From folk hero to 'fired': Brehm's unique path to Tour

By Rex HoggardOctober 26, 2016, 5:59 pm

Ryan Brehm stands out in a room filled with PGA Tour rookies. Amid the fearless twenty-somethings, Brehm looks if not fatherly, then coach-like, which is apropos considering it wasn’t that long ago when he wore that title proudly.

But that’s getting ahead of what is a made-for-TV story.

For Brehm, his path to the Tour began in 2008 when he bolted Michigan State with legendary status. He’d help lead the Spartans to three Big Ten titles (2004, ’06 and ’07), won five times during his career in East Lansing and was the ’04 Big Ten freshman of the year.

But that snapshot from his resume really doesn’t fully explain the lore that is Ryan Brehm in Michigan circles.

“The hardest part for Ryan is he’s a folk hero in this state because he hits it so far, so when he turned pro the expectations of others weren’t really in line with the realities of playing professional golf,” said Casey Lubahn, a close friend and the man who fired Brehm from his “dream job.” But, again, that’s getting ahead of the narrative.

Brehm is long – crazy long – even by modern professional standards. In 2016 on the Tour, he ranked ninth in driving distance (317-yard average) with what he calls his “control” swing, and recorded the season’s third-longest drive (421 yards) in July at the Utah Championship.

But things didn’t go as planned for Brehm when he left Michigan State. He failed to find status, well, anywhere, and after a few years struggling on various mini-tours he called it a career and returned to East Lansing.

He was 25 and he liked life as an assistant coach. Well, he liked most of being an assistant.

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“I thought I wanted to be a coach,” said Brehm, who added that he wasn’t a fan of the paperwork that goes with the job. “I played for a while and didn’t have much success. I thought coaching was good for me, it helped me grow up a little bit.”

In 2011, he found himself serving as the Spartans interim head coach. It was all so perfect, Michigan hero returns to save the MSU golf program. But this isn’t that kind of story. Brehm’s friends and family had other plans.

Lubahn, who served as MSU’s assistant when Brehm was playing for the Spartans, returned to East Lansing to take over the head coaching duties, and one of his first acts was to get rid of Brehm.

“Ryan was my assistant for a year before I fired him. I told him, ‘You’re too good to be doing this, go play,’” Lubahn laughed.

Lubahn and Brehm remain friends, in fact Lubahn was in Brehm’s wedding last fall, proving that friendships can survive the occasional pink slip. But then Lubahn was hardly the only member of Brehm’s inner circle pushing him to trade in his coaching duties for one more turn at the professional ranks.

“I thought I was too talented to give it up,” Brehm said. “My dad, my wife, people who really knew me and supported me wanted me to play.”

Brehm, who is making his second start as a Tour member this week at the Sanderson Farms Championship, credits his second stint at Michigan State as a coach for making the second chapter of his professional career much more enjoyable.

Brehm said he’s a smarter player than when he first turned professional, and that he now has a “shot shape” that he sticks with, compared to his old philosophy of hitting it hard and hoping for the best.

“If I was to look at where I am now compared to then, I don’t think I was ready for the professional game,” Brehm said. “My game was sporadic, I had a lot of talent but didn’t know what to do with it and the day to day things, knowing what to do with my time.”

Serving as an assistant at Michigan State – and his abbreviated stop as the interim head coach – helped him understand the importance of time and game management; as did this season on the Tour, where he won the Portland Open to secure his first trip to the Tour.

All that experience, however, doesn’t mean he’s immune to the pitfalls of being a Tour rookie.

“It took me 45 minutes to park today,” he laughed as he prepared for his first start as a Tour member at the Safeway Open earlier this month. “I went to the wrong place."

Yet in a room filled with the rookie class of 2016, the 30-year-old doesn’t exactly fit the mold. But then everything about his professional journey to the Tour has been different.

From phenom to failed pro, from assistant coach to Tour rookie, Brehm’s story is truly unique and far from complete. Asked if he’d ever consider going back to the coaching ranks, he dismissed the idea with an easy smile – he wears professional golf well. But there is a moment of hesitation.

“I want to keep doing this [pro golf] and keep getting better if I’m fortunate enough for the next 20, 30 years,” Brehm said before allowing, “the only way I’d do it is at Michigan State.”

Of all people, Brehm knows it’s always best to keep your options open.

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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.

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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

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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.”

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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.