U.S. got the Ryder Cup captain it hired

By Joe PosnanskiSeptember 29, 2014, 5:15 pm

The problem was they did not really want Tom Watson. Sure, they said they wanted Tom Watson, and then they gave him the job, and then they gave all sorts of lip service to how great it would be to have a hard-nosed legend like Tom Watson captaining the U.S. Ryder Cup team again.

But, in truth, they didn’t want Tom Watson at all. Maybe they wanted the idea of Tom Watson. But they didn’t want the flesh and blood version.

I’ve known Watson for 20 or so years, I’m writing a book about his amazing rivalry and relationship with Jack Nicklaus, and so I know a few things about him. First, he’s a perfectionist. Second, he’s tough as nails. Third, he’s opinionated. And fourth, he’s going to do what he believes is the right thing no matter what anybody else thinks.

This is a man who quit Kansas City Country Club when he felt like the club had blackballed H&R Block founder Henry Bloch because he’s Jewish. People will never know just how hard it was for Watson to do that, just what it cost him within his own family, but he did it because he believed it was right.

Then, this is also man who wrote a letter to Augusta National essentially asking them to ban announcer Gary McCord from the broadcasts because, in Watson’s view, he wasn’t respectful enough (he’d referred to the greens looking “bikini-waxed” for instance). When that became public, Watson looked like a joyless old dinosaur without a sense of humor, but he stuck with it because he believed it was right.

This is a man who charged Gary Player with cheating at a Skins Game. This led to a prolonged feud between the two golfing greats (in his autobiography, Player wrote Watson wasn’t “half a man”), but again, Watson said what he believed, even though he knew it was going to create a lot of tension.

It should be noted that Watson rejoined Kansas City Country Club a while after Bloch was let in, and McCord and Player and Watson have all made amends – McCord and Player have both worked with Watson on charity events in Tom’s Kansas City hometown.

But the point remains: With Tom Watson, you get a deeply principled, overwhelmingly stubborn and entirely certain force of nature. When you ask Watson to captain the Ryder Cup team, like when you hire Bob Knight to coach your basketball team or Buck Showalter to manage your baseball team, you are getting the whole package, the principles, the certainty, the toughness, the quirks. You only hire Watson when you want to blow things up, when you are willing to admit that “We are in trouble here and need someone who will shake up everybody."

That was probably the thought when it was announced Watson was captain. But then the Ryder Cup came around, and it turns out nobody really wanted to be shaken up. By nobody I mean U.S. golfers, particularly Phil Mickelson. Professional golf is the most individual sport in the world – PGA Tour players are their own bosses in a way that no other athlete is. They hire caddies to carry their bags and give them the direction of the wind. They hire coaches who study their swings and make suggestions. They tell equipment companies exactly how to design their clubs, and they tell clothes companies what they want to wear, and they hire agents and public relations people who are charged with making them look as good as possible.

There’s nothing wrong with any of this, of course, but it means that the best PGA Tour players are very rarely told hard truths. They do not play for teams, are never told to sacrifice a runner over or to set a pick for a better shooter or to give up the puck to someone in a better position to score. They are their own universes.

You could see that so clearly in the Ryder Cup scoring this year. In singles, the United States held relatively tough and lost just 6 1/2 to 5 1/2. In the fourball competitions, where all four players play their own balls, the U.S. outscored Europe, 5 to 3. So in the two competitions where the players were playing their own balls – essentially playing the individual golf they are good at – the United States actually outscored Europe, 10 1/2 to 9 1/2.

So what happened? Well, there’s that third competition, the foursomes competition, where players play alternate shot. And that’s a true team competition, one where you are constantly trying to set up your playing partner, where you have to think about his strengths and weakness, and in that Europe annihilated the United States, 7-1. The U.S. was absolutely helpless – none of the six matches they lost outright even made it to the 18th hole. Mickelson, who we will get to in a minute, teamed up with Keegan Bradley in the first day foursomes and they were 3 down to Graeme McDowell and Victor Dubuisson after just five holes.

The reason you hire Watson – the only reason – is if you want him to be blunt with the players, you want him to try and instill some of his competitive fury into them. Watson was 10-4-1 as a Ryder Cup player – he and Jack Nicklaus never lost as a team. You don’t hire Watson to pamper the players or to make them a part of the process or to be warm and fuzzy. If you want that, hire nice guys like Fred Couples or Jay Haas.

I’m saying that without sarcasm – it seems probable to me that American players will only respond to a nice guy captain. That’s fine, but then you don’t hire Watson. He’s not a nice guy, not in that way. And that’s what I mean when I say that they really didn’t want him as captain. Mickelson’s record coming into this the Ryder Cup was 11-17-6. That’s spectacularly bad for a player of Mickelson’s skills. Look at the Ryder Cup records of other players with at least five major championships (winning percentage in parentheses):

• Arnold Palmer: 22-8-3 (71.2%)

• Tom Watson: 10-4-1 (70%)

• Lee Trevino: 17-7-6 (66.6%)

• Jack Nicklaus: 17-8-3 (66.0%)

• Seve Ballesteros: 20-12-5 (60.8%)

• Nick Faldo: 23-19-4 (54.3%)

• Tiger Woods: 13-17-3 (43.9%)

• Phil Mickelson: 13-18-6 (43.2%)

From this, you might determine that Mickelson is the problem and not the solution (ditto for Tiger). You would think the PGA of America brought in Watson to deal with the issues of the recent generation of great American golfers, not cater to their whims. Watson likes Mickelson (or did before the Ryder Cup, don’t know about now) but his job was to try and pull a major upset and win a Ryder Cup in Europe. Mickelson has never been on a team that has done that. The thought had to be that Watson would change things.

But the team wasn’t ready for Watson. They didn’t respond to Watson. They didn’t want a captain like Watson. Mickelson’s passive-aggressive rant after the United States' overwhelming loss about Paul Azinger’s magical pod system was a perfect summary of events. The U.S. just got its butts kicked all over Scotland, and this guy’s talking nonsense about pods.

Look, I don’t think Watson did a very good job as captain. It doesn’t matter – Captain America could not have led this team to victory – but I tend to agree that Watson was inconsistent. His decision to not send out Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed for the foursomes on Friday made little sense. Playing the Mickelson-Bradley team twice on Friday and not at all on Saturday was very strange. I don’t think he connected with the players like he wanted.

But I also think that it was inevitable. There was a generational gap. The players are too young to have seen him play – even Mickelson and Jim Furyk were only 7 when Watson and Nicklaus had their famous Duel in the Sun. The players do not know him from playing the Tour or from seeing him on television. Watson is also not an easy man to know. And the players are used to being empowered.

Mickelson griped how the players weren’t involved in the decisions. Other golfers seemed to agree. And that cuts to do the point. Maybe the only way these guys will perform at the Ryder Cup is if they have a captain who will coddle them and pair them up with their friends and respond to their text messages and include them in all the decisions. That’s fine. But then you don’t hire Tom Watson.

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Davies leads Inkster after Day 1 of Senior LPGA Champ.

By Associated PressOctober 16, 2018, 1:10 am

FRENCH LICK, Ind. - Laura Davies opened with a 4-under 68 despite finishing with two bogeys Monday, giving her a one-shot lead over Juli Inkster after Round 1 of the Senior LPGA Championship.

Davies, who earlier this year won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open, had a lost ball on the par-5 18th hole on The Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort. She still salvaged a bogey in chilly, windy weather that had the 55-year-old from England bundled up in a blanket between shots.

Inkster, runner-up to Davies at the Senior Women's Open, made eagle on the closing hole for a 69.

Jane Crafter was at 70. Defending champion Trish Johnson opened with a 73.

Temperatures were in the high 40s, but the damp air and wind made it feel even colder.

Inkster made a bogey on the 17th hole by missing the green with a 9-iron.

''As old as I am, I still get made and I crushed that drive on 18,'' said Inkster, who followed with a 3-wood to 15 feet to set up her eagle.

The 54-hole event concludes Wednesday.

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Miller to retire from broadcast booth in 2019

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 15, 2018, 9:14 pm

After nearly 30 years in the broadcast booth, Johnny Miller is ready to hang up his microphone.

Following a Hall of Fame playing career that included a pair of major titles, Miller has become one of the most outspoken voices in the game as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports. But at age 71 he has decided to retire from broadcasting following the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

“The call of being there for my grandkids, to teach them how to fish. I felt it was a higher calling,” Miller told GolfChannel.com. “The parents are trying to make a living, and grandparents can be there like my father was with my four boys. He was there every day for them. I'm a big believer that there is a time and a season for everything.”

Miller was named lead analyst for NBC in 1990, making his broadcast debut at what was then known as the Bob Hope Desert Classic. He still remained competitive, notably winning the 1994 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at age 46, but made an indelible mark on the next generation of Tour pros with his frank and candid assessment of the action from some of golf’s biggest events.

Miller’s broadcasting career has included 20 U.S. Opens, 14 Ryder Cups, nine Presidents Cups, three Open Championships and the 2016 Olympics. While he has teamed in the booth with Dan Hicks for the past 20 years, Miller’s previous on-air partners included Bryant Gumbel, Charlie Jones, Jim Lampley and Dick Enberg.

His farewell event will be in Phoenix Jan. 31-Feb. 3, at a tournament he won in back-to-back years in 1974-75.

“When it comes to serving golf fans with sharp insight on what is happening inside the ropes, Johnny Miller is the gold standard,” said NBC lead golf producer Tommy Roy. “It has been an honor working with him, and while it might not be Johnny’s personal style, it will be fun to send him off at one of the PGA Tour’s best parties at TPC Scottsdale.”

Miller was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1998 after a playing career that included wins at the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont and The Open in 1976 at Royal Birkdale. Before turning pro, he won the 1964 U.S. Junior Amateur and was low amateur at the 1966 U.S. Open at Olympic, where he tied for eighth at age 19.

Born and raised in San Francisco, Miller now lives in Utah with his wife, Linda, and annually serves as tournament host of the PGA Tour’s Safeway Open in Napa, Calif.

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Randall's Rant: Tiger vs. Phil feels like a ripoff

By Randall MellOctober 15, 2018, 7:45 pm

Usually, you have to buy something before you feel like you were ripped off.

The wonder in the marketing of Tiger vs. Phil and “The Match” is how it is making so many people feel as if they are getting ripped off before they’ve shelled out a single penny for the product.

Phil Mickelson gets credit for this miscue.

Apparently, the smartest guy in the room isn’t the smartest marketing guy.

He was a little bit like that telemarketer who teases you into thinking you’ve won a free weekend getaway, only to lead you into the discovery that there’s a shady catch, with fine print and a price tag.

There was something as slippery as snake oil in the original pitch.

In Mickelson’s eagerness to create some excitement, he hinted back during The Players in May about the possibility of a big-money, head-to-head match with Woods. A couple months later, he leaked more details, before it was ready to be fully announced.

So while there was an initial buzz over news of the Thanksgiving weekend matchup, the original pitch set up a real buzzkill when it was later announced that you were only going to get to see it live on pay-per-view.

The news landed with a thud but no price tag. We’re still waiting to see what it’s going to cost when these two meet at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, but anything that feels even slightly inflated now is going to further dampen the original enthusiasm Mickelson created.

Without Woods or Mickelson putting up their own money, this $9 million winner-take-all event was always going to feel more like a money grab than real competition.

When we were expecting to see it on network or cable TV, we didn’t care so much. Tiger's and Phil’s hands would have felt as if they were reaching into corporate America’s pockets. Now, it feels as if they’re digging into ours.

Last week, there was more disappointing news, with the Las Vegas Review-Journal reporting that tickets won’t be sold to the public, that the match at Shadow Creek will only be open to select sponsors and VIPs.

Now there’s a larger insult to the common fan, who can’t help but feel he isn’t worthy or important enough to gain admittance.

Sorry, but that’s how news of a closed gate landed on the heels of the pay-per-view news.

“The Match” was never going to be meaningful golf in any historical sense.

This matchup was never going to rekindle the magic Tiger vs. Phil brought in their epic Duel at Doral in ’05.

The $9 million was never going to buy the legitimacy a major championship or PGA Tour Sunday clash could bring.

It was never going to be more than an exhibition, with no lingering historical significance, but that was OK as quasi silly-season fare on TV on Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 23), the traditional weekend of the old Skins Game.

“The Match” still has a chance to be meaningful, but first and foremost as entertainment, not real competition. That’s what this was always going to be about, but now the bar is raised.

Pay per view does that.

“You get what you pay for” is an adage that doesn’t apply to free (or already-paid for) TV. It does to pay per view. Expectations go way up when you aren’t just channel surfing to a telecast. So the higher the price tag they end up putting on this showdown, the more entertaining this has to be.

If Phil brings his “A-Game” to his trash talking, and if Tiger can bring some clever repartee, this can still be fun. If the prerecorded segments wedged between shots are insightful, even meaningful in their ability to make us understand these players in ways we didn’t before, this will be worthwhile.

Ultimately, “The Match” is a success if it leaves folks who paid to see it feeling as if they weren’t as ripped off as the people who refused to pay for it. That’s the handicap a history of free golf on TV brings. Welcome to pay-per-view, Tiger and Phil.

Celia Barquin Arozamena Iowa State University athletics

Trial date set for drifter charged with killing Barquin Arozamena

By Associated PressOctober 15, 2018, 7:28 pm

AMES, Iowa – A judge has scheduled a January trial for a 22-year-old Iowa drifter charged with killing a top amateur golfer from Spain.

District Judge Bethany Currie ruled Monday that Collin Richards will stand trial Jan. 15 for first-degree murder in the death of Iowa State University student Celia Barquin Arozamena.

Richards entered a written not guilty plea Monday morning and waived his right to a speedy trial. The filing canceled an in-person arraignment hearing that had been scheduled for later Monday.

Investigators say Richards attacked Barquin on Sept. 17 while she was playing a round at a public course in Ames, near the university campus. Her body was found in a pond on the course riddled with stab wounds.

Richards faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.