Punch Shot: Will Watson's decision work for U.S.?

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 20, 2013, 3:32 pm

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson has decided to trim his wild-card picks from four to three for the 2014 competition at Gleneagles in Scotland. We asked our GolfChannel.com writers if the change is a good or bad move for the U.S. squad, or if it doesn't matter.


At best, Tom Watson’s decision to have three captain’s picks for next year’s Ryder Cup, instead of four, has a shotgun solution feel, a move to do anything to stop the American side’s slide into irrelevance. At worst, it feels like change for the sake of change.

Either way, Captain America’s adjustment to the selection process will have little, if any, impact on the 2014 matches in Scotland. That may sound defeatist, but consider the facts.

Under Paul Azinger’s retooled selection process the U.S. has a victory (16 ½ – 11 ½) in 2008, a narrow loss in Wales (14 ½ – 13 ½) in 2010, and a meltdown at Medinah (14 ½ – 13 ½) in 2012.

If that doesn’t exactly sound like a winning formula consider that before Azinger’s handiwork the U.S. was on a 1-for-6 losing streak and had dropped consecutive matches in ’06 and ’04 by a combined 18 points. By any measure, the practice of picking four players over two was progress.

Which brings us to the real question: Why change?

If Watson wants players who are on form heading into next year’s bout then pick Nos. 1 through 9 off the points list. Or Nos. 1 through 12, for that matter, but limiting your options by giving up a potential pick defies logic.

The U.S. must do something to wrest the red, white and blue off the schneid, but changing the number of picks available to Watson feels more like window dressing.


It's too narrow of a viewpoint to claim that Tom Watson's reduction from four captain's picks to three doesn't matter.

Just last year, Hunter Mahan would have made the team as the ninth automatic qualifier. This would've altered the dynamic of the roster, as one of the four picks wouldn't have been there.

How would this have changed the result? That's obviously a hypothetical question which can't be answered. Maybe Mahan would have caught fire and been the key to a U.S. victory; maybe he would have performed worse than whomever he replaced on the team. We don't know.

And that's why we can't say for certain today whether Watson's decision was a good one or a bad one. It will matter if it results in a player making the team who otherwise wouldn't have been picked. But we'll have to wait another year-and-a-half to find out if it was a beneficial move.


Bad move.

Here is Tom Watson, on March 15, 2013, just five days ago, on the overriding theme for how he would comprise his U.S. Ryder Cup team: “Are (players) on the upswing or downswing?”

Today, Watson says he’s trimming his number of captain’s picks, from four to three.

Am I missing something here? If you want the hottest players on your team, don’t you prefer more picks, not fewer?

Last year, Hunter Mahan, a two-time winner earlier in the season, struggled with his game for months, slipped from first to ninth and didn’t make the team on points. Didn’t get picked by the captain, either.

Under Watson’s format, he would have made the team. No offense to Mahan, but he hadn’t finished in the top 10 since April. That’s a player on the “downswing,” to use Watson’s word.

In the Ryder Cup, the more captain’s selections, the better – especially if you want to identify players on the “upswing.”


Tom Watson’s instincts have won a lot of major events over the years, but this Ryder Cup change feels like a tee shot into the rough.

Maybe it ends up being a good lie, but we won’t know until we see the lie, until we see who is the No. 9 automatic qualifier. It feels like a shot in the rough only because Watson stated his aim is getting players who are in good form going to the Ryder Cup. If Watson’s plan was in effect last year, Hunter Mahan would have made the team. While that ultimately might have worked well for captain Davis Love III, Mahan was not in good form in the few months leading up to the Ryder Cup. Four captain’s picks allows more leeway in picking a hot player who isn't an automatic qualifier.


Much like a football coach trimming his staff of assistants after a couple losing seasons, Tom Watson’s decision to move from four captain’s picks to three seems like change simply for the sake of change, and ultimately it doesn't matter that much.

While this decision will certainly bolster the cause of armchair quarterbacks speculating about how last year’s event might have been different with Hunter Mahan in the mix, at the end of the day, the matches will not be won or lost when Watson names the team’s final members. Whether the captain has two, three, four or 12 picks at his disposal, the event week is what inevitably will carry most – if not all – of the weight.

Moving forward, players are well aware of the position they need to reach in order to qualify for Gleneagles, and three selections will still allow Watson to put his personal stamp on the squad, with plenty of room still available to add the late-charging “hot hand.” Regardless of how the next 18 months play out, the U.S. will take a talented group of players to Scotland. What they do once they get there will be far more important than the process by which they earned their ticket.

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Hataoka leads Minjee Lee by one at LPGA Volvik

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:54 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - After losing in a playoff last weekend, Nasa Hataoka is making another bid for her first LPGA Tour victory.

Hataoka shot a 4-under 68 on Friday, and the Japanese teenager led by one stroke over Minjee Lee after the second round of the Volvik Championship. Hataoka, who is coming off the first two top-10 finishes of her LPGA career, made seven birdies at Travis Pointe Country Club. She began her round on No. 10, and her best stretch came toward the end, when she birdied Nos. 4, 5 and 6.

''I'm really comfortable playing the LPGA,'' the 19-year-old Hataoka said through a translator. ''I've really got confidence now.''

Hataoka made the cut nine times in 17 starts as a rookie in 2017, and she has made significant strides of late. She tied for seventh at last month's MEDIHEAL Championship and nearly won a week ago at the Kingsmill Championship in Virginia.

Hataoka finished the second round in Michigan at 9 under. Lee (69) was also solid Friday. Gaby Lopez (68), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (70) and Lindy Duncan (70) were a stroke behind Lee in a tie for third.

Hataoka did not make a single bogey in last week's three-round tournament, and she didn't have any in the first round in Michigan. She finally made a few Friday, but that didn't stop her from taking sole possession of the lead.

''I kind of feel like not really perfect, but I just kind of try to (be) aggressive,'' she said.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lee, who lost by one stroke on this course last year, is in contention again.

''I guess the fairways are pretty generous and I think the greens are a little bit on the trickier side to read,'' Lee said. ''As long as your iron shots are pretty solid, I think you're going to be in good position around this golf course.''

Lee birdied the first two holes, and the only blemish on her scorecard Friday came on the par-5 14th. After missing the fairway to the right, she hit an aggressive shot out of the rough that went straight toward a water hazard well in front of the green. She settled for a bogey after taking a drop.

''I thought the ball was sitting OK in the rough, but it must have been a bit funny, or underneath it,'' she said. ''I made a mistake. I thought it was good enough to hit 3-wood there.''

Lee lost last year in Michigan to Shanshan Feng, but Feng will have some ground to make up in her attempt to repeat. She shot 69 on Friday but is still eight strokes behind the leader.

Ariya Jutanugarn was 6 under after a second consecutive 69.

Lopez made only six pars in the second round, tied for the fewest of the day, but her eight birdies and four bogeys put her near the top of the leaderboard.

''It was a little bit of an up and down,'' she said. ''There's so many opportunities out here to make birdie, that the most important thing to do is just to be patient, to be in the moment and not to get ahead of yourself. I think I came back from a couple mistakes that I did.''

In contrast to Lopez, Brittany Lincicome parred all 18 holes Friday and made the cut at 1 under. Paula Creamer (71) triple bogeyed the par-4 13th. She followed that with an eagle on the very next hole but missed the cut by a stroke.

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Childhood rivals share Sr. PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:00 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Kevin Sutherland and Scott McCarron have been rivals since their junior golf days around Sacramento, California. The two old friends were back at it Friday at the top of the Senior PGA Championship leaderboard.

''It's honestly, nothing new for us,'' said Sutherland who played in the third-to-last group and birdied his last two holes for a 5-under 66 to match McCarron at 8 under.

McCarron had a 68 in the morning wave to emerge from a championship record group of six tied for the first-round lead.

Sutherland was last year's Charles Schwab Cup winner with his only senior win coming in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, while McCarron has six PGA Tour Champions wins, including a major at the 2017 Senior Players Championship.

''We are both (Northern California) guys, played in high school, junior golf, on tour and it seems like a lot on the Champions Tour,'' Sutherland said. ''We were in the last group on Sundays a lot last year. Scott played so well and had an incredible year, and I had a great year, too.''

Sutherland's lone PGA Tour victory came at McCarron's expense in 2002 at La Costa in the Accenture Match Play Championship, when he beat McCarron 1 up in the 36-hole final. As youngsters they played on opposing high school teams located about an hour apart and met often in state tournaments as well as on the California junior circuit.

''It's been happening for 30 years, wait 35 years now, I guess,'' Sutherland said. ''Playing together on a Saturday is a little different. We're both still trying to get in position to win.''

Jerry Kelly shot a 65 to join Tim Petrovic (69), Chris Williams (68) and Joe Durant (67) at 7 under. Durant tied for second last week in the Regions Tradition, also a major championship.

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

McCarron feels like he is just starting to warm to the task this year. He had to replace his clubs, including a favored putter damaged beyond repair in air transit two months ago.

''I've been putting with a back-up putter I had, but it just didn't feel quite right,'' he said. ''I changed last Sunday at the Regions Tradition and started putting better on Sunday. So I'm using this one again this week and seem to be putting pretty good with it.''

McCarron said the Harbor Shores course played a little tougher in light winds in the second round. He made six birdies and three bogeys.

''I would just like to have a couple of those bogeys back,'' he said. ''But we're in a good position going into the weekend.''

McCarron came to the press center after his round and walked in on a press conference where course-designer Jack and Barbara Nicklaus were being honored by sponsoring KitchenAid with the establishment of a local college scholarship program in their name.

McCarron, who said he has idolized Nicklaus since his youth, played media and asked Nicklaus what he ate when he was near the lead going into the weekend of a major championship.

Nicklaus said if you play well one day, eat the same thing the next day.

''But no hamburgers, or you will play like hamburger,'' he said.

Stuart Smith, the Reno, Neveda, club pro who was tied for the lead after the first round, missed the 36-hole cut with a second-round 83.

''I'll take the 66, 83 and enjoy the 66 yesterday,'' he said. ''You put this one down to just plain old golf. It's a nasty game we play sometimes. Glad I have a day job.''

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Wise, Simpson both miss cut at Colonial

By Nick MentaMay 25, 2018, 11:34 pm

The two most recent winners on the PGA Tour, Aaron Wise and Webb Simpson, missed the cut at the Fort Worth Invitational on Friday.

Wise and Simpson both came up short of the 2-over total by a shot following rounds of 70-73.

Wise was safely inside the number before playing his last four holes in 4 over par with two bogeys and a closing double following a trip into the water at the par-4 ninth.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Simpson, making his first start following his Players triumph, similarly struggled coming home, bogeying three of his final six holes.

Other notables who won't be around for the weekend at Colonial include Xander Schauffele (+4), Jason Dufner (+5), Patrick Cantlay (+6), Smylie Kaufman (+13), and Sam Burns (+13).

This is Kaufman's 11th consecutive MC and his 15th in his last 16 starts.

Jason Seaman and Kristi Hubly Seaman

Sr. PGA caddie learns of nephew's heroism in school shooting

By Tim RosaforteMay 25, 2018, 10:33 pm

Tracy Hubly caddied for her husband, club pro Chris Starkjohann, on Friday at the KitchenAid Senior PGA and learned after their round that her nephew was credited with helping stop the school shooting at Noblesville West Middle School in Indiana.

Jason Seaman, a 29-year-old science instructor and seventh grade football coach at the school, took three bullets but survived as what his aunt called a hero.

“You hear the stories about these shootings and I think about Parkland and the officer that was trained but didn’t go into the school,” Hubly said. “It’s really shocking to think it comes close to your family, but it does."

It’s not unusual for Hubly to caddie for her husband, a teacher at Carlsbad Golf Center and coach of a PGA Junior League program in Southern California. Hubly, who works in the pro shop at Emerald Island Golf Course in Oceanside, Calif., was on the bag when he was low golf professional at the 2009 Senior PGA Championship held at Canterbury GC. 

Starkjohann, 61, missed the cut at Harbor Shores with rounds of 76-79—155 and was heading to the Colorado State Open.

 “I didn’t hear about it until after my round was done,” Starkjohann said. “Everything happened after I got in.”