Exciting Presidents Cup over, focus now on Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardOctober 12, 2015, 4:03 pm

INCHEON, South Korea – In the frenzied moments following the U.S. team’s one-point victory on Sunday at the Presidents Cup the metaphorical page turned. Davis Love III could feel it.

“I was thinking to myself that this is going to be weird because I’m up,” Love said. “I’m up.”

At the risk of exiting the moment far too early, it was perfectly understandable that Love’s mind would drift to next year’s Ryder Cup, where he will take his second turn as the American captain.

In Love’s defense it was the players who made it impossible not to peek ahead to next year’s matches, where the U.S. team will attempt to end a victory drought that dates back to 2008.

One by one the players, from Zach Johnson to Bill Haas, descended on Love with an eye toward Hazeltine National.

“And, of course, Phil [Mickelson], he came up and said, ‘Don’t forget about me next year,’” Love smiled. “Even [caddie Jim Mackay] told me, ‘My man can still play.’”

But then Mickelson’s inspired play in South Korea was just a single data point for Love from a week that he was only beginning to digest.

Officials and players bristle at the notion that the Presidents Cup was some sort of dress rehearsal for next year’s Ryder Cup, but the reality is after last year’s loss at Gleneagles everyone involved with the Ryder Cup has focused a critical eye on improvement, and what better place to look for answers than the biennial bout with the rest of the world.

It’s why the PGA of America created the Ryder Cup task force and, ultimately, chose Love to take his second turn as captain. So it was hardly a surprise that Love carefully watched how Presidents Cup captain Jay Haas, as well as assistant Fred Couples, ran things.

What may be a surprise to some, however, is who else was dissecting the proceedings.

“We saw some things that we want to be part of the plan next year,” Love said. “If you don’t think the task force is working, Tiger Woods is interested in what’s happening this week to apply it to the Ryder Cup.”

Woods called Love and Steve Stricker, who along with Love was an assistant last week and a potential future Ryder Cup captain, on Friday to talk about the matches and things he thought could help the U.S. team next year. Woods also told Love, according to Golf Digest, that he wants to be involved next year, even if that means being an assistant captain.

While the players don’t consider the Presidents Cup a tune-up for the main event next fall, there was plenty to be gleaned from last week’s matches for those who will be moving the chess pieces at Hazeltine National.

Pairings like Mickelson and Zach Johnson, who went 2-0-1 as a team in Korea, and Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson, 2-1-0, became part of Love’s general game plan moving forward.

“Zach and Phil made a great pairing. It was interesting how Dustin and Jordan paired. You have the guy who bombs it and just hits it and then the most organized, structured, game-plan guy we’ve got [Spieth]. They wanted to be together,” Love said. “That was really interesting.”

Even the process of selecting each day’s pairings, which unlike the Ryder Cup is a head-to-head draw between the two captains, was a learning experience.

Each day the captains would gather for the draw with a telling hierarchy on the American side of the table.

“We [Love, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk] sat down on the end and gave our ideas and thoughts and guessed what was going to happen,” said Furyk, who was a last-minute withdrawal from the matches with a wrist injury. “Ultimately, it was just a learning experience from the other guys that have done it so many times.”

For Furyk it was a particularly educational week. Although the veteran is still focused on playing the annual team events he is viewed in many corners as a consensus future captain.

Under the legacy philosophy established by the task force, where future captains are groomed as assistants, last week’s experience was very much a crash course for the nine-time Ryder Cup player.

“Jay and Fred have done it so much. Davis has experience. I think that's what Stricker and I are trying to draw from,” Furyk said.

For Love, who was also an assistant to Couples in 2013 at Muirfield Village, the challenge now is applying the lessons from last week, which has proven to be more difficult than one would expect.

It’s less an apples-to-apples comparison between the two events, considering the U.S. is 9-1-1 in the Presidents Cup but 3-8-0 during that same snapshot against the Continent.

If the Presidents Cup held all of the answers for the embattled American Ryder Cup team then the fix would be to name Couples the captain and use FedEx Cup points to select the teams, but the reality is more nuanced than that.

 “Why is it so much more relaxed? Why is it so much easier? Less pressure?” Love wondered. “[Mickelson] made a good point when he said we know there’s more pressure in the Ryder Cup. You can’t try to just turn it off. You know it’s going to be there.”

Maybe the only difference this time around is that the players and primary characters are focused on the Ryder Cup some 12 months before the first tee shot is hit.

It was a telling moment for Love on Sunday in South Korea when Spieth turned to him during the winner’s news conference to ask about the Ryder Cup. Love playfully informed the world No. 1, “You still have to qualify [for the team].”

Many have dismissed the task force as reactionary, a public relations answer to the awkward moments that followed the U.S. loss at Gleneagles. But for those charged with plotting America’s course it’s become a reason to be engaged.

“We’re all talking about it now. That’s the difference,” said Love as he wandered toward the U.S. team room with a single thought – I’m up.

Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.