Watson the right choice by PGA

By Rex HoggardDecember 13, 2012, 6:59 pm

Old Tom Watson, Scotland’s beloved adopted son and the most recent addition to the two-time Ryder Cup captains club, was not a plan 'B.' Nor was the 63-year-old an emergency selection by a panicky group of PGA of America executives.

As PGA president Ted Bishop figured, “We have broken the mold,” not to mention Larry Nelson’s ginormous heart, but that’s another story.

Thursday was about Watson, the ageless American who won a British Open at Turnberry, lost a British Open at Turnberry and became the oldest captain in Ryder Cup history when Bishop & Co. dumpstered said mold and made a pick that was 13 months in the making.

It was, by any measure, an outside-the-box pick by an organization that is quickly becoming boxed in by mediocrity at its marquee event. It was, with a monsoon of respect to Nelson, David Toms and any number of potential captains, the only choice.

Whether it be meltdown or miracle, depending on one’s perspective, Medinah will be remembered as a crossroads for the American Ryder Cup cause, a handy victory that turned in a blur of roars and a relentless European rally on a September Sunday.

In Watson the PGA plucked the calm in a storm from a sea of uncertainty. Remember, this is the same man who after losing a playoff to Stewart Cink at the 2009 Open Championship entered the press room and grinned, “This ain't a funeral, you know.”

The U.S. side needed Watson like this year’s captain Davis Love III needed one more 5-footer to drop on Sunday in Chicagoland. The red, white and blue has lost seven of the last nine matches and the last time the U.S. won an “away game” was in 1993, the last time Watson led a team onto Kingdom soil.

“I was waiting almost 20 years to get the call,” Watson smiled Thursday from New York.

The only real surprise may have been the revelation from Bishop that he began coloring outside the lines some 13 months ago on a plane ride from Bermuda to Indiana. It’s a time line that suggests the PGA was primed for something new regardless of what happened at Medinah.

But this seemed less about wins, which there have been far too few of for the U.S. side, and losses than a shrinking demographic. The status quo, major champions who had played in multiple Ryder Cups and were in their late 40s and still relatively active on the PGA Tour, simply wouldn’t work anymore as an increasingly large number of majors started going to Europeans, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

As Bishop pointed out there was indeed a “short list of potential Ryder Cup captains based on the current criteria.” The answer, at least in the short term, was a dramatic paradigm shift in the form of a second Watson captaincy.

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To make his case Bishop created an 85-page document that outlined why Watson would work in 2014, but the truth is he could have saved some paper and gone with a 140-character tweet: “It is time for a change. #Watson2014”

Conventional wisdom was against Bishop. At 63 the rub was Watson was too old to know today’s players, but – with apologies to Love, Corey Pavin, Tom Lehman, et al – familiarity has only bred an all-too-familiar result.

Besides, few players in their 60s have remained as active on Tour as Watson.

“We’ve played a ton together and I don’t think there will be any disconnect,” said Brandt Snedeker, who has played a practice round with Watson every year at The Masters and British Open since 2008. “We see him at the Masters every year and he still has the passion and that fire. It’s not like he’s rode off into the sunset.”

Nor does a perceived frosty relationship between Watson and Woods, a dustup that dates back to early 2010 when Watson said of Woods, “He messed up,” seem to be much of a concern.

Woods almost immediately released a statement praising the new captain early Thursday and Watson countered with a familiar take from recent U.S. skippers. “I hope Tiger is first of all on my team. He is the best player in the history of the game and if he’s not on the team for any reason you can bet he will be No. 1 on my pick list,” he said.

To be brutally honest, there is precious little upside for Watson in this deal. He has participated in five Ryder Cups, either as a player or captain, has a 10-4-1 record and has never been on a losing team. But then Old Tom has never been interested in the easy way.

Way back in the early 1990s when he was pursuing his first turn as a U.S. captain Watson specifically requested an overseas assignment, “because of my record I’d had over there.” At least at the ’93 Ryder Cup, those five Open titles helped produce an 18 ½ to 9 ½ U.S. rout.

It was telling that moments after Bishop referred to the “Watson luck,” the man himself gave a nod to the vague forces that often decide these biennial bashes.

“The most important thing for me as a captain is to get lucky. To get lucky and have all 12 players playing well when we get there,” Watson said.

The cynic would suggest given recent history – or, to be more precise, America’s 0-for-the-millenium slide in the transatlantic member-member – Watson’s only real challenge for Gleneagles would be quality raingear and a respectful consolation speech.

But that kind of defeatism, even when viewed through the prism of America’s pedestrian record, isn’t Watson’s style or the reason behind the PGA’s dramatic break from the norm. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, which would make Watson’s selection to lead the ’14 team, as crazy as it may seem, the most sane possible choice.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.