Task force tabs 'PGA guy' in Love, just like old times

By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2015, 6:10 pm

It’s official.

Darren Clarke will lead the European Ryder Cup team against a U.S. squad led by Davis Love III. Well, Love hasn’t officially been trotted out as the 2016 captain. That will occur next week in what will amount to the most anti-climactic news conference since Tom Brady distanced himself from Deflategate.

Essentially, the only mystery that remains is why Fred Couples didn’t get his turn at the American helm? Or, in more esoteric terms, what is a “PGA of America guy?”

The notion took root last November when Couples was asked about his chances to captain the next U.S. team, “You know, I’m not a PGA of America guy.”

On Tuesday, in the wake of Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte’s report that Love will be named the ’16 captain next week, Paul Azinger – who along with Couples appeared to be the front-runners for the next Ryder Cup gig – told GolfChannel.com, “If true, Davis is an excellent choice for many reasons. He’s still connected to the players. He was very prepared and thorough in 2012. He’s a PGA guy as well.”

Needless to say, there is no formal definition of a “PGA guy.” One longtime PGA insider pointed out that Love’s father was a well-respected member of the association for years and that Couples perhaps wasn’t as detailed-oriented as the PGA would like.

Historically, being a “PGA guy” was generally described as a player in his early 50s with numerous appearances in the Ryder Cup who had won a PGA Championship, although there are numerous exceptions to that including, most recently, Tom Lehman and Corey Pavin.

Azinger, the last American captain to win the Ryder Cup in 2008, fit that description. Ditto for Love.

But that rough outline has just as many glaring exceptions. Most notably Larry Nelson, who won the PGA Championship twice, compiled a 9-3-1 record in three Ryder Cup appearances and was arguably the most-qualified potential captain to lead the U.S. side considering his status as a U.S. war veteran.

According to Nelson, he was in line to captain the 1995 American team but Lanny Wadkins suggested that he should lead the squad at Oak Hill in New York and Nelson would take his turn in 1997 in Spain.

“That to me was a done deal,” Nelson said in December 2012. “I assumed everyone would be good to their word and I would captain in ’97.”

Nelson never got the call for ’97 – Tom Kite did – or any other year.

Conventional wisdom suggests Mark O’Meara isn’t a “PGA guy” either, likely because of his involvement in the 1999 pay-for-play coup regarding the Ryder Cup which led to the PGA giving $200,000 to players to donate to a charity of their choosing.

O’Meara, who has won two majors and has 16 PGA Tour victories, has been bypassed by the likes of Lehman (one major and five Tour titles) and Pavin (one major and 15 titles). O’Meara also has more starts in the biennial matches than Lehman or Pavin, but none of that seemed to matter under the old system or, seemingly, the new structure.

Previous captains were chosen by a group of PGA executives with input from past captains. The new system, born from the 11-member Ryder Cup task force, was supposed to be different.

The task force – which included past captains (Lehman and Love), PGA executives and current players like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler – was billed as a chance to create a new legacy for the U.S. side.

There has been much talk about creating a succession plan for future captains and getting the current players invested in a winning formula, much like the format used for years by the European side.

“A decisive game plan is what we need to have,” Love said in early December after the task force’s initial meeting.

But that plan also seems to have remnants of a status quo of sorts.

Azinger, who was championed by Mickelson to return as captain following last year’s Ryder Cup loss in Scotland, told PGA officials he wasn’t interested in being captain again because of various “personal and business” reasons. Azinger also suggested Love, who was clearly a popular choice among the active players on the task force, but that still doesn’t completely explain why Couples didn’t get the nod.

According to one source close to the meetings, at least three players on the task force said that Couples “needed to be the guy” and in November the three-time Presidents Cup captain – a resume boost which some have suggested actually hurts a potential Ryder Cup captain’s bid – said he received numerous texts and phone calls from players saying “We need you to do this.”

Instead, the task force came up with Love, who was without a doubt a wildly popular captain with a Type A personality perfectly suited for the job.

He’s also a “PGA guy.” It seems some things never change.

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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.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

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.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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.