What Davis Love should tell his team

By Rex HoggardOctober 2, 2016, 1:27 am

CHASKA, Minn. – When the U.S. Ryder Cup squad assembles in the team room Saturday night, expect captain Davis Love III’s speech to fall somewhere between Norman Dale of "Hoosiers" fame and Bill Belichick.

Love’s not a big fan of public speaking. Ask him, he’ll tell you. His address at Thursday’s opening ceremony may have been the toughest part of his week and he’d just as soon let his band of vice captains handle the speaking duties.

He actually caused a bit of a stir in the frenzied build-up to the 41st matches when he was asked what he would tell his dozen: “This is the best golf team, maybe, ever assembled,” he said.

That media miscue and his aversion to public speaking aside, this version of Captain America has a plan and a message; it’s in his body language if not his delivery.

Normally one of the game’s most approachable and forthcoming players, Love has largely plucked a page from Belichick’s notebook this week with a series of short answers and bullet-point messaging.

The plan has been to convince his players that each is a world-beater, an unstoppable force with a single job – win a point.

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Military types say that plans rarely withstand the first 15 minutes of combat, but through two days the U.S. blueprint has more or less gone to script. After rolling through Friday’s foursome session for the side’s first sweep in alternate-shot play since 1975, the home team endured a late Day 1 rally by Europe.

After Saturday’s foursomes session didn’t go the American way, 2 ½ to 1 ½, they bounced back in the afternoon, winning three of the four matches, to extend the lead to 9 ½ to 6 ½.

For the United States, the final frame of team play was about more than adding three points to the total. It was about momentum.

History shows that it’s not how you start the matches, it’s how you finish, and in the fall dusk the Americans grabbed more than a three-point advantage, they wrested the advantage away from the Continent.

“You could tell Dustin Johnson, well, you played a great match, you made a ton of birdies, you played awesome. But he still didn't win and he still had that feeling of, I wish I would have won that point for my team,” Love said. “It's nice to go in on a high.”

Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter powered a similar reversal in 2012, playing their last six holes in 6 under to rally from 2 down for a late Day 2 fourball victory that set the tone for what turned out to be the largest Sunday collapse in Ryder Cup history.

“We know the deal; that tomorrow is extremely important. There's still 12 points to be played, and you just can't get off the game plan, and just keep grinding it out for one more day,” Love said.

Whatever the details of Love’s speech, the tone should send a clear message – get mean.

Winning often requires a degree of broken china. The ugly side of victory is that you can be friendly, but not friends with your opponents. At least not for the four-plus hours it’ll take to finish the guy off.

Look no further than McIlroy for proof of this. Most weeks, the Northern Irishman has a boy-next-door appeal, a genuine charm that is there in victory or defeat; but for two days in Minnesota he’s taken on a wild-eyed glare that makes people lock their doors.

For McIlroy, it’s a response to crowds that have repeatedly stepped over the line. It’s fueled him. It’s angered him.

Love must bottle similar emotion in his dozen heading into Sunday's singles. Not hate or animosity, but an authentic chip to carry proudly to the first tee.

This week Love has had Jack Nicklaus, Michael Phelps and a group of former U.S. captains speak to his team. On Saturday evening maybe he should consider inviting Lewis Black in for a chitchat.

Better yet, instead of bringing a “name” into the room to rally the troops, he could simply tell a tale from his own Ryder Cup past.

It was 1999 at Brookline, site of the U.S. team’s largest comeback in the biennial event and Love set out in the day’s fourth singles match against Jean Van de Velde, who had sat on the bench all week for Europe.

By the turn, Love was 2 up on the Frenchman and he won the next two holes to go 4 up when Van de Velde hit a shot into a water hazard, which prompted a sympathetic sigh from Love’s caddie, brother Mark.

“What was that?” Love glared. “We can feel sorry for him after we win.”

Love closed Van de Velde out, 6 and 5, to help lead the U.S. to a one-point victory, and the moment stands as an example of the unsympathetic mindset it takes to win.

Love is not a heartless man, nor are the members of his team – although Patrick Reed certainly seems capable of an occasional bout of insensitivity – but he’ll have to send the same cold and calculating message to his team if they are to avoid the same fate of the 2012 squad.

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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.