The Matchmaker

By Rex HoggardSeptember 9, 2010, 12:01 am

Ryder CupNow that Corey Pavin has made his captain’s picks, here comes the hard part.

With apologies to those who got the “It’s not you, it’s me” call from U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin late Monday, the four wildcard picks were largely low-hanging fruit. “Away games” are mean, soul-searching affairs and the U.S. team room already had its quota of rookies.

If Rickie Fowler is an investment in the U.S. side’s future, Pavin’s other three picks are about the here and now. Tiger Woods, Zach Johnson and Stewart Cink have all weathered the unfriendly confines of overseas Ryder Cups, and when the phone calls had to be made, that mattered.

Now Pavin must play matchmaker if he has any chance to nix an overseas Cup drought that spans nearly two decades. The heroics of Valhalla aside, the last time an American team stole one on Continental turf was in 1993 at The Belfry.

That’s 17 years. Cicadas don’t simmer for that long.

To put the ’93 matches in perspective, Davis Love III, one of Pavin’s assistant captains this time around who is being groomed for his own turn in the big chair, was a Ryder Cup rookie and 51-year-old Raymond Floyd, a captain’s pick and the oldest competitor in match history, helped secure victory with an emotional singles win over José Maria Olazábal.

Corey Pavin
With Corey Pavin's picks made, the American Ryder Cup team is set. (Getty Images)

Outside of Wrigleyville, it may be sport’s most omnipresent schneid.

For those who base their concept of pressure on Saturday afternoons, Celtic Manor is akin to “The Swamp” or “Death Valley” in terms of what Pavin’s dozen can expect, and no one knows the rigors of the away game better than Woods.

Three of Woods’ five Ryder Cups have been played in front of hostile crowds and the American anchor has traditionally pulled the home team’s top player, which only serves to intensify the partisan atmosphere. He knows there’s only one way to survive the European punchbowl.

“You want to play well enough to make the crowd go quiet,” Woods said.

Johnson tried to hush the 13th man at the K Club but had little luck. In his defense Johnson had the misfortune of drawing Darren Clarke, the emotional core of the European team whose wife had recently passed away, in his Sunday singles match in 2006.

“I didn’t know what to expect and when I got to the first tee the crowd went bonkers,” said Johnson, a rookie in ’06 who lost to Clarke, 3 and 2. “When I handed him that putt on the 16th (hole) I got emotional for him. It stunk, I wanted to win the match but the golf gods were not on my side.”

The golf gods, to say nothing of Colin Montgomerie, will have similar options in Wales. Among Monty’s crowd pleasing options will be the all-Northern Irish duo of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, the all-sibling tandem of Edoardo and Francesco Molinari, and the all-England choice of Lee Westwood, who is fresh from a calf injury and will likely play the role of on-course captain for the Euros.

Whether Pavin – whose style so far seems to be twofold: take few risks and say even less – burrows from 2008 captain Paul Azinger’s highly successful “pods” system or plods his own course remains to be seen, but his ability to mix and match his dozen, along with his group’s putting fortunes, will likely decide the outcome.

On Tuesday Pavin said, “nothing is set in stone” as far as possible pairings, but history suggests there are some combinations he’s already penciled into the lineup card.

The 1991 matches at Kiawah were the last time the U.S. won the foursomes frame, going 6-1 on the way to a rousing one-point victory, and the American side has a Mendoza Line-like record since then, going 4-10-4 in alternate shot the last two decades.

To stem that trend Pavin will send Woods and Steve Stricker out early and often. The duo swept foursomes and four-ball play last year at the Presidents Cup, going 2-0 in alternate shot.

A Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler marriage also seems in the cards. Lefty savors youthful projects, teaming well with Anthony Kim in 2008 at Valhalla, another energized cup rookie, and Sean O’Hair last year at Harding Park.

The options become less obvious after that, but Jim Furyk was undefeated in foursomes play in 2008 and would mesh well with the likes of a veteran such as Zach Johnson or Stewart Cink.

In this case less really is more. The danger of over thinking the pairings is what gave us that Woods-Mickelson 0-fer Friday experiment at the 2004 matches.

For Pavin, the heavy lifting has already been done by Azinger in 2008 and Freddie Couples last year at Harding Park. Whether he was paying attention remains to be seen.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.


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Finances


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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm