Ryder Cup asst. captain picks become interesting

By Rex HoggardFebruary 25, 2015, 7:57 pm

For the American sideline, picking an assistant Ryder Cup captain has been akin to piecing together a seating chart for a wedding.

Your Uncle Sal may be a cherished member of the family, but do you really want to spend two hours trying to make small talk with the guy?

So while there’s never been a shortage of available players with the institutional moxie to make a real difference as an assistant, more times than not the coveted cart keys went to friends. The kind of guys you’d want to spend a few days with in a team room.

That’s not to say the recent crop of assistants weren’t deserving, accomplished players in their own right, but were they right for the job? Were they right for the team?

In 2012, for example, Davis Love III named Fred Couples, Jeff Sluman, Scott Verplank and Mike Hulbert his assistants.


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Freddie is, well, Freddie, always the coolest guy in the room who just happens to be a three-time winning Presidents Cup captain; Verplank is one of the few Americans with at least two starts in the biennial matches with a winning record (4-1-0).

But consider Sluman: a former PGA champion, good guy, but he’s never played on a Ryder Cup team. Ditto for Hulbert.

In 2010, Corey Pavin went with Tom Lehman, Love and Paul Goydos – who, again, is one of the most interesting people who ever played the game at the highest level, but he’s also never played a match for Team USA.

This disconnect was atop the Ryder Cup task force’s “to do” list when they went to work in December. As part of America’s extreme makeover, teams will now feature four assistants: two former captains – like Lehman, who was named Love’s assistant for the 2016 matches on Tuesday – and two former Ryder Cup players who will be groomed for a future captaincy.

“I would expect Davis to be an assistant captain in 2018 because he is going to have invaluable information from this year’s cup that he has to pass on and share,” said task force member Phil Mickelson. “That’s going to be a requirement.”

In practical terms, the next logical move for the six-member Ryder Cup committee, a scaled-down version of the task force that will be calling the shots going forward, would be to name Paul Azinger Love’s second “past captain” assistant.

Azinger told GolfChannel.com last week that he withdrew his name from consideration to captain next year’s team “for many reasons, personal and business,” but he did not rule out a turn as an assistant in 2016. “I’m not going there at this point,” he said via text message.

The more interesting selections, at least with an eye toward the future, would be Love’s two “player” assistants, the captains-in-waiting.

Couples, who was an early front-runner for the ’16 job but faded quickly according to various sources, could be an interesting choice. Love and Couples are long-time friends and a spot on the sidelines at Hazeltine National next year could indicate Freddie’s chances of ever captaining a team are still alive.

The other options would likely depend on player performance. Stricker, Jim Furyk, Mickelson and David Toms would all fit the formula and would be popular choices as captains-in-waiting but are likely more interested in playing next year.

As a measure of the commitment the task force members have to the new system, Lefty was asked if he’d embrace a role as one of Love’s “plus ones” if he failed to make the team. “Undoubtedly, I would love to do that,” he said.

Of all the changes the PGA of America unveiled Tuesday in South Florida, this legacy program may be the most sweeping and have the most long-term impact. While the task force gave players the voice they’d been wanting, the captain’s apprenticeship program creates the continuity that has been missing from the matches for the last decade.

It’s worth noting, in light of Tuesday’s overhaul, that Tom Watson had his own version of a legacy formula.

Old Tom went old school with his assistants last year, tabbing Raymond Floyd, Andy North and Steve Stricker, a savvy past captain in Floyd and a likely future captain in Stricker.

It’s interesting that Watson will be remembered in some circles as the face of the new Ryder Cup system for all the wrong reasons after last year’s Contentious Cup. Without Watson the PGA of America likely never turns to a task force for answers.

It’s just as telling that a central part of the new deal will be a legacy for captains past, present and future. Maybe Watson wasn’t as bad as advertised.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

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.

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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.