Ryder Cup points in January is akin to fretting over NFL wild-card possibilities in September, the acme of competitive foolishness that wastes time and energy on an utterly elusive target.

Yet for a handful of globetrotting Europeans who occupy the transatlantic grey area between tours the path to potential team membership began long before last week’s season openers in Hawaii and South Africa.

For Martin Laird the road to Chicago and this year’s matches actually began in 2010 when he took up affiliate European Tour membership and finished fifth at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. The 124,594 euros he earned was enough to secure him full status in 2011. That’s when the Scot began to be squeezed by the small print.

Laird was married last July and knew he’d miss a month of competition as he and his wife, Meagan, set up shop in Scottsdale, Ariz. Because of this he wouldn’t be able to play his 13-event minimum as a full member in Europe which would, in turn, keep him from playing the circuit in 2012 and keep him off this year’s Ryder Cup team.

“I had two choices after 2010, either take full membership or none at all. If I would have taken membership and not gotten to my 13 (event minimum) there is a two-year ban,” Laird said. “I couldn’t have made the Ryder Cup team.”

Laird took up affiliate European membership this year but because of the policy pencil thrashing he missed out on the first four months of qualifying for the European team. With his runner-up showing last week at Kapalua he moved to 40th on the world points list, which is a third of the European selection system along with a European points list and two captain’s picks.

“I’m not going to play enough events for the Europe points list unless I go over there and win a couple of times. I’m going to go back and play four or five events in Europe and that’s going against guys that will play 30 events over that period of September (2011) to September (2012),” said Laird, who hopes to play the Scottish Open and Dunhill Links as well as the four majors and four World Golf Championships.

“With the world points list I don’t see why even if I don’t get into the top five (and earn an automatic selection) I can at least put my name in the picture to be a pick.”

Perhaps, but from his vantage point on this side of the Atlantic, Laird should look no further than fellow Scottsdale resident and Ryder Cup hopeful Paul Casey for a cautionary tale of selection woe.

In 2010, Casey was ninth in the world ranking and had played in the last three Ryder Cups yet was passed over by captain Colin Montgomerie because, some speculated, he had not spent enough time playing the European Tour.

Justin Rose suffered a similar fate despite a torrid mid-summer stretch that included victories at the Memorial and AT&T National. Rose and Casey were chilling oversights, or examples depending on your point of view, for PGA Tour-based Europeans and a reason for players like Laird to consider a more deliberate path to Ryder Cup membership.

Monty’s message was clear – it would take more than the minimum to rate a captain’s pick.

“(Laird) should play the three events in the desert (Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Dubai),” said European uber-manager Chubby Chandler, who has a number of clients, including world No. 2 Lee Westwood, splitting time between tours this year.

“He should come, play three weeks, gets some points, get some visibility, make it look as though he’s trying to play both, even though he is not. Just to make sure he gets in (European captain Jose Maria Olazabal’s) head and gets to know a few of the guys.”

Some, however, have speculated that Olazabal, who spent more time playing in the United States during his career than Monty, will be more accommodating to the plight of American-based Europeans when he makes his picks in late August. Nor has the Spaniard been as dogmatic as Monty about potential picks playing certain European stops.

It’s also telling that it is performance, not politics, that Casey puts his Ryder Cup faith in despite Monty’s perceived snub in 2010.

“I’ve made three now and the best way to make a team is to win golf events,” Casey said last month before being sidelined with a dislocated shoulder.

“It doesn’t matter where in the world they are, you just have to win. If you’re not playing full-time in Europe you’ve only got the world points list to come in on and that’s going to be filled with players who are winning.”

In this, the threadbare tour cliché “play better” seems the only way to cut through the convoluted European selection din. Even from Laird’s administrative limbo that has left him four months behind the pack his only chance to make the team is to play well regardless of which side of the transatlantic gap he’s on.

Medinah may seem a lifetime away, but for some Europeans it turns out it’s never too early to start thinking about the Ryder Cup.

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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?

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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.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.