U.S. needs the right process to find the right man

By Rex HoggardSeptember 29, 2014, 5:30 pm

GLENEAGLES, Scotland – Tom Watson was the wrong guy for the job.

Old Tom was out of touch, outcoached and now out of excuses, but it isn’t Watson who should suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. As bad as Sunday’s 16 ½ to 11 ½ loss was – and it was – he was offered a job he was not qualified for.

While there is plenty of blame to go around, including the 12 Americans who failed to win a single full point in eight foursomes matches, the criticism for another U.S. collapse begins and ends with PGA of America president Ted Bishop.

It was Bishop who concocted the plan to give the 65-year-old a second turn as captain some two decades after leading the U.S. team to victory for the last time on foreign soil. It was a blueprint that was born on a flight home in 2011 as Bishop read Four Days in July, the tale of Watson’s near miss at the 2009 Open Championship.

“Our journey actually started on this Ryder Cup back in November of 2011,” said Bishop earlier this month.

According to various sources, the normal captain’s selection process, which is decided by the three-member PGA executive committee, was circumvented by a fast-track approach led by Bishop.

While hindsight can be a dangerous ally, and it’s easy now to see the flaws in Bishop’s thinking, the seeds of discontent were planted well before Sunday’s fait accompli at Gleneagles. A quiet chorus of concern began weeks ago as Watson’s captain’s picks approached.

Following his final round at the Deutsche Bank Championship Phil Mickelson was asked if Watson had reached out to him for any advice for the impending picks.

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“I haven’t, no. Maybe … I’ll check,” smiled Mickelson as he made a show of scrolling through the messages on his phone. “No.”

At best, Watson was tightlipped throughout the decision-making process. At worst, he was insular.

Consider that Brendon Todd, the hottest American player for much of the summer with a victory (Byron Nelson Championship) and four other top-10 finishes, acknowledged at the PGA Championship that he had had no communication with Watson regarding his status as a potential pick.

Lefty will suffer a disproportionate share of criticism for speaking out following the U.S. team’s eighth loss in its last 10 Ryder Cup outings when he was asked what has gone wrong for the American effort since those glory days at Valhalla in 2008.

“There were two things that allowed us to play our best I think that Paul Azinger (the 2008 captain) did,” Mickelson said. “One was he got everybody invested in the process. … The other thing that Paul did really well was he had a great game plan for us.

“We use that same process in the Presidents Cup and we do really well. Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula.”

Moments later Watson went on the defensive in an awkward exchange saying, “You know, it takes 12 players to win. It's not pods. It's 12 players.”

Perhaps Mickelson should have kept the team room laundry locked behind closed doors, but as an agent of change it’s hard to imagine a more powerful pulpit from which to make a difference.

The American Ryder Cup system is broken; the alternative is to believe that this European squad is five points better than the U.S. side. Five points.

Captains can make a difference, just ask any player who has been a part of a winning team.

“Few captains, if any, have had as big an impact on the team and on the result as (Azinger) did,” Mahan said at the PGA Championship. “I think he was worth a point, point and a half that week.”

In Watson’s defense, John Wooden is perhaps the best coach of any team in the history of sports, but even his greatness would be ill equipped to lead a group of current NBA players.

That doesn’t tarnish his legacy; it just places him on the wrong side of the generational divide.

If Bishop’s failed experiment has produced anything worth salvaging it is a willingness to think outside of the box when it comes to future captains. No more should the powers calling the shots in South Florida be bound by the unwritten criteria that captains must be former major champions or that repeat performances are strictly verboten.

Early last year the European Tour brass gathered in a tony hotel in Abu Dhabi to decide the Continent’s 2014 captain. It was uncomfortable, political and feelings were hurt, but in the end that committee – which consists of former captains, current players and various administrators – delivered the captain the players wanted – Paul McGinley.

That was clear as Rory McIlroy and Padraig Harrington gathered in the back of the room to cheer as McGinley was named captain.

“The committee is 100 percent behind this captain and that was obvious early in the meeting,” said Thomas Bjorn, the tournament committee chairman who would play his way onto this year’s team, at the time. “We listen to our players.”

If the U.S. team wants to know what the European’s mysterious “template” is they should start with the captain’s selection process. Decisions made behind closed doors by a frighteningly few number of executives is not the answer.

If the PGA is serious about change they should copy the European system and create a committee. Include the current PGA president, a few former captains and, most importantly, players who are likely to qualify for the team.

McGinley’s Europe rolled to victory because they bought into his detailed plan of no complacency, no give. They did that because they bought into McGinley.

Watson was the wrong guy for the job. Finding the right guy is the only way to stop America’s slide into Ryder Cup irrelevancy.

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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.