#AskLav: Ryder Cup redux

By Ryan LavnerOctober 4, 2012, 4:30 pm

So ... anything happen last week?

Guess there is no better time to start a new Thursday staple than the week after the worst home collapse in Ryder Cup history.

Welcome to the #AskLav Twitter mailbag. Powered by you, the reader, this is intended to be fun, breezy, informative, entertaining, thoughtful. It is your forum, so join the discussion each week by submitting a question to my Twitter account (@RyanLavnerGC) or using the hashtag #AskLav in a post. I will answer the best submissions here, each Thursday. You can disagree with those answers. It’s allowed. Write in.

Here, then, are this week's best:


Ask Lav

Well, it was poor timing, to be sure. In five singles matches last Sunday, the U.S. either led or was all square heading to the 17th tee. Europe won four of those matches. The fifth match, between Tiger Woods and Francesco Molinari, was halved only after the cup was already decided.

The 18th hole isn’t all that challenging – a 445-yard par 4 that doglegs left and features a set of fairway bunkers along the right. But the U.S. was the home team, and the enormity of a collapse was building, and when Europe is playing to win and the U.S. is playing merely to hold on and scratch out a half point and stay alive … well, you get what happened last Sunday.


Ask Lav

Never too early to look ahead, I suppose. The best guess is 2020 or 2024 – a home Ryder Cup, at least.

There’s little reason to believe that Woods won’t remain competitive into his early- to mid-40s, even with his battered body. And if David Toms is the favorite to land the gig in 2014, then there is no shortage of candidates remaining: Fred Couples, Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson, maybe even Steve Stricker. Tiger, then, would fall sometime after those guys.

The biggest question: Will he enjoy more success as a Ryder Cup captain or as a player?


Ask Lav

Who should become the next Ryder Cup captain and who will become the next skipper are two wildly different things, of course. Personally, I’d take Freddie Couples, even if it is highly unlikely, given his ties to the Presidents Cup

Think about it: Everybody on the team would want to play well for the coolest gray-haired cat in the game. He’s more competitive than he seems. And if the Ryder Cup is truly about growing the game and bringing more people to the sport, who would be a better ambassador than Couples? 


Ask Lav

Let’s be clear: What Bubba Watson (and Ian Poulter) did on the first tee at Medinah was awesome, even if none of their tee shots ever found the fairway. It was a surreal sight. Standing at the top of the grandstand one day, the platform under my feet was shaking. But you can’t have that at more tournaments. First of all, the sustained, raucous cheers at a normal PGA Tour event would be distracting for other players on the course. Plus, it loses its effect over time, like the tedium of a popular song on the radio. But playing amid loud cheers on the first tee at the Ryder Cup? Absolutely loved it.


Ask Lav

Separate the Americans’ recent Ryder Cup funk into two eras: pre- and post-2008. For all of the kvetching about the FedEx Cup system, it’s undeniable that the playoffs have helped the U.S. in the Ryder Cup since they were established in 2007. It keeps the American players fresh and playing together at a time of year when they used to shelve the clubs. Since 2008, the U.S. has won big at home, lost in the final match in 2010 and this year lost in historic fashion at home but, again, by a single point. This competition has never been more evenly matched.


Ask Lav

It was just an intimidating hole. From the tee box, it looked like the Saturday hole location was tucked on the water’s edge. The only thing you can do is stand up there and hit a precise shot, like Tiger and Luke and Poults all did. That hole, perhaps more than any other, rewarded good golf shots, no matter the team colors.


Ask Lav

Come on, don’t be that guy! The qualification process is fine. When Davis Love made his four captain’s picks, they were the right selections at the time: Steve Stricker, an ideal partner for Woods (or so we thought); Jim Furyk, a prototypical grinder who earned his spot; Brandt Snedeker, the game’s best putter and eventual FedEx Cup champ; and Dustin Johnson, a long hitter who was playing well. They were the right choices, even with the benefit of hindsight. Remember, had the U.S. merely earned 4 ½ points on Sunday, we’d be applauding Love for the job he did scouting and at Medinah.


Ask Lav

I’m no Butch Harmon, but you rarely see a good golfer with his hands behind the clubhead. Don’t overdo it, though – you’ll shank it like Webb Simpson!


Ask Lav

First of all, gold star for two interesting questions. To answer your question, The ideal captain would be passionate and spirited, kind and thoughtful, easygoing and intense. He’d be a players’ captain, but also a guy who has a strong opinion and stands by it. He’d be smart and calculating, but also a guy who goes with the hot hand and trusts his heart. Gee, maybe I should apply!

Luke List, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood and Tiger Woods at the 2018 Honda Classic Getty Images

Honda leaders face daunting final day

By Randall MellFebruary 25, 2018, 12:46 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The winner may need a cut man in his corner more than he needs a caddie on his bag in Sunday’s finish to the Honda Classic.

Smelling salts might come in handy, too.

“It just feels like you are getting punched in the face every single hole here,” Daniel Berger said of the test PGA National’s Champion Course offers. “Every single shot is so hard.”

Final rounds have been especially rough and tumble since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National in 2007.

That usually makes Sundays here as much about who can figuratively take a punch as who can throw one.

Luke List will have his jaw tested after taking sole possession of the lead Saturday with a second consecutive round of 4-under-par 66, but he can take comfort in the fact that punishment is doled plentifully around here.

“Just realizing that everyone is facing the same obstacles out there is huge,” List said. “You're not alone out there, if you make a bogey or a bad swing here or there.”

At 7-under 203, List is one shot ahead of a pair of major championship winners, Justin Thomas (65) and Webb Simpson (66). He is two ahead of Tommy Fleetwood (67), the reigning European Tour Player of the Year, and Jamie Lovemark (68).

List, 33, is seeking his first PGA Tour title in his 104th start. He will have to hold off some heavyweights, including Tiger Woods (69), who is seven shots back but feeling like he has a chance again. Woods closed with a 62 here six years ago when he finished second to Rory McIlroy.

“You never know what can happen the last few holes here,” Woods said. “A lot of things can happen and have happened in the past.”

Amen.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Crazy things have happened here.

Three years ago, Padraig Harrington was five shots down with eight holes to play and won. He made two double bogeys in the final round but ended up beating Berger in a playoff.

Berger, by the way, was nine shots back entering the final round.

That was the year Ian Poulter took a share of lead into Sunday, hit five balls in the water and still finished just a shot out of the playoff.

Last year, Rickie Fowler made four bogeys and a double bogey in the final round and still won by four shots.

List will have a heavyweight playing alongside him in the final pairing, with 24-year-old Justin Thomas looking to claim his eighth PGA Tour title. Thomas was last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year.

List has never held a 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event.

“You guys build up certain players,” List said. “I know I'll be an underdog going against Justin Thomas and guys like that, which is fine.”

There is some inspiration for List in what Ted Potter Jr. did two weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Potter, largely unknown even though he already had a PGA Tour title to his credit, held off stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day in the final round to win. 

Thomas earned the right to play alongside List in the final pairing Sunday with his 65, which equaled the low round of the tournament.

Thomas makes his home in nearby Jupiter and knows the punishment the Champion Course can dish out.

“It's a difficult course,” Thomas said. “If you let it get to you, it can be frustrating, but if you go into it understanding and realizing it's difficult, you just kind of embrace it and deal with it.”

Thomas played the Bear Trap’s trio of daunting holes (Nos. 15-17) in 2 under on Saturday. He birdied the 15th and 17th holes.

Fleetwood got in contention Saturday with a pair of eagles. He’s a four-time European Tour winner.

“I would love to get my first win on the PGA Tour this week,” he said. “It’s just great to be out here. It's great to be playing on courses like this that are such a test of every part of your game.”

Alex Noren, a nine-time European Tour winner, is also seeking his first PGA Tour title. He is three shots back. He lost in a playoff to Day at the Farmers Insurance Open last month.

Though this is just Noren’s second start at the Honda Classic, he knows how wildly momentum can swing on the Champion Course. He shot 65 Saturday after shooting 75 on Friday.

“I’m a few back, but anything can happen,” Noren said.

That’s the theme around here.

Getty Images

Thomas: Winning hometown Honda would 'mean a lot'

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:53 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas is trying to join Rickie Fowler as a winner of his hometown event.

Thomas will play in the final group alongside Luke List on Sunday at the Honda Classic after matching the low round of the week with a 5-under 65. He is at 6-under 204, one shot back of List.

The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is one of several residents of nearby Jupiter. After Fowler won last year, Thomas (who missed the cut) returned to the course to congratulate his neighbor on his fourth Tour title.

“I hope I give him the opportunity or the choice to come back,” Thomas said. “But I’ve got a lot of golf in front of me before I worry about him coming here.”


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


More important to Thomas, however, is winning this event, which is played at PGA National, one of the most difficult non-major courses on Tour.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to win any golf tournament, but it would mean more because of how prestigious this golf tournament is and the list of winners that have won this event, how strong of a field it is, how difficult of a golf course.

“A decent number of my wins have been on easier golf courses, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this.”

Getty Images

Woods paired with hotshot rookie Burns at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:38 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rookie Sam Burns will be in the biggest spot of his career Sunday – playing alongside Tiger Woods.

Burns, the reigning Nicklaus Award winner who turned pro after two standout years at LSU, will go off with Woods at 12:45 p.m. at the Honda Classic.

Burns, 20, who earned his Web.com Tour card via Q-School, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption, his fourth of the season. He is 13th on the Web.com money list this year, after a tie for second two weeks ago in Colombia.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Burns and Woods are tied for 11th, at even-par 210.

Sunday is an important round for Burns, who can earn a spot into the Valspar Championship with a top-10 finish here.

Getty Images

List leads Honda; Thomas one back

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 11:25 pm

Luke List, one of a legion of PGA Tour players who live in Jupiter, just two exits up I-95 from PGA National, shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Honda Classic. Here's how things stand going into the final round at PGA National:

Leaderboard: Luke List (-7), Justin Thomas (-6), Webb Simpson (-6), Tommy Fleetwood (-5), Jamie Lovemark (-5), Alex Noren (-4) 

What it means: Leader List has played well this season, with no finish lower than T-26 in six starts. Thomas, of course, is the reigning Player of the Year. The next best pedigree among the leaders belongs to Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open and three other PGA Tour titles.

Round of the day: Thomas and Noren both shot 5-under 65s. Thomas made two of his six birdies in the Bear Trap (at the par 3s, Nos. holes 15 and17), while Noren played that stretch (15-17) in 1 over. Noren made his hay elsewhere, including an eagle at the last that canceled out his two bogeys.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Best of the rest: List, Simpson and Kelly Kraft all shot 66.

Biggest disappointment: After an opening 76, Jimmy Walker probably thought he was back on track with a 68 that allowed him to make the cut. Alas, the improvement was temporary, as he ballooned back to a 74 on Saturday.

Shot of the day: Tommy Fleetwood hit a fairway wood from 282 yards to within 8 feet of the cup on the 18th hole. He then made the putt for his second eagle of the day.

Quote of the day: "The course played a fair bit easier with not as much wind." - Thomas

Biggest storyline going into Sunday: List may be in the lead, but most eyes will be on Thomas, a five-time winner last year who has yet to lift a trophy in 2018. And of course, more than a few people will be keeping tabs on Tiger Woods. He'll begin the day seven shots back, trying to channel Tiger of 2012 - when he posted a 62 on Sunday at PGA National (which was good only for a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy).