Ryder Cup victory not the end, just the beginning

By Rex HoggardOctober 5, 2016, 6:15 pm

CHASKA, Minn. – It would be easy to confuse Sunday’s celebration for a coronation, an exhale moment after two years of vague promises and lofty expectations.

If the U.S. team wanted to gloat they’d come by it honestly, they’d just rolled over the Europeans, 17-11, for America’s first victory in the biennial event since 2008.

The changes had worked. The curse was over.

But those involved with the Ryder Cup task force-turned-committee never, not once, mentioned winning the 2016 matches and ending the drought. Those involved talked of continuity and legacies, not quick fixes and Band-Aids.

From the captain all the way down to the cart drivers – that would be Bubba Watson – this was about preparing for the future. If anything, Hazetline National was a test case, not the final exam.

“We had a long-term plan and a goal for the next five to 10 Ryder Cups. I’ve said all along, personally, if we won this week that’s great, but let’s not raise the flag and say, ‘This is the greatest thing ever,’” said Jim Furyk, one of Davis Love III’s vice captains. “And if we lose let’s not say, ‘Oh s***, this doesn’t work.’ It’s a long-term plan.”

As devastating as a loss would have been to the cause of building a winning foundation, a victory could be just as debilitating if it leads to a loss of focus.

That is, after all, what many believe happened following the 2008 Ryder Cup. It’s what prompted Phil Mickelson to challenge the U.S. leadership two years ago in Scotland following the team’s third consecutive loss, which in turn led to last year’s task force.

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“The pressure started when some dumbass opened his mouth two years ago in the media center,” Mickelson said on Sunday at Hazeltine with just a dollop of self-deprecation.

Mickelson was on the task force and by many accounts a de facto vice captain last week. For all those who have criticized Lefty over the years for his relatively pedestrian Ryder Cup record, know that this process has taken a toll on the veteran. And when he spoke on Sunday it wasn’t in terms of wins and losses as much as it was a testament to the legacy that he and the other American leaders hope to create.

“We need to build on this. Otherwise, it's all for naught,” Mickelson said. “We created a very solid foundation this year. With the input that Davis Love had and each vice captain, with Tom Lehman and Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods and Bubba Watson, all brought integral parts to the success of this foundation, and it's important that we build on that.”

That foundation started with Love, who has been billed as the captain’s captain. From the first task force meetings, the challenge was to appoint a front man with the ability to incorporate vastly different ideas into their own leadership model.

Someone willing to share the room with other voices and keep their ego tucked away. If, as the story goes, the Europeans have perfected the art of continuity in their captains, the U.S. team’s first leader in this new era had to be a pragmatist and consensus builder.

“We tried to identify the qualities of the next person who would become a Ryder Cup captain,” Furyk said. “Davis Love fit all those qualities perfectly. He was the right guy. He had experience, he had the media’s respect, he had the player’s respect. We couldn’t identify a better person.”

Love’s leadership-by-committee style turned out to be a perfect fit for this U.S. team. He engaged his side’s best players, challenged them for ideas and, this is most telling, he listened.

Late in Saturday’s foursomes session, Love was struggling to find the right lineup for the afternoon four-ball matches. Everybody had an idea, even his son, Dru, but ultimately it was Woods who convinced the captain to send Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth back out.

“I finally just said to Tiger, ‘Are we playing them or are we sitting them?’” Love recalled. “He said, ‘No, you have to send them back out there, they are playing so well.’”

Reed and Spieth ignited the crowd and U.S. team room with a 2-and-1 victory over Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose to give the home team valuable momentum heading into Sunday’s singles matches.

It wasn’t so much leadership by example as much as it was leadership by design. If the 2016 Ryder Cup is a template for future matches, Love is the prototype of future U.S. captains.

The legacy concept holds that each team will have a mix of former and potential future captains that connects each group in a way that hadn’t happened in the past.

For this year’s squad, that specifically applies to Furyk and Stricker in the immediate future and Woods a little further down the road.

“A vice captain under [Tom] Watson, a vice captain under Jay Haas last year [Presidents Cup] and a vice captain under Davis here, I’ve really learned a lot in three years,” Stricker said. “If I get the opportunity to be a captain, I’ll have a lot of knowledge behind me.”

Furyk, who would be a popular choice to lead the U.S. team in 2018 in France, has taken a particularly long view when it comes to the U.S. team changes and paused when asked how his experience at Hazeltine might impact a potential future captaincy.

“It really helped to be an assistant for Davis, who has done it twice, the best leader,” Furyk said. “Any time you can do this, you’re learning. You’re going to make some mistakes, you’re going to do some things right. We did a lot of good things this week. We made some mistakes, and we’ll learn from this week and keep building on the system.”

Moments later Furyk rushed into the night toward the team room to join the victory party. Sunday night he and the other members of the U.S. leadership would celebrate, but on Monday the work would continue.

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The Social: G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T.

By Jason CrookJanuary 23, 2018, 6:00 pm

Tom Brady compares himself to Tiger Woods, who coincidentally is returning to the PGA Tour this week, Jordan Spieth hangs out with some decent company and kids these days ruffle some feathers with their friendships.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

Well, it’s finally Farmers Insurance Open week and Woods has been spotted practicing for his official return to the PGA Tour on Thursday.

Some thought this day might never come after a 2017 filled with mostly downs for the 14-time major champ.

But as he has taught the golf world time and time again, you just can't count Tiger out.

So even as Jon Rahm attempts to overtake Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world this week at Torrey Pines, all eyes will be on one of the greatest we've ever seen do it, even if that guy is ranked No. 647 in the world.

Speaking of greatness …

There’s not many who can just offhandedly compare themselves to Tiger, but if anyone gets a pass, it’s Tom Brady.

The 40-year-old New England Patriots quarterback led his team back to the Super Bowl for the second straight year despite playing the AFC title game with a cut on his throwing hand.

When asked about it after the Patriots come-from-behind victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady answered, “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”

So there you have it. A 40-year-old Brady is winning AFC Championships with his C game. Good luck, Eagles; you’re going to need it.

Also, if for some reason you wanted an update on Justin Thomas' life, it's still awesome:

Yeah, that's last year's PGA Tour Player of the Year hanging with Cy Young winner Cory Kluber in a suite at the Patriots game and teasing us with a possible #SB2K18 cameo.

Curtis Strange likes his competitive golf straight up, hold the friendliness.

This, according to Curtis Strange.

The two-time U.S. Open champ took to Twitter during the CareerBuilder Challenge to vent his frustration regarding the constant chit-chat and friendliness between Rahm and Andrew Landry:

This, of course, makes sense in theory. But good luck watching golf – or really any sport – from here on out. Sure there will be a few old school guys who buck the trend here and there, but for the most part, it’s really hard to share a private jet/dinners/vacations/(insert awesome thing here) with someone, and then completely turn off the friendship coming down the stretch of a big tournament.

Damn millennials. They ruin everything.

By now you've all seen that poor Philadelphia Eagles fan who lost his battle with a subway station pillar (from multiple angles), so instead here is a video of a man attempting to stand on an egg. Bet you can't guess how that goes.

Tony's gonna stand on an egg

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Seriously if you haven't seen the video of that Eagles fan, here's your last chance in this column. You'll be glad you did.

Jordan Spieth, Michael Phelps and Bryce Harper walk on to a golf course … there’s no punchline, that actually happened last week in Las Vegas.

Was the whole thing just a big advertisement for Spieth’s new Under Armour shoe? You bet.

But that doesn’t make the optics of three of the biggest superstar athletes on the planet teeing it up for a round any less awesome.

Off to the next. #Spieth2 #TEAMUA

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The trio has three major wins, five All Star Game appearances and 28 Olympic medals between them, and there they were over the weekend just fake laughing for the camera and driving around individual golf carts with their own personalized logos on them.

Just guys being dudes. Nothing better than that.

Matt Kuchar. Still good at golf. Still overly polite. This according to European Tour pro Eddie Pepperell who had the privilege of hitting on the range next to Kuuuuuch in Abu Dhabi last week.

That image is burned into your brain forever now, thanks Eddie. From now on when you think of Kuchar you're going to think of those Sketches ads and "oopsies."

Which, I suppose is better than a, "Did you get that?"

Blayne Barber's caddie, Cory Gilmer, collapsed and hit his head while at a restaurant at the Sony Open and has been mostly unconscious in the neurological intensive care unit ever since.

The outpouring of love and support from the golf community has been overwhelming on social media, and a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the mounting medical costs for Gilmer and his family.

Check out the link below for more info or to donate to a worthy cause:

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Top-ranked amateur wins LAAC, earns Masters invite

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 5:38 pm

Joaquin Niemann walked Augusta National Golf Club as a patron last year. He’ll be a competitor in 2018.

Niemann, the top-ranked amateur in the world, shot 8-under 63 Tuesday at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Santiago, Chile, to win the Latin America Amateur Championship.

And with the title, both redemption and an invitation to the Masters Tournament.

Full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

Niemann finished runner-up in last year’s LAAC to fellow Chilean Toto Gana. He followed Gana around Augusta grounds, watching as his best friend played two rounds before missing the cut.

Niemann, who was going to turn professional had he not won this week, started the final round one back of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz. Niemann was sluggish from the start on Tuesday, but then drove the 313-yard, par-4 eighth and made the eagle putt. That sparked a run of five birdies over his next six holes.

Niemann was bogey-free in the final round and finished five shots clear of Ortiz, at 11 under.

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Judges Panel, Host Announced for Wilson Golf's "Driver vs. Driver 2," Premiering This Fall on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJanuary 23, 2018, 4:15 pm

‘Driver vs. Driver 2 Presented by Wilson Currently in Production; Sports Broadcaster Melanie Collins Returns to Host

Morning Drive: Driver vs. Driver 2 Judges Announced

Golf Channel and Wilson Golf announced today the panel of judges and host for the second season of Driver vs. Driver, the innovative television series that follows aspiring golf equipment designers as they compete for the opportunity to have their driver idea or concept transformed into the next great golf driver from Wilson. The show is currently in production and will premiere this fall.

Joining judge Tim Clarke, President of Wilson Golf, are two newcomers to the series: 9-time National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star and current NHL on NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick – an avid golfer with a single digit handicap and a self-described golf equipment junkie; and PGA Professional, golf coach, equipment reviewer and social media influencer Rick Shiels.

“Golf is a big passion of mine, and personally I enjoy learning about new equipment and concepts,” said Roenick. “To be able to see this side of the business in how equipment is developed first-hand is fascinating. Being a part of the process in reviewing driver concepts and narrowing them down to an ultimate winning driver that will be sold across the country is a tremendous honor.” 

“Jeremy, as an avid golfer, and Rick, as a coach, equipment reviewer and golf professional, bring incredible, real world insights and different perspectives to the show and this process,” said Clarke. “I’m excited to work alongside these two judges to push the boundaries of innovation and bring a next-generation driver to golfers around the world.”

Sports broadcaster Melanie Collins returns as the host of Driver vs. Driver 2. Currently a sideline reporter for CBS Sports’ college football and basketball coverage, Collins hosted the inaugural season in 2016 and formerly co-hosted Golf Channel’s competition series, Big Break.

Production for Driver vs. Driver 2 began in the fall of 2017 and will continue through the summer, including this week at the PGA Merchandise Show. The series is being produced by Golf Channel, whose portfolio of original productions include interview series Feherty hosted by Emmy-nominated sports personality David Feherty, high-quality instruction shows School of Golf, Golf Channel Academy and Playing Lessons and a slate of award-winning films.

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Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right)