Ryder Cup: Playing will outweigh bonding for U.S.

By Will GrayFebruary 26, 2016, 11:41 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Let the record show that 218 days before the first ball will be struck at Hazeltine, American players past, present and future formally met to begin solving the Ryder Cup riddle.

A group of 26 men descended upon Jack Nicklaus’ humble abode to share a meal, players swapped stories and the host regaled them with motivational tales from victories past.

It was the first step on a long path toward redemption for a U.S. squad that will be eager to erase nearly two decades of disappointment. It started the process of “changing the culture,” as players from various rungs of the PGA Tour ladder gathered to begin bonding as a team.

It was also a move that left several of Europe’s former stalwarts sporting a collection of wry grins.

Culture and camaraderie are all well and good, but the American response to the loss at Gleneagles – including the breaking of bread that occurred Thursday at Chez Nicklaus – largely constitutes an effort to quantify that which is unquantifiable.

Put it this way: Don Quixote had better luck chasing windmills than the Americans do with recreating the magical formula the Europeans have conjured over the past two decades.

A few of the Euros who have been instrumental in sending the Americans to their current 1-6 skid even seem keenly aware of the fact that these task force-driven efforts could amount to paralysis by analysis.

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“I think at the end of the day, some of this golf and these results are circumstantial,” said Padraig Harrington, a veteran of five Ryder Cups. “We’re having a good run, the U.S. aren’t, everybody’s trying to find an answer. I don’t think it’s as measured as you’d think it would be.”

It’s a long way from Palm Beach Gardens to Chaska, Minn., and there is plenty of golf to be played before teams are even finalized. Based on the simple rules of math, nearly half of those in attendance for the first team-building exercise will play no role in American success or failure seven months from now.

And while the powers-that-be hope that dinners and fishing trips initiate the creation of a more cohesive unit, it’s unlikely that any team members will think back to Thursday’s meal while grinding over a critical up-and-down at Hazeltine.

“There’s so little influence that the captain can have on the team, I think,” Graeme McDowell said. “Apart from creating a good atmosphere in the team room and on the week, it comes down to holing shots and holing putts. You look at these last four Ryder Cups, how little there is when it comes down to a Sunday afternoon. It’s putts holed and putts not holed.”

Remember, after all, that it took what McDowell again termed a “miracle” for the Europeans to defeat Love’s squad four years ago at Medinah. The margin between the two teams has been measured recently not in miles, but in inches.

Yet here the Americans toil, attempting to reinvent the wheel while the Europeans sit back and watch them try to hit a moving target.

“I don’t know, we’ll see. If it works, it’s great. If it doesn’t then, you know, they will try something else,” Sergio Garcia said with a smile. “We’ll see if it pays off or not in September.”

The European Tour has long been viewed as the gold standard of team-building, a circuit whose unique venues and travel demands force players to forge strong bonds before the Ryder Cup is even on the horizon.

They hang out more often, they share meals more often, they travel together more often. By the time the biennial matches arrive, a captain’s work has largely been done for him by virtue of the path his players traveled together.

While that theory may be rooted in truth, Harrington focused more on his continent’s ability to retain a chip on its collective shoulder even while pulling off victory after victory.

“No matter what you say, we need it more than the U.S.,” Harrington said. “Maybe now the U.S. needs it a lot as well, but for the last number of years, the last 20 years, we needed to win the Ryder Cup to justify our status. We’re the ‘country cousins’ and we want to prove ourselves.”

If nothing else, the recent American efforts indicate a level of investment in the event – but even that, according to Harrington, shows they’re only just beginning to catch up to their competition.

“The greatest achievement by the European team over the years is we have made the U.S. guys care,” he said, “and they really care.”

As the American team psyche begins its latest overhaul, the Europeans remain a united front. What’s more, these highly publicized meetings and dinners allow the defending champs to cling to the role of humble underdogs despite their recent run of success. 

“You only have to look at the leaderboards to see who the favorites are for this year,” McDowell said. “They’ve got an incredible team, when you look at Rickie [Fowler] and Jordan [Spieth] and Brooks Koepka and all of these guys that are playing as well as they’re playing.

“Yeah, we’re going to go in there as underdogs, just the way we like it,” he added. “We like the underdog tagline. It’s worked well in the past for us.”

Should the Americans leave Minnesota with the Ryder Cup, some may point back to this week as a turning point – a collective shift of a mindset that had largely been mired in losing since the turn of the century.

More than likely, though, it will be much ado about nothing. The trophy will be won by making shots in October, not by sharing a meal in February. The game’s most fundamental, quantifiable metric  – the scorecard – will be the final arbiter.

The Europeans know this as well as anyone, but they seem more than content to let the Americans keep chasing windmills all summer long.

Bradley, wife welcome baby boy, already rocking Patriots gear

By Grill Room TeamNovember 20, 2017, 6:40 pm

Keegan Bradley and his wife Jillian announced on social media that they welcomed a baby boy, Logan James Bradley, to the world last week.

The Bradleys both posted photos on Instagram over the weekend, introducing their healthy newborn baby, who was (not-surprisingly) already decked out in head-to-toe New England Patriots gear.

Bradley, 31, grew up in New England and is not shy about showing his support for the area's sports teams.

Logan James Bradley 11/13/17 He’s changed @jillian_bradley and my life forever. We couldn’t be happier #gopats #dab

A post shared by Keegan Bradley (@keeganbradley1) on

A big congratulations is in order for the new parents.

And all you other adorable kids of PGA Tour golfers, you've officially been put on notice. You've got some new competition.

Country music star Owen to play in Web.com event

By Will GrayNovember 20, 2017, 6:19 pm

Country music star and avid amateur golfer Jake Owen has accepted a sponsor invitation to play in the 2018 Nashville Golf Open on the Web.com Tour.

Owen, 36, has sold millions of albums while becoming one of the top male singers in the country genre. He has also been frequently spotted on the links, teeing it up last week alongside host Davis Love III in the RSM Classic pro-am and participating each of the last three years as the celebrity partner for Jordan Spieth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Owen will now try his hand in competition against some of the game's rising stars at the May 24-27 event, held in his hometown and benefitting the charitable foundation of PGA Tour pro Brandt Snedeker.

"I am truly honored to have this opportunity to play golf with guys whose work ethic I admire so much, like my buddy Brandt Snedeker," Owen said in a release. "I know how hard everyone works to get to play in these (Web.com Tour) tournaments. I'm really grateful, and I can't wait for this week in May 2018 to get here."

Owen will be following in the footsteps of NBA superstar Steph Curry, who played on a sponsor invite earlier this year at the Web.com's Ellie Mae Classic and, while missing the cut, largely exceeded expectations. Curry is currently listed as a 0.8 handicap, while Owen played at Pebble Beach in February as a 3 handicap.

Like Curry, Owen will play via an "unrestricted" sponsor invite and will retain his amateur status.

Jeremy Roenick uses golf clubs to catch rattlesnake

By Jason CrookNovember 20, 2017, 6:00 pm

Jeremy Roenick has never seemed to be afraid of much, whether it was another guy breaking his jaw on the hockey rink or an alligator interrupting his golf game.

The retired American hockey legend who currently works as an NBC Sports analyst was at it again over the weekend, coming across a rattlesnake in Arizona and just casually using a couple of golf clubs to catch it before grabbing it with his bare hands and showing it off for the camera.

The person recording can be heard calling Roenick "psycho" and "nuts" several times before the snake is thrown off the property.

That person is not wrong.

What's in the bag: RSM Classic winner Cook

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 20, 2017, 3:52 pm

PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook earned his first Tour title at the RSM Classic. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Ping G400 (8.5 degrees adjusted to 9.2), with Fujikura Speeder Evolution 661X shaft

Fairway wood: Ping G400 (13 degrees), with Fujikura Motore VC 7.0 shaft

Hybrids: Ping G400 (19, 22 degrees), with Matrix Altus Red X shafts

Irons: Ping S55 (5-PW), with KBS Tour S shafts

Wedges: Ping Glide 2.0 (50, 56, 60) with True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 shafts

Putter: Ping Sigma G Tyne

Ball: Titleist Pro V1