Ryder Cup task force gets 'players' captain' it wanted

By Rex HoggardFebruary 17, 2015, 1:15 am

Two days after the last U.S. Ryder Cup task force meeting in San Diego earlier this month, Fred Couples, who is not among the 11 task force members, summed up the mood of the meetings.

“I honestly think the next guy they choose will be someone the players want,” Couples said.

Couples revealed that he’d already had a conversation with PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua about the vacant Ryder Cup captaincy and he planned to talk to the association’s president, Derek Sprague, within a few days.

That meeting doesn’t seem likely to happen now. Or, if it does it will be short.

According to Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte, Davis Love III will return to captain the U.S. team in 2016 at Hazeltine National in Minnesota.

There is no question Love is the quintessential “players’ captain.” Remember, this is the same man who received almost universal support from the rank-and-file after the team blew a four-point lead heading into Sunday singles in 2012.

When Love was criticized for sitting Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley on Saturday afternoon at Medinah, Lefty was the first to step to his captain’s defense.

“You cannot put that on him; if anything, it was me,” Mickelson said in 2012.

When Jim Furyk was asked on that Chicago night about his single’s loss to Sergio Garcia, he was just as adamant.

“I've got 11 guys, I've got a captain, I've got four assistants that I know will pat me on the back; that know how I feel, understand how I feel. You know, we came here as a team. We wanted to win the Ryder Cup as a team, and we didn't do it, but we are going to leave here in the same fashion,” Furyk said.

Without dredging through fresh wounds, it’s safe to say last year’s captain, Tom Watson, didn’t enjoy the same level of support, which goes a long way to explaining why the PGA seems bent on giving Love a match-play mulligan.

While Couples and Paul Azinger seemed to be the clubhouse leaders to captain the next U.S. team, given the intensity of the last few task force meetings, in retrospect it’s easy to make the leap to Love to lead the next American squad.

But what also can’t be ignored is Love’s own emotions regarding the biennial matches. This is, after all, the same man who didn’t want to be involved in the last matches because of the bitter Medinah memories he would represent.

“After Wales (2010 Ryder Cup), I said I’d be an all-time assistant captain,” Love said in September. “I’ll do whatever you guys want me to do. If they said come open boxes in the storage room I’d do it, because it’s fun. [But] sitting out in front and doing all that part, I enjoyed it but ...”

It’s also worth pointing out that Love is currently in the running for chairman of the PGA Tour’s Players Advisory Council, a position that will lead to a three-year term on the policy board if he’s elected.

Never mind that if elected to PAC chair Love will be 54 years old by the time he is finished serving or that it will be his fifth term on the policy board. When asked about his nomination at Torrey Pines earlier this month Love explained that he felt it was his duty to serve on the board to help ease the transition to a new Tour commissioner, which seems likely to occur next year.

It’s not a stretch to see this most recent news in a similar light. The PGA of America needs results and Love likely feels an obligation to provide .  . well, redemption.

Love was clearly the players’ choice, but for everyone else outside the circle of “11,” he will be a curious selection. Following months of meetings and media scrutiny, the PGA decided its best option was to circle back around and give Love a second act.

The task force was supposed to provide answers. The task force was intended to create a blueprint for future success. Instead, the “11” dusted off the status quo and created a succession plan.

Your scribe covered Love’s first captaincy extensively. It was an intense two years of detailed planning, which was perfect for Love’s Type A personality. His match mea cupla will be no different.

What changes this time will be the scrutiny. The golf world expected something dramatic, something revolutionary. Instead, they got something borrowed and bruised.

Love was a very good captain in 2012, but we just don’t know if he can do any better and, make no mistake, the scrutiny this time around will be much more intense.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.