Who should be the next U.S. Ryder Cup captain?

By Ryan LavnerDecember 11, 2012, 4:18 pm

The PGA of America will announce the next U.S. Ryder Cup captain this Thursday on NBC's 'Today' show. There are a handful of candidates, but no favorites. Who should be the U.S. captain in 2014 at Gleneagles in Scotland? GolfChannel.com writers weigh in.


If only Tom Watson had made his recruiting pitch earlier.

On Sunday, the 63-year-old said that he would like to become the captain of the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup team. Two days later, the PGA of America announced that the captain would be revealed this week.

Had Watson expressed himself earlier – in, say, August, like Larry Nelson – he likely would have increased his chances of landing the gig. Nonetheless, Watson said all the right things when asked about the opening.

“That would be cool,” he said.

“It would be a great honor,” he said.

And it would also be a proper tribute to one of the greatest players in the sport’s long history. Watson is an eight-time major champion. He won five Open Championships, four of which were held in Scotland, which conveniently enough is where the 2014 Ryder Cup will be contested (Gleneagles).

I know, I know. Watson hasn’t been a captain since 1993, but that just happens to be last time the Americans won a road Ryder Cup, at The Belfry. The man commands respect. He is a passionate leader. He is an eloquent speaker. He could devote himself fully to the task and represent the PGA with the class and dignity and grace.

And aren’t those characteristics precisely what the PGA desires?


This is a tough question, because I think the PGA of America needs to ask WHAT it wants before it can answer WHO it wants.

In the past, the Ryder Cup captaincy has been treated much like a pee-wee league tee ball game, with every player getting a turn to bat – well, every great player, that is (with the notable exception of men such as Larry Nelson and Hale Irwin). If the committee is going to continue in that direction, then the next obvious choice to step up to the plate is David Toms, a former PGA Championship winner who fits the mold and owns all the prerequisites for the job.

Even though the U.S. has lost five of the last six editions of the competition, I’m not one who thinks the sky is caving in just yet. In fact, I thought Davis Love III did a terrific job this past year, save for his pin positions on Medinah’s final two holes – though even that is the ultimate in Monday morning quarterbacking.

That said, if the PGA is insistent on getting back to its winning ways as opposed to giving everybody an opportunity, then the right man to lead them is the only one to win this century: Paul Azinger.

By forming a pod system and inspiring his players four years ago, Azinger was everything you could want in a leader. Now that his playing days are all but over, he has ample time to devote to the role, which in this scenario should last longer than 2014. That’s right – if the PGA really wants to break the mold and start a new trend, then its next captain shouldn’t serve just a two-year term, but it should be a long-term job much like national team coaches in other sports.

If that’s the direction they aim to go – and it certainly would break tradition – then Azinger would be the right man to hold the position for another decade.


Fred Couples won’t be the next American Ryder Cup captain, and he will probably never get the job. That will rank as an injustice almost equal to Larry Nelson being passed over.

Couples won’t get the job for silly political reasons. He won’t get the job as punishment for taking the job as U.S. Presidents Cup captain first. He won’t get the job because the PGA of America (Ryder Cup) and the PGA Tour (Presidents Cup) are rivals in the search for captains.

That’s a shame, and it’s just wrong, because Couples deserves the captaincy. Couples has all the credentials you want in a Ryder Cup captain. Plus, unlike everyone else who gets the job, he actually has winning experience as an American captain in international team events. He's a rare commodity in the American game today. He takes home team cups.

Couples has won 15 PGA Tour events, a major championship (Masters, 1992) and 18 Champions Tour events, two of them majors. He played on five American Ryder Cup teams with a 7-9-4 record. His qualifications go beyond that. His infectious swagger and ability to rally a cause as a team leader is clear in what he has done leading the Americans as captain to a pair of Presidents Cup titles.


It has always been a curious point of contention that every other year pundits inevitably refer to the Ryder Cup as a battle and each team’s captain as a commander, yet the U.S. side has blatantly ignored the one potential captain who has led men on a real battlefield.

For those of us who read tea leaves for a living, 65-year-old Larry Nelson’s turn at the captain’s chair seemed to have sailed in 1995 when Lanny Wadkins received the call, but as the American team’s stunning Sunday collapse this year at Medinah proved it’s time to shake things up and Nelson – who served as an infantry A-team leader in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive – would certainly qualify as an outside-the-box pick.

Whether Nelson’s leadership would be the tonic to wrest the U.S. team off of its 2-for-9 victory schneid in the biennial event remains to be seen, but what is not up for debate are his credentials.

The three-time major winner – including two PGA Championship tilts – has a 9-3-1 record in three matches and he has remained competitive on the Champions Tour when most players his age have turned their attention to golf course design or grandchildren.

The leadership of recent U.S. captains – Davis Love III, Tom Lehman, Corey Pavin, et al – isn’t up for debate. Nor is Nelson’s ability to lead. The rest is up to the PGA of America.


Well-liked and respected. Consistent player who often lets his game do the talking. Owner of a PGA Championship title among multiple Tour victories, and likely to still be relevant inside the ropes when the next Ryder Cup rolls around.

Sound familiar? It should. The description fits 2012 captain Davis Love III, and despite the Miracle at Medinah it should next apply to David Toms.

While Love took much of the fall for Sunday’s collapse, let’s not forget that while up 10-6 after two days, the world was triumphantly singing his praises. Is a single day of golf gone awry reason enough to scrap a selection process that yielded what, up until then, appeared to be an excellent captain? No.

Though rarely as bold or outlandish as some of his counterparts, Toms would bring a gritty, competitive streak to the matches in Scotland. At age 47 in 2014, he is still likely to be playing full-time on the PGA Tour – perhaps even contending, as evidenced by his T-4 finish at this year’s U.S. Open. Unlike the other options discussed here, Toms will have the next two years to form bonds and build relationships with prospective team members while playing alongside them on a weekly basis.

The delineation this past September between success and failure was razor-thin. And while the shortcomings of this year’s squad are well-documented, they can be learned from – and improved upon – without totally going back to the drawing board.

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Vogel Monday qualifies for eighth time this season

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:27 pm

The PGA Tour's regular season ended with another tally for the Monday King.

While Monday qualifiers are a notoriously difficult puzzle to solve, with dozens of decorated professionals vying for no more than four spots in a given tournament field, T.J. Vogel has turned them into his personal playground this season. That trend continued this week when he earned a spot into the season-ending Wyndham Championship, shooting a 5-under 66 and surviving a 4-for-3 playoff for the final spots.

It marks Vogel's eighth successful Monday qualification this season, extending the unofficial record he set when he earned start No. 7 last month at The Greenbrier. Patrick Reed earned the nickname "Mr. Monday" when he successfully qualified six different times during the 2012 season before securing full-time status.

There have been 24 different Monday qualifiers throughout the season, with Vogel impressively turning 19 qualifier starts into eight tournament appearances.

Vogel started the year with only conditional Web.com Tour status, and explained at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May that he devised his summer schedule based on his belief that it's easier to Monday qualify for a PGA Tour event than a Web.com tournament.

"The courses that the PGA Tour sets the qualifiers up, they're more difficult and sometimes they're not a full field whereas the Web, since there's no pre-qualifier, you have two full fields for six spots each and the courses aren't as tough," Vogel said. "So I feel like if you take a look at the numbers, a lot of the Web qualifiers you have to shoot 8-under."

Vogel has made three cuts in his previous seven starts this year, topping out with a T-16 finish at the Valspar Championship in March. The 27-year-old also played the weekend at the Nelson and the Wells Fargo Championship, missing the cut at The Greenbrier in addition to the RSM Classic, Honda Classic and FedEx St. Jude Classic.

While Vogel won't have another Monday qualifier opportunity until October, he has a chance to secure some 2019 status this week in Greensboro. His 51 non-member FedExCup points would currently slot him 205th in the season-long race, 13 points behind Rod Pampling at No. 200. If Vogel earns enough points to reach the equivalent of No. 200 after this week, he'd clinch a spot in the upcoming Web.com Tour Finals where he would have a chance to compete for a full PGA Tour card for the 2018-19 season.

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Woods adds BMW Championship to playoff schedule

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:01 pm

Tiger Woods is adding a trip to Philadelphia to his growing playoff itinerary.

Having already committed to both The Northern Trust and the Dell Technologies Championship, Woods' agent confirmed to GolfChannel.com that the 14-time major champ will also make an appearance next month at the BMW Championship. It will mark Woods' first start in the third leg of the FedExCup playoffs since 2013 when he tied for 11th at Conway Farms Golf Club outside of Chicago.

This year the Sept. 6-9 event is shifting to Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa., which is hosting the BMW for the first time. The course previously hosted the Quicken Loans National in both 2010 and 2011. Woods won the BMW en route to FedExCup titles in both 2007 and 2009 when it was held at Cog Hill in Illinois.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Woods was already in good position to make the 70-man BMW field, but his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship vaulted him from 49th to 20th in the season-long points race and assured that he'll make it to Aronimink regardless of his performance in the first two postseason events.

Woods' commitment also means a packed schedule will only get busier leading into the Ryder Cup, where he is expected to be added as a captain's pick. Woods' appearance at the BMW will cap a run of five events in six weeks, and should he tee it up in Paris it could be his seventh start in a nine-week stretch if he also qualifies for the 30-player Tour Championship.

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Handing out major grades: From A+ to F

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 5:00 pm

The Masters is 237 days away, which means these definitive major grades will hang on players like a scarlet letter for nearly eight months.

OK, maybe not.

Brooks Koepka, obviously, gets an A+. He won two majors, and became just the fourth player to take the U.S. Open and PGA in the same season, and did all of this while overcoming a career-threatening wrist injury at the beginning of the year. Very impressive.

Patrick Reed and Francesco Molinari – you passed with flying colors, too. Reed showed that he can access his best stuff in an event other than the Ryder Cup, while Molinari’s three-month heater culminated with him surviving a wild final day at Carnoustie to hoist the claret jug. Welcome to the major club, gents.

As for everybody else? Hey, you’ve now got plenty of time to recover, reassess and round into form in hopes of improved marks in ’19.


Grade: A

Why: Sure, a few shots from his major season will linger for years – his too-cute pitch shot on Carnoustie’s 11th hole and his sliced drive on Bellerive’s 17th immediately come to mind – but let’s not forget how far we’ve come: Two years ago, Woods could barely walk because of debilitating back pain; at this time last year, he’d just exited a treatment facility for overusing his pain/sleep medications, following an embarrassing DUI arrest. Now, he’s top 30 in the world, with a pair of top-6s in the majors and undoubtedly the most stirring final round of the year, in any event, with his career-best Sunday 64 at the PGA. If you still think that Tiger doesn’t have what it takes to win another major, you’ve lost touch with reality.


Grade: B+


Why: He was one of only two players (Webb Simpson) who finished top 20 in all four majors, and he’ll probably look back at 2018 as a year in which he easily could have bagged a second title. At the U.S. Open he was only one shot off the lead after 54 holes but stumbled on the final day. A month later, he tied for second at The Open, but only after a weekend rally once he made the cut on the number. Across all four majors he had the best cumulative score to par of any player (12 under). This was a what-could-have-been year.


Grade: B

Why: His 65-67 finish at the Masters left him one shot back of Reed, but it felt like the final obstacle had been cleared. Nothing was stopping Fowler now – he proved he could go low when it counted. Except then he imploded with an 84 in the third round of the U.S. Open and shot over par in both weekend rounds at The Open, before again getting into the mix at the PGA. Alas, battling an oblique strain, he regressed each round after an opening 65 and tied for 12th. Maybe next year …


Grade: B

Why: Give him credit: He played better in the majors than he did the rest of the season. He shot an electric 64 on the final day at the Masters (though he’ll rue his tee shot on the 72nd hole) and grabbed a share of the 54-hole lead at The Open, despite not having his best stuff. That he shot a birdieless 76 on the final day was more a product of his form this year than succumbing to major pressure. Like Kopeka, he’s figured out how to perform when the lights are the brightest.


Grade: B

Why: With the completeness of his game, it’s a little surprising that he hasn’t given himself better chances to break through. But he’s still only 23, and the chances will come in bunches before long. His fourth-place showings at the Masters and the PGA are steps in the right direction. 

Rory McIlroy on No. 18 on Saturday at the 2018 Masters.


Grade: B-

Why: Asked Sunday how he’ll remember the major season, McIlroy replied bluntly: “Probably won’t. I don’t think there was anything all that memorable about it.” Of course, we’ll remember plenty, such as when he played his way into the final group at Augusta, only to fade over the course of the day, thus squandering another shot at capturing the career Grand Slam. And we’ll remember his tie for second at Carnoustie, where he eagled the 14th hole but then, with a chance to apply pressure on Molinari, couldn’t hit a wedge within 20 feet on the 18th green. He’s fallen into bad habits with that majestic swing, but there are holes in McIlroy’s game that need filling – holes that some of the other top players don’t have. And until he refines his wedge play and putting, that majorless drought (now four years and counting) will continue. 


Grade: C+

Why: No one has been better than Thomas over the past two seasons, but he’s likely frustrated by his major performance in 2018 – three top-25s, but only one realistic chance to win. Four shots off the lead heading into Sunday at the PGA, he had erased his deficit midway through the front nine but made critical mistakes on Nos. 14 and 16 to dash his hopes of defending his title. Of all the big-name players, he’s probably the best bet for a major rebound in 2019.


Grade: C

Why: This has been a resurgent season for Day, with a pair of wins, but he didn’t bring it in the year’s biggest events. It’ll look good on paper, with three top-20s, but the only time he had a chance to win was the PGA, and he was one of the few to back up on the final day, carding a 1-over 71 when he sat just four shots off the lead.


Grade: C-

Why: The floodgates were supposed to open after the 2016 U.S. Open, and it just hasn’t happened. Yet. He top-tenned at the Masters but was a non-factor, then jumped out to a four-shot lead halfway through the U.S. Open. He couldn’t make a putt during a Saturday 77, then got worked on the final day, head to head, against Koepka. He backed it up with a missed cut at The Open (where he blamed a lack of focus) and finished outside the top 25 at the PGA at a soft, straightforward course that suited plenty of other bombers. He can – and should – fare better.


Grade: D-

Why: His series of lowlights at the U.S. Open – where he bizarrely whacked a moving ball on the green and then staunchly defended his actions – underscored that his window is all but closed at the majors. His major results since getting demoralized by Henrik Stenson at the 2016 Open: T33-T22-MC-MC-T36-T48-T24-MC. ’Nuff said.


Grade: F

Why: No doubt, marriage and fatherhood are massive adjustments for everyone, but he’s missed the cut in his last five majors (and didn’t break par in any major round this year), plummeted down the world rankings (to 25th!) and put European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn in a difficult position of deciding whether to burn a pick on the slumping Spaniard. Memories of that breakthrough Masters victory are already drifting further and further away.

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Watch: Furyk throws out first pitch at Yankees-Mets

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 12:59 pm

As part of a a New York media tour to promote the Ryder Cup, U.S. captain Jim Furyk threw out the first pitch at Monday evening's game between the Yankees and Mets at Yankee Stadium.

Here's a look at some more photos from Captain Furyk's Ryder Cup Trophy tour.