U.S. doesn't agree with underdog label

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2014, 6:52 pm

GLENEAGLES, Scotland – On this the wise guys seem to have a consensus – the U.S. Ryder Cup team is a distinct underdog in this week’s matches.

Just don’t tell any of the American players.

“I don’t see it that way,” Zach Johnson said. “In ’12 it was the other way around, with the U.S. team having the advantage, so it’s irrelevant.”

It was a common theme among the players who spoke to the media on Tuesday at Gleneagles. So much so, one could almost hear the affable Herm Edwards glaring down and explaining, “You play to win the game.”

While captain Tom Watson’s dozen may eschew the role of underdog, that doesn’t change the perception held by many on both sides of the transatlantic divide that a U.S. victory on Sunday would be a surprise.

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While the line varies, bookmakers in the United Kingdom have the Europeans as clear 4-to-6 favorites. In fact, the odds for a one-point American triumph (12 to 1) are better than a three-point European victory (8 to 1).

But then the Europeans have come by their advantage honestly. The Continent has won seven of the last nine matches and the last time the American side won an away game (1993), half of the U.S. team was in elementary school.

There is also the issue that for the second time in seven years the American team is without this generation’s best player (Tiger Woods) and arguably the U.S. team’s most intimidating player (Dustin Johnson).

Conversely, the European team will be led by the current world No. 1 in Rory McIlroy and the winners of three of this season’s four major championships.

“The European team is loaded,” Watson conceded. “But when the matches start at 7:35 [a.m.] on Friday morning, there's going to be quality of play going on. We'll just see who wins.”

European captain Paul McGinley also surprised some American players when they showed up and thought Mike Davis had set up the course for this week’s matches, complete with 8-inch-deep rough and narrow fairways that looked more like a U.S. Open venue than one of the historic Open Championship rota layouts.

It may be the American national championship but the USGA philosophy seems to favor players from the Continent considering four of the last five U.S. Open winners are European.

With three days to go before play begins, the second-guessing has also started over Watson’s captain’s picks. While Hunter Mahan, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson may have been inspired choices on Sept. 2, when Watson announced his selections, Billy Horschel’s magical FedEx Cup finish, not to mention Chris Kirk’s season, has stirred armchair captains everywhere.

Even Bubba Watson, who some have labeled the U.S. player with the biggest target on his back, has been scrutinized for his 3-5-0 Ryder Cup record, prompting a few to question if it should be the other Watson (Tom) hitting meaningful golf shots this week.

But if these 40th matches have the feel of a nine-point rout, like the 18 1/2-to-9 1/2 loss the U.S. suffered at The K Club in 2006, McGinley doesn’t see it.

“The bottom line is, this is a very, very strong American team,” he said. “The favorite tag or not favorite tag is irrelevant as far as I'm concerned. We're going to have to play really well to win this Ryder Cup. I certainly won't be underestimating this American team or Tom.”

And as underestimated teams always do, the U.S. side is viewing the perceived role as a slight, a bulletin board filled with reasons to prove those who see the actual play as a formality wrong.

“The underdog role is one that's kind of fun, to be honest with you. When I went up against Nick Faldo in my first Ryder Cup, there wasn't one person that expected me to beat Nick Faldo that day,” said Jim Furyk, who defeated Faldo in Sunday singles in 1997, 3 and 2. “The underdog role is great. You have everything to win and nothing to lose. I never really looked at it as an intimidation.”

On Tuesday, McGinley planned to have Sir Alex Ferguson, a former Manchester United manager, speak to his team. When asked if he planned to bring in an inspirational speaker this week Watson smiled, “I’ve already given them some talks.”

As a Plan B, Watson may want to track down Joe Namath to speak to his team this week because if the “paper” underdogs pull off a victory it may be the biggest upset since Broadway Joe led his New York Jets to the title at Super Bowl III.

Just don’t tell the American players.

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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.