Tales of dominance, hope as Presidents Cup readies

By Rex HoggardOctober 7, 2015, 9:01 am

INCHEON, South Korea – The last time an International team celebrated a victory on a Sunday at a Presidents Cup Jason Day was 11 years old, two-time captain Nick Price led the way with a 2-1-2 record and the first vestiges of Europe’s dominance in the Ryder Cup were just taking root, with the Continent on a two-match winning streak in an event that had been largely dominated by the Americans.

While some things have changed dramatically (most notably Europe’s Ryder Cup fate), others have become far too familiar.

In the wake of that lone victory at the 1998 Presidents Cup is a legacy of loss during which the International side has found all manner of ways to fail.

Other than a surreal tie in the South African gloom in 2003, the Internationals have lost six of the last seven matches by an average score of more than five points, including the U.S. side’s three-point boat race two years ago at Muirfield Village.

With a monsoon of respect to the rest of the world, the simplest competitive comparison would be the American Globetrotters over the hapless International Generals. But then at least the exhibitions on the hardwood were entertaining.

The same can’t be said for the Presidents Cup in recent years.

With the lone exception of the ’05 matches – that began the final day knotted at 11 points apiece – Sundays have largely been a formality at what has become a biennial blowout.

“It would be nice to finally get that win against the Americans,” said Day, who begins this week as the International team’s on-course leader at No. 2 in the world. “Everyone's kind of fed up with it; that we have been losing for a while now. I think more so Adam Scott is fed up with it because he's been on his seventh team now and hasn't won one.”

That sense of competitive frustration is a key theme in this year’s International team room. While Captain Price has assorted pictures from that 1998 triumph hanging about, he’s clearly not shied away from full disclosure this week.

“We've seen in the past that the Presidents Cup needs more excitement. It needs to be more closely contested,” Price said. “Certainly most of us on the International team feel that that hasn't been the case the last five or six Presidents Cups.”

It’s why Price has spent the last two years working feverishly behind the scenes to change the International side’s fortunes. After months of give and take, the PGA Tour agreed to reduce the total number of points from 34 to 30 for this year’s event.

Price’s argument went that by reducing the number of matches – his pitch was actually for 28 points but that’s a battle for another day – it would allow the International team to field its best possible team.

“Some people think that you're hiding your weakest players, but in actual fact what you're doing is putting your strongest team forward,” Price said. “It's glass half-full or glass half-empty, depends which way you look at it.”

It’s actually a question of depth, which the International team has always lacked relative to the American side. Consider that three players from that 2005 International team – Mark Hensby, Peter Lonard and Nick O’Hern – currently have no status on the PGA Tour, and Price’s point appears valid, although if more points truly do favor the deeper team then the Ryder Cup task force should have started the conversation for change there.

But in practical terms this week, it’s led to a profound dichotomy in team room philosophy.

Price has made it clear to his dozen that this week’s event is pivotal to the future of the matches, while his counterpart Jay Haas has done his best Fred Couples impersonation in an attempt to keep things loose.

“Certainly it's not my way or the highway; I hope I haven't projected that,” Haas said when asked his captaining philosophy.

It’s a telling juxtaposition between captains considering that most U.S. players will tell you that the difference between the Presidents Cup, which the red, white and blue has owned, and the Ryder Cup, which the American side can’t even seem to sublet, is how things are much more relaxed in the odd-year duels.

“We make the Ryder Cup a bigger deal than it needs to be,” Zach Johnson said.

Even Jordan Spieth, who is playing his second Presidents Cup this week, has picked up on the not-so-subtle differences between the two matches.

“Last year's Ryder Cup there was just a little too much thought to go in the rounds ahead, the practice rounds ahead were almost tryouts, there weren't as many smiles in the practice leading up to it,” Spieth said.

That hasn’t been an issue at the Presidents Cup, where the United States has become adept at keeping things in perspective when it comes to the biennial bout with the rest of the world.

Although it started long before Couples took over the team in 2009, that seemingly detached demeanor was perfected by the three-time Presidents Cup captain, so much so that Mark McNulty, one of Price’s assistant captains, referred to it as the “Freddie vibe.”

“People like to be with Fred because he's cool. He doesn't wear an earpiece, never; he doesn't know what's going on because Fred's cool,” McNulty said.

 While the International team may be short their own version of Couples, they are aware that what’s not cool is losing. It’s a culture that’s been engrained into the rest of the world for the better part of a decade and a half and a trend Price has worked tirelessly to change.

Price was there, after all, in 1998 the last time the Internationals celebrated and watched as the Europeans began to change their fortunes in an event that had become equally as lopsided, so he knows it can be done.

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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.