Punch Shot: Who should be on Ryder Cup task force?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 14, 2014, 8:00 pm

The PGA of America announced its Ryder Cup task force Tuesday. Paul Azinger, the most recent victorious U.S. captain, was noticiably missing. GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with other names who should have been part of the panel.


Johnny Miller.

Few have seen the Americans’ futility up close quite like the NBC Sports analyst. With NBC first televising the event in 1991, Miller has been in the booth for eight of the 10 U.S. losses. (Phil Mickelson, for instance, has been on every team since ’95.) In a setting that might be uncomfortable for current players to criticize their contemporaries, Miller would have no qualms analyzing, critiquing and providing insight – after all, it’s his job.

Though he occasionally will swing and miss, at least give Miller credit that he’s not afraid to speak his mind. With virtually everything on the table – captains, picks, event-week activities – this is the time to bring in a constructive, critical, authoritative voice in an effort to initiate change.


One problem with this newly formed task force is that it's trying to procure a culture of winning by gathering a group of players and officials who haven't won.

There's a certain chicken-or-the-egg conundrum going on here. Like the recent college grad who can't get a job because he doesn't have experience, the U.S. team is trying to learn how to win without having done so.

The answer is that the task force shouldn't be comprised solely of individuals who have been involved in past Ryder Cups. It should include a business leader, a proven winner from another sport, even a military strategist, if the PGA wants to get this serious.

I'll steal a page from ESPN's Jay Bilas, who tweeted after the U.S. loss at Gleneagles that Jerry Colangelo, the man responsible for the swift comeback of USA Basketball, should be part of this committee.

The team has looked inward for too long. It's time for an outsider's perspective. Someone who has already returned a winning tradition would evoke the right message.


When the PGA of America’s task force to reinvent the U.S. Ryder Cup team assembles to address the American side’s issues there will be a broad cross section of experiences to pull from.

From former captains to current and future players the PGA has covered almost every contingency. Almost.

Kerry Haigh has been with the PGA since 1989 in various roles from golf course set-up man to his current designation as chief championships officer. Only Mickelson, who played in his 10th Ryder Cup last month, comes close to Haigh’s longevity and institutional insight.

Long considered one of the best at setting up championship caliber golf courses, Haigh has also become a team room staple.

The mandate for the task force is to examine the entire Ryder Cup process, including the schedule of events during the week of the matches. Few, if any, understand the nuances of Ryder Cup week as well as Haigh.

And if all that wasn’t enough, consider that the task force’s mission is to essentially figure out what the Europeans do so well. Haigh, an Englishman, might be a good place to start asking.


Paul Azinger is obvious. How is it possible he isn’t on this task force?

He’s such a glaring absence it almost discredits the whole task force venture. His absence seems symptomatic of the PGA’s larger Ryder Cup problem. Whatever is actually behind the disconnect between Azinger and the PGA of America on this issue should trouble other task force members. Whatever kept Azinger off this task force ought to be something addressed as potentially a larger problem in the entire organizational failure that is the American Ryder Cup effort. If Azinger simply declined, why? Something’s not right there and just might be something that needs to be fixed.

And then there’s Fred Couples.

When did he officially become the PGA’s red-headed step child? Yes, obviously, there is politics at play with Couples taking a Presidents Cup captaincy before the Ryder Cup was offered, but he just as obviously has something important to offer the task force after leading the last three American teams to victories at the Presidents Cup. And what about Ben Crenshaw? Leaders who have actually won international team events might have something important to offer.


If I’m adding to the PGA of America’s newfound task force, the first call I make is to the Ol' Ball Coach.

Steve Spurrier may be busy coaching South Carolina’s football team, but he knows plenty about winning and as a single-digit handicap (not to mention Augusta National member), he knows enough golf to be a productive addition to the group.

More importantly, Spurrier knows how to coach a team, and he is an expert at the mental side of things – both motivating his squad and rattling his opponent. He has even reportedly taken the mind games to the course himself, where he has yet to lose a match to a Gamecock player, former or current.

With the creation of the task force the Euros smell blood in the water, and the Americans are admitting at least a bit of vulnerability in the biennial affair. A jolt to the system may be needed, and a fresh perspective from outside the game could provide it. If nothing else, Spurrier’s presence would liven up the proceedings at any task force presser.

Getty Images

Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

Getty Images

Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

Getty Images

Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

Getty Images

Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”