Inside Ryder Cup task force: Who deserves credit?

By Rex HoggardNovember 15, 2016, 9:23 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – When books are written about the 41st Ryder Cup and the U.S. side’s drought-busting victory the stories will begin with some assessment of the American task force.

But if revisiting the task force is a historical inevitability it still prompts a quiet sigh from Jim Furyk, a member of both the U.S. side as an assistant captain and the task force. He celebrated the outcome just as much as the next guy, just don’t expect him to use the “T.F.” words.

“I viewed all of it, I hate to even say task force, but a group of individuals that got together,” Furyk said Tuesday at the RSM Classic. “It was the folks from the PGA of America saying, ‘Hey, this obviously isn’t going the way we want it to. Let’s get together and talk about the reasons why and how we make it better.’”

Whatever the designation, the American victory is the sum of that group’s parts.

Born from the U.S. loss at Gleneagles in 2014, the American team’s sixth defeat in the last seven editions, the task force included Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Furyk, Rickie Fowler, Davis Love III, Raymond Floyd, Tom Lehman and Steve Stricker.

On Dec. 9, 2014, the task force held its first meeting at PGA of America headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. For Furyk, it was a turning point for the U.S. team that was followed by countless conference calls and group text messages.

“That one was important, for me. The phone calls were great, but to be in the room, and I think Phil [Mickelson] probably felt the same way, and visually see everyone and talk and give your opinion,” Furyk said. “To be able to physically see it on the walls was important.”

Mickelson flew to Florida from California, “on his own dime,” Furyk said, and players made the event important, which is not always easy when dealing with Tour players.

Paul Levy, the newly appointed president of the PGA, recently offered some insight into the process that helped lift Love’s team to a 17-11 victory last month in Minnesota.

The 11-man task force led to the Ryder Cup committee, the standing group that will decide future captains and other match policies. Levy told a group of club professionals last week in New York at the PGA’s annual meeting the initial thought was for the committee to include three PGA of America officials – the CEO, president and vice president – and two PGA Tour members.

“Jim Furyk said, ‘How about three [PGA officials] and three [Tour members],” Levy said.

On Tuesday at Sea Island Resort, Furyk didn’t recall making the request, but acknowledged that the players on the task force asked about an even split on the committee. It wasn’t a demand, it wasn’t a negotiation, just a suggestion, like everything else that was born from the group.

“I never felt like there was a power struggle. I think we just threw it out there, three and three, so we’d have an even number of ideas,” Furyk said. “I don’t even want to call it sides because we’re on the same team, we’re on the same side. Just an even number of opinions coming from the PGA Tour players and the PGA of America.”

It’s a testament to the PGA’s desire to continue the momentum born from the task force that the idea of equal representation was embraced by the association, with Woods, Mickelson and Love named to the new committee.

Details of those meetings will continue to shed light on a process that gave the players, the most important part of the Ryder Cup, ownership of the matches. If not a proprietary interest, then at the least the task force gave players a voice in an event that had long ago outgrown the simplicity of just “showing up and playing golf.”

“You had folks coming in from all over the place to try to help,” Furyk said. “I viewed it as, look how important this is to everyone. Look how involved Tiger is to the process, and here’s a guy who was viewed from the outside as not caring that much and he put a lot of heart and soul into it.”

The players gave in time and energy and insight, the PGA gave by ceding a measure of control in what is the association’s most lucrative product. Neither effort should be dismissed.

In a quiet moment a few weeks before this year’s matches Love asked your scribe, “Who will get credit for the task force?”

The easy initial answer was Mickelson, whose comments in the wake of the U.S. loss in 2014 may have left some hurt feelings but ultimately paved the way for the task force.

But in retrospect, credit should be spread around, to the Tour members on the task force who took a genuine interest, and to the PGA for letting them.

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x