No matter context, Love's comments motivate Euros

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 27, 2016, 9:30 pm

CHASKA, Minn. – Did you hear last week, when U.S. captain Davis Love III made the eyebrow-raising comment that his U.S. Ryder Cup team was “the best golf team maybe ever assembled.” Of course you did. It was everywhere.

“It raised some eyebrows around our team, too,” Love said Tuesday, while the best golf team maybe ever assembled practiced at Hazeltine. But only because he believes his remarks were taken out of context.

And he might have a point.

Anyone who knows the difference between a Titleist and a TaylorMade can look at this roster and determine that it isn’t the best ever. (1981, anyone?) Dustin Johnson is the presumptive Player of the Year. Jordan Spieth added two more titles to his growing collection. But other than that? The Americans have combined for just three wins this year. This probably isn’t even the best team this decade.

So, yes, Love’s comment was brash, bordering on arrogant. It was probably unwise, too, given the Americans’ recent history in this event. But it also was misinterpreted.

Listen to the full interview, Love said Tuesday. And so we did. Again.

This was the question posed by “Fairways of Life” host Matt Adams, in a final sendoff before Love headed to Minnesota for this week’s matches: What is your counsel to your team coming in?

Love began by saying that the Americans put too much pressure on themselves and tend to panic when things start poorly, that they play defensively. Then he told a story about Tom Kite, his captain in 1997. The Ryder Cup is all about an attitude, a mindset, a swagger, and Kite told him if you’re 2 up, push it to 3 up. Try to crush your opponent.

“If we go out with that attitude, like he was saying, “Love said, “we are the better team. Let’s show them. Let’s go out there and show off. That’s a big part of it.

“And then just having confidence. We don’t have to do anything superhuman. We’re a great golf team. This is the best golf team maybe ever assembled. If we just go play our game – like coach (Bill) Belichick told us a few weeks ago – ignore the noise, work hard, do your job, everything else will take care of itself.”

Listen to the clip quickly, and it’s easy to conclude that Love believes this might be the best 12-man roster in history. He did say that, after all.

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But the original question was not: Where does this team stack up all time? No, it was: What is your counsel to your team coming in?

And so, he says, he plans to tell those 12 players that they’re the best team maybe ever assembled. He already has, apparently. “Captain told us he believes – as anybody should tell their team – that we’re the best team in the world,” Spieth said. “And we believe that, as well.”

It’s the same speech that’s been delivered in every locker room and clubhouse, in every sport, at every level, for decades.

“That’s what Nick Saban would tell his team when they’re getting ready to go play Ole Miss,” Love said of the famously intense Alabama football coach. “He wouldn’t say, ‘You guys have done a pretty good job this week, and you’re a pretty average team, let’s go out there and just give it a good shot.’ No, he’s going to say, ‘You guys have worked hard, you’re the best team I’ve ever seen, so let’s go crush these guys.’”

Somewhere along the way, though, that context was lost – not that the Europeans minded the easy bulletin-board material.

Rather than ignore the noise, as Belichick suggested, the typically mild-mannered Love instead turned up the volume.

And the Europeans heard it loud and clear.

Lee Westwood poked fun at Love’s bravado on Twitter. Last week, Rory McIlroy sent his own zinger: “They’ve definitely assembled the best task force ever, that’s for sure.”

Added Sergio Garcia: “You don’t win Ryder Cups with your mouth. You win them out there on the golf course.”

And so Love might as well have walked into the media tent Tuesday with an extinguisher, prepared to snuff out any of the simmering controversy.

“It’s just unfortunate that, in that nice conversation, it got misconstrued,” Love said. “Obviously that comment, and to the other extreme, the comment about the European team” – NBC Sports analyst Johnny Miller said the Europeans have the worst team they’ve had in years – “is not what this is all about.” 

Love said he has talked to Clarke about both remarks and that there were no hard feelings. Nor should there have been.

It’s all in good fun. The light ribbing is part of what makes the Ryder Cup so spirited. It’s not war – it’s a three-day exhibition with nothing at stake but pride and bragging rights.

But while Love clarifies – or, to some, backtracks – the Europeans have gladly accepted the free motivation.

“I don’t think it’s hard for us to find motivation,” McIlroy said, “because anywhere you look, whether it be the sea of red you see on the golf course, or the comments that are made in the media by the U.S. team or by the captain, that gives us so much motivation already.”

And here he got a bit cheeky.

“Whenever we are going up against one of the greatest teams ever assembled,” he said, “that’s motivation enough.”

Sorry, Davis, but it’s clear that the one-liners are just beginning – win or lose.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry