So many stars, so few spots on U.S. Ryder Cup team

By Jason SobelJuly 30, 2012, 2:34 pm

With two weeks remaining for U.S. players to earn Ryder Cup points, here are a handful of truths that we already know:

Tiger Woods won't have to sweat it out. One year after needing a captain's pick in order to make the Presidents Cup roster and two years after his wild-card selection for the last Ryder Cup, Woods' three victories leave him as a lock to make the team. No controversy, no conjecture. Woods is deserving of his spot on the squad, one which can't be debated this time around.

• Major championships mean major points. Winning a major doesn't automatically mean inclusion on the team. Just ask John Daly, who won two of 'em and never sniffed a Ryder Cup. But Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson have benefited so much that time spent away from the game for new additions to their respective families have hardly been a problem. In fact, don't be surprised if the Masters champion and U.S. Open winner team up as partners once again at Medinah.


Ryder Cup articles, videos and photos

Current U.S. Ryder Cup standings


Phil Mickelson has some work to do. The man known worldwide as Lefty is in danger of missing his first Ryder Cup team since his first eligible year as a professional. Well, at least he would be in danger if there was any chance captain Davis Love III wouldn't pick him should he fail to make it on points. But he will if need be, of course, which means that Mickelson's precarious place at seventh on the points standings should be taken with a few grains of salt, his lone top-10 in his last eight starts simply a small speed bump on his journey to the competition for a ninth straight time.

• Multiple wins equate to multiple results. Jason Dufner has two wins this season and he's a lock to make the team. Zach Johnson has two wins and his place is nearly cemented. Hunter Mahan has two wins and he's fighting for his Ryder Cup life. It may be true that all non-major titles are not created equal, but victories alone aren't enough to guarantee a place on this year's team. Mahan remains eighth on a points list that will include eight players after the PGA Championship, despite his wins against strong fields at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and Shell Houston Open.

All of which leads to perhaps the most telling transformation in American golf over the past 24 months.

The red, white and blue is suddenly stacked.

Two years ago, then-captain Corey Pavin was so lacking in potential team members that he called upon fresh-faced 21-year-old rookie Rickie Fowler as one of his four captain's picks – in part as a nod toward the future of the team and in part because there weren't any other attractive candidates.

This time around, it speaks volumes that Fowler is now a PGA Tour champion – at the star-studded Wells Fargo Championship, no less – and it may actually be more difficult for him to make the roster.

As things currently stand, if the same eight players are still in their positions after the PGA Championship, there will be at least one big-time snub.

Just call it a numbers game, as Love will have more than four viable candidates for his four extra picks.

The aforementioned Fowler has proven himself as a winner and solid performer under pressure. Keegan Bradley is a major champion who is coming off a snub at last year's Presidents Cup. After missing a few months due to injury, Dustin Johnson has a win and still isn't too far out of that top eight. Jim Furyk is a traditionally steady performer who would bring consistency and experience to this year's team.

And then there's Steve Stricker, a likely partner for Woods, whose camaraderie with the team's No. 1 points leader may be all the resume massaging that's necessary.

Count 'em up and that's five deserving players for four spots – and that's not even factoring in the likes of Bo Van Pelt, Brandt Snedeker or Bill Haas, each of whom could spoil the party with inspired play over the next two weeks, especially with double points available at the year’s final major.

Those facts belie a greater verifiable truth: American golf at its highest level has rapidly improved in recent years.

Long gone are the days when the likes of Vaughn Taylor, Brett Wetterich and J.J. Henry could sneak onto the roster. No disrespect intended toward those 2006 team members, but none exactly instilled fear in their Euro counterparts, as evidenced by the trouncing they received at The K Club that year.

Earlier this year, one industry insider intimated that a European jayvee team featuring the next dozen who failed to make the Ryder Cup could still beat the U.S. Hey, it’s not impossible. You know the old saying, “On any given Friday, Saturday and Sunday…”

It’s becoming more evident, though, that the U.S. team will hardly serve as a pushover. Yes, the stars and stripes are rounding into a varsity outfit – heavy on the stars.

Getty Images

Like father like son: Bring Your Child to Work Day

By Jay CoffinApril 26, 2018, 7:51 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Today is Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day at Golf Channel, where everything is fun and games until your child promptly says something that embarrasses you beyond belief. It’s only happened six times today. So far.

My daughter, 12, is in middle school and feels like she’s too big for this sort of shindig. But my son Brady, 11, was all in. The deal was that he could spend the day with me, I’d take him to McDonald’s for lunch, but he had to write a golf story of some sort for GolfChannel.com.

Here is his unedited work, in all its glory:

By BRADY COFFIN

My name is Brady Coffin and I play golf. I started at the age of 4 years old. My two favorite golfers are Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods. They are really good golfers and every time I watch them they always give me tips.

My dad Jay Coffin is the best editor of Golf Channel and always gave me tips when I first put the golf club in my hand. I had my very first par in Hilton Head when I was 7 years old. I am on the Drive, Chip and Putt commercial and I was in a movie where I played a young Ben Hogan. My favorite golf course is Royal Blue in the Bahamas.

I have won many golf tournaments and I am going to play in another tournament next month. I have made a couple of birdies. I am going to play in the PGA Junior League this summer.

At the Golf Channel I get to meet new people and play many games. One of the amazing people I met was Mr. Damon Hack. He is on the Morning Drive show and was very nice to me. Damon has been playing golf for 25 years and his favorite golfer growing up was Tiger Woods.

He loves working at Golf Channel.

“It gives me the opportunity to talk and write about the sport that I love. It’s a sport that I can play with my boys. It’s a sport that I can watch on television. It’s a sport that teaches great life lessons. I couldn’t ask for a better job,” Damon said to me.

(P.S. I will be better than Jordan Spieth.)

Getty Images

Not the 'prettiest' 65, but Duval, Furyk will take it

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 7:44 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Wearing a polo instead of a dress shirt, working with a caddie and not a producer, David Duval exited the scoring tent, walked toward the group of reporters waiting for him after their 65 and grumbled to teammate Jim Furyk, “The damn media.”

Duval was joking – we think – since he now is one of us on the dark side, a successful and respected TV analyst, after an injury-shortened career in which he battled Tiger Woods, rose to world No. 1, won a major and then experienced such a miserable slump that it drove him into an entirely new line of work.

Now 46, Duval doesn’t play much anymore, only 11 events in the past four years. His last made cut was in July 2015. Earlier this year, he teed it up at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but only because he and his wife, Susie, enjoy the vibe there. Competitively, he knew he didn’t stand a chance. He had moved back to Colorado, worked two out of the three weeks, and then couldn’t practice the other week because the weather didn’t cooperate. Not surprisingly, he shot three consecutive rounds of 76 or worse.

And that could have been the extent of his season (save for his annual appearance at The Open), but he was drawn to the idea of the team format at the Zurich, to the idea of playing with Jim Furyk, with whom he’s been friends for the past 32 years, dating to their days in junior golf. So Duval reached out, asking the U.S. Ryder Cup captain if he wanted to team up, for old times’ sake.

“This was about being with a friend, reuniting, having our wives together for a few days,” said Duval, who estimated that he’s played more than 100 practice rounds with Furyk over the years. “Expectation-wise, I don’t know what they are for me. I don’t get to participate out here and compete.”


Full-field scores from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos


But Duval took this start seriously. He almost never travels with his clubs, but he brought them to the Masters, working with his old coach, Puggy Blackmon, between TV appearances and bouncing between Augusta Country Club and Augusta University’s practice facility.

Without any on-camera work since then, he’s spent the past two weeks grinding, even bringing Blackmon to New Orleans for a range session, just like most of the other pros in the field.

“It’s like a normal preparation,” he said. “Maybe not as much as it would be for a typical player, but a lot more than I’ve been able to do in the past.”

Duval has no intentions of diving back into competitive golf full-time, but working as an analyst has given him a new perspective on the game he loves.

“When you don’t play a lot and you don’t have that opportunity, you feel like you have to play perfectly,” he said. “Being on the other side of the desk, you see how many crappy golf shots really, truly get hit, and it’s like, look, you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to hit more good ones than bad ones and go from there.”

That also sums up his and Furyk’s opening round here at the Zurich.

Furyk joked before the event that they’re the rustiest team in the field, but playing best ball, they remained steady in a driving rainstorm, then ran off seven birdies to shoot 65 and sit in the top 10 when they finished their round.

“It wasn’t necessarily the prettiest,” Duval said, “but it was solid. It wasn’t like we had 36 looks at birdie.”

“We ham-and-egged it really good today,” Furyk added. “We got pretty much one of the best scores we could have out of the round.”

The second round could be a different story, of course, with alternate shot. It’s a more nerve-wracking format – especially for two aging warriors without many competitive reps this year – and they figure to find some unusual parts of TPC Louisiana.

But that’s a worry for Friday, because Duval was in the mood to savor his four birdies, his team score of 65 and his ideal start to a work week with his longtime friend.

“I think it was good,” he said, breaking into a wry smile, “especially for me.”

Getty Images

Finau lifts team to opening 62 on improving ankle

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 6:24 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Tony Finau continues to thrive on his injured ankle.

Playing for the first time since the Masters, where he tied for 10th despite a high-ankle sprain, Finau matched partner Daniel Summerhays with six birdies to shoot a combined 10-under 62 in fourballs Thursday at the Zurich Classic.

Finau still isn’t 100 percent – he said he's closer to 70 percent – even after two weeks of rest and physical therapy. During that time he worked with doctors at the University of Utah Orthopedic Center and also the training staff with the Utah Jazz. Before the Zurich, he had played only nine holes.


Full-field scores from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos


“Sometimes simplicity is huge in this game,” he said. “There is not a lot of thoughts in my swing in the first place, so there can’t be that many thoughts when you don’t practice. It served me well today.”

Partnering with Summerhays, his fellow Utah resident and a friend for more than a decade, they combined to make 12 birdies during an opening round that left them only two shots back of the early lead.

Asked afterward how his ankle felt, Finau said: “Feeling a lot better after that 62. A great remedy for something hurting is some good golf.”  

Getty Images

Woods commits to Wells Fargo and The Players

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 26, 2018, 6:07 pm

Tiger Woods will tee it up each of the next two weeks, having officially committed to both the Wells Fargo Championship and The Players.

Woods' commitment to next week's event in Charlotte was confirmed by multiple Golf Channel sources and first reported during Thursday's "Golf Central."

The 42-year-old later took to Twitter to formally announce that he is ready for another back-to-back stretch:

Woods has not played since a T-32 finish earlier this month at the Masters. A winner at Quail Hollow in 2007, Woods has not made the cut there since a fourth-place showing in 2009 and has not played Wells Fargo since 2012. He missed last year's PGA Championship at Quail Hollow because of injury.

Woods' return to The Players will mark his first trip to TPC Sawgrass since 2015. He won on the Stadium Course in both 2001 and 2013. This will be Woods' second back-to-back of the season, having missed the cut at the Genesis Open before finishing 12th the following week at the Honda Classic.

After starting the year ranked No. 656 in the world, Woods is up to No. 91 in the latest world rankings. He recorded three straight top-12 finishes during the Florida swing, including a runner-up finish alongside Patrick Reed at the Valspar Championship and a T-5 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.