Love has hands full with Ryder Cup pairings

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2012, 7:00 pm

ATLANTA – Early last week at Medinah, as Davis Love III feverishly scrawled notes into his now-ubiquitous legal pad and mulled a seemingly unlimited list of potential pairings for next week’s Ryder Cup, his trance was broken by a bit of unsolicited advice from Keegan Bradley.

“You know you can overthink this,” the Ryder Cup rookie told his captain.

From the mouths of babes.

Since time began at Samuel Ryder’s member-member, captains have mixed and matched team pairings with varying levels of intensity and success. From Paul Azinger’s detailed “pods” system in 2008 to Jack Nicklaus’ seemingly laissez faire approach in his two stints at the helm, the only absolutes seem to be that there are no absolutes.


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For some captains personal compatibility is the deciding factor, while others have tried to match individual games to particular formats – pairing players with similar styles (long, short, straight, wayward) in foursomes play while fourball (alternate shot) favors the pairing of aggressive players with more conservative types.

Others – like Tiger Woods, who has played on just one winning Ryder Cup team in his Hall of Fame career – figure it all comes down to form.

“I’ve played with all different types of different personalities and different types of games, and it's about just going out there and playing well,” said Woods, who in six Ryder Cup matches has had 13 different partners in foursome and fourball play. “It's not rocket science. You've just got to go out there and hit a lot of good golf shots and make a lot of putts.”

The only factor that doesn’t seem to matter anymore is golf ball compatibility, a concern for captains and competitors until the rule was changed for U.S.-played matches in 1991 and was slowly phased out in Europe.

“That was a big deal for a number of years to be able to figure out an alternate-shot partner, who is playing what ball, then on top of that, what compression (golf ball) within that company,” Woods said. “That does change quite a bit. Now we can drive with our teammate’s ball and have them fire it into the green with their ball.”

Although he is still a few days removed from announcing his Day 1 teams, Love seems to be favoring comfort over complex calculations – the not-so-subtle byproduct of Ryder Cup memories good and bad.

During a recent interview Love’s mind immediately raced back two decades to his first Ryder Cup (1993) and a nervous plane ride to England. The rookie wanted to play with Tom Kite, felt their games and personalities matched well but as a first-timer he didn’t feel it was his place to lobby captain Tom Watson for the pairing.

“I remember telling Tom Kite, ‘Please go tell Tom (Watson) that we’re going to play together,’” Love said. “We’re going to lobby Watson that we get to play together . . .”

This year’s rookies will not have similar anxieties. On Saturday in Atlanta Love hosted a team dinner and outlined the week’s plan, complete with potential pairings and practice-round groups.

In fact, even as he mulled all the potential pairings late last week, dissecting each option as he took a break to prowl for redfish near his St. Simons Island, Ga., home, Love knew most of the heavy lifting was already complete.

Give Fred Couples, one of Love’s four assistant captains, an assist for that. During the 2009 Presidents Cup Couples marched Woods out with Steve Stricker and the duo was unstoppable at Harding Park. Although the two play vastly different games, and live vastly different lives, the pairing worked and it doesn’t seem likely Love would try to re-invent that wheel.

“Obviously Tiger and Stricker, they have had some success, they are going to want to try and play together,” Love said. “There are some obvious pairings that we’re looking at, Bubba (Watson) and Webb (Simpson). Friends like that are probably going to play together.”

All 12 of Love’s players were asked who they would want to be paired with at Medinah. For this captain there is an “I” in T-E-A-M.

“Guys think they are doing me a favor saying, ‘I’ll play with anybody,’” Love said. “That doesn’t help me. I picked you because I knew you could play with anybody. Who do you want to play with?”

What seems certain is that there will be no surprises from Love. Hal Sutton, the 2004 captain, probably thought it was a good idea to send Woods and Phil Mickelson – top players with vastly divergent personalities – out together on Day 1 at Oakland Hills, a failed experiment that produced an 0-2 record. Just don’t expect the same type of coloring outside the lines from Love.

On this, Bradley’s sage words seem to echo throughout the process. Having played on six Ryder Cups, Love realizes that the perfect pairing is quite often the easiest and that all the hyper-analysis in the world isn’t going to change that.

Of the 20 team matches Love played in the Ryder Cup he was paired with Couples, his closest friend on Tour and a natural partner, just three times. By comparison, the dynamic, albeit eclectic, duo were paired on eight occasions out of 22 team starts at the Presidents Cup.

“There were times when Freddie and I would look at each and ask, ‘How come we are on this team and we’re not playing together?’” Love said. “Why isn’t it more automatic? We’ve talked about this several times making pairings, ‘Look at those two, they are automatic. Let them go.’ Luckily we’ve got guys that match up.”

That’s not to say Love will dogmatically adhere to his legal-pad game plan like Sutton did in 2004. “We could go 4-0 or we could go 0-4 (on Day 1) and things might change. But we’re going to have a plan pretty much for the week who is going to play with who,” he said.

For Love, a Type A sort who craves structure above all else, Ryder Cup pairings are not so much a science as much as they are a study in group psychology. For Capt. Personality this week’s lineup is all about comfort and avoiding, as newcomer Bradley pointed out, overthinking the obvious.


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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


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First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


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After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.