#AskLav: European RC team better on paper, real life

By Ryan LavnerAugust 28, 2014, 3:00 pm

Even Tom Watson concedes that the European Ryder Cup team is the clear favorite heading into Gleneagles. 

The question then is by how much.

If you’ve strapped on a helmet and read comment sections or social media in the past few weeks, you’ve probably seen predictions calling for everything from a U.S. loss by nightfall Saturday to an upset for the ages. 

Both captains will round out their 12-man rosters in separate nationally televised announcements on Tuesday (both live on Golf Channel!), but let’s be honest – a Hunter Mahan here or a Lee Westwood there won’t swing the outcome of these matches. To paraphrase a line from the great NFL coach Denny Green, these teams are who we think they are.

So let’s break it down on paper (where, you might have been reminded, no matches have ever been won): 

BEST PLAYER 

U.S.: Jim Furyk

Europe: Rory McIlroy 

Advantage: Europe

Furyk has been a human ATM this year and he’s finished outside the top 20 only once since March, but … the aging warrior hasn’t won since 2010, he has a terrible record in this event (9-17-1, including a demoralizing singles loss in 2012) and he’s failed to close out his last eight chances on Tour. Oy. Rory, meanwhile, assumes Tiger’s role as the biggest name at the Ryder Cup. He’s in great form, he’ll be sent out in all five matches, and if he gets on a roll Europe will win in a rout.   


CAPTAIN 

U.S.: Tom Watson

Europe: Paul McGinley 

Advantage: Europe

Watson is worshipped in Scotland and he has the Hall of Fame credentials, but you don’t hear any American team members shrieking, “Let’s win this one for Tom!”, like you might for other legends like Arnie or Jack. Fact is, McGinley is closer to his players – in both age and action. 


BENCH/CAPTAIN’S PICKS (note: three players per side selected Tuesday

U.S.: Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan, Brandt Snedeker, Webb Simpson, Brendon Todd, Ryan Moore, Bill Haas

Europe: Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Stephen Gallacher, Miguel Angel Jimenez

Advantage: U.S.

The best of all these options (American or European) is Mahan, who has three consecutive top-15s, including the Barclays win, though it should be noted that the other Team USA hopefuls have shown glimpses over the past month as well. There are many more unknowns on the European side. Poulter may be a Ryder Cup hero, but he won’t intimidate anyone if he continues to play this poorly; since the U.S. Open, he has three MCs and two other finishes outside the top 50. Westwood and Donald both have struggled mightily as well, opening the door for a player such as Gallacher, a Scotsman with an intriguing history at Gleneagles. 


X-FACTOR 

U.S.: Bubba Watson

Europe: Martin Kaymer

Advantage: U.S.

Bubba knows he’ll be under the microscope after the way he handled less-than-ideal conditions at Valhalla. With a reputation as a fair-weather player, he can sway a lot of opinions if he successfully bashes his way around Gleneagles – with a smile on his face. As for Kaymer, which guy are we going to see: The one who won the U.S. Open by eight, or the one who doesn’t have a top 10 since? 


BIGGEST QUESTION MARK

U.S.: Patrick Reed

Europe: Victor Dubuisson 

Advantage: U.S.

Slowly growing convinced that P-Reed will be America’s best player at Gleneagles. He’s a match-play dynamo (6-0 at NCAAs), he’s aggressive and he’s fiery, and he won’t be the least bit intimidated playing in a hostile arena. In fact, he relishes that environment. Put him with a similarly combustible partner – say, Rickie or Jordan Spieth – and one of the game’s most polarizing talents has an opportunity to win over a lot of fans. Dubuisson also fits in this category because, well, not even his teammates know what to expect in a few weeks.


BEST POTENTIAL PARTNERSHIP

U.S.: Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler

Europe: Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia

Advantage: Europe

Phil and Rickie are frequent practice-round partners and they put on a show Sunday at the PGA, but Watson likely will send out Mickelson with Bradley – at least early. Even their high-fiving, behind-smacking theatrics wouldn’t be enough to stop a Rory-Sergio tag team. It’d surprise little if that duo went 4-0 in team play.


THE OUTCOME

Anything can happen with professional athletes over three days in unpredictable Scottish weather, of course, but we’re unofficially setting the over/under for the Europeans’ margin of victory at 4.5. 


 

 

 

 

What’s not to like about the FedEx Cup playoffs? It is four weeks of elite fields on great golf courses at a time of year when more people are concerned with their fantasy football drafts than PGA Tour leaderboards. That said, enough head-scratching elements remain that keep the playoffs from cracking the crowded mainstream sports landscape:

1.) Points breakdown. How are the playoffs worth FIVE times the points of a regular-season event? By winning The Barclays, Mahan received the same number of points as if he’d also captured the Farmers Insurance Open, Honda Classic, Houston Open, Colonial and Quicken Loans National. Stuart Appleby didn’t have a top 10 since March, but by leading The Barclays on Sunday he was projected to move to No. 1 – ahead of Rory, Jimmy and Bubba. It’s hilariously lopsided. 

2.) No punishment for skipping events. A tough rule to enforce, particularly when there are four events in a row like 2014 (on top of an already hectic late-summer schedule), but there is no deterrent for top players to skip an event. The New England Patriots’ players are probably tired too, but they can’t just skip the divisional round. This is a bad look for golf’s so-called postseason.  

3.) A more compelling Tour Championship. The competition, not the money, should be the point of emphasis. A $10 million bonus might be life-changing cash for you and me, but for the Tour’s superstars it’s merely a cool reward for a nice season. Ditch the monotonous 72-hole format in favor of a 36-hole qualifier, then a win-or-go-home match-play bracket on the weekend for the top eight … with the $10 million on the line. That’d be must-see TV. 


 

 

FedEx Cup titles by Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, Jimmy Walker or Martin Kaymer would make the conversation a lot more interesting, but right now Rory McIlroy leads the race by a rather substantial margin. He’s No. 1 in the Tour’s strokes gained category, No. 1 in birdie average, No. 1 in scoring and No. 3 in the all-around ranking. Everyone remembers the three wins in a row (including two majors), but he’s also been in the top 25 in all 14 of his starts. Compare that to a player like, say, Kaymer, whose only two top-10s this calendar year have been victories. 


 

 

See the top of this mailbag for a 722-word answer. Abridged version: The Americans have a chance, but they’ll have to play out of their minds – and the Europeans will have to sleepwalk. 


 

 

Didn’t specify which side, so here are Captain Lavner’s picks for both the Americans and Europeans:

U.S.: Bradley, Snedeker, Mahan. All three have Ryder Cup experience; all three have shown good form in the past month; and it never hurts to have an above-average (Bradley) and excellent (Sneds) putter on the bench. Throw in the revenge factor for Mahan, given what transpired during his last Ryder Cup overseas, and this trio should inject some passion into the proceedings.  

Europe: Westwood, Poulter, Donald. The first two are locks, but keep a close eye on both Donald (Boston) and Gallacher (Italy) this week. If one plays well and the other falters, that should seal their fates. Gallacher, who lives 40 kilometers from Gleneagles and lost in a playoff there last year, needs a T-2 finish in the Euro Tour event to bump G-Mac for the last automatic spot. If that happens, you can bet Donald will be the odd man out. 


 

 

The rare college golf question! Love it. I’m filling out my preseason top 5 as I type this, and the Longhorns are safely among that company. Texas’ roster is one that every agent can love – a who’s who of can’t-miss junior prospects who comprise the year’s most compelling team to watch. From Beau Hossler (who led the U.S. Open at 17) to 2013 U.S. Junior champion Scottie Scheffler to 2014 U.S. Publinx runner-up Doug Ghim, this is a team with national-title aspirations, and for good reason. Make sure to check GolfChannel.com on Tuesday, Sept. 8 for the rollout of our college preview, including stories, rankings and watch lists.


 

 

Of course! Just giving the (seven) people what they want. 

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.