Players must be invested regardless of captain

By John FeinsteinOctober 1, 2014, 2:30 pm

Phil Mickelson hit the nail on the head Sunday during the American Ryder Cup team’s post-blowout news conference in Scotland.

He didn’t do it intentionally, but he did it. In one of the more classic passive-aggressive attacks ever seen on a public stage, Mickelson longed for the pod days of 2008 when Paul Azinger was captain, saying he couldn’t understand why American captains who followed Azinger – notably Tom Watson – had failed to see the genius in what Azinger had done.

“There were two things that Paul Azinger did to allow us to play our best,” Mickelson said. “One was that he got everybody invested in the process, in who they were going to play with, who the picks were going to be, who was going to be in their pod, when they were going to play.”

The four key words there are ‘invested in the process.’

Let’s parse the phrase for a moment. In essence, what Mickelson said was this: If Watson had spent more time asking the players in general – and Mickelson specifically – what they thought he should do, the players would have been more invested.

So players need to have the captain consult with them to be invested in playing in the Ryder Cup? Can that be possible, especially after the litany of failures produced by U.S. teams dating to 1995? Can it be possible that American players who know their country has won on European soil once – with Watson as captain in 1993 – since 1981 (1-6-1 with Europe retaining after the 1989 tie) might not be invested in playing unless the captain seeks their thoughts on practice pairings, dinner menus, clothing choices and who wants to play with whom?

Sadly, the answer is yes.

It isn’t as if the Americans don’t try or don’t want to win. They do. Mickelson is sick of hearing that he has a losing Ryder Cup record as a team member (2-8) and as an individual (16-19-6) and the absent Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk are just as sick of having their losing numbers thrown in their faces. There’s no doubt that Mickelson’s response had as much to do with being weary of asked all the ‘why did you lose this time?’ questions as his frustration with being benched by Watson on Saturday.

Mickelson will be the American captain someday. When it was suggested he might be the next captain, he rejected the notion. All players want to play as long as they can. But when Mickelson is the captain, he may find out that the secret to success has nothing to do with pods and everything to do with passion and putts that go in the hole.

No one – least of all Watson – would claim that the captain had a good week. It would be close to impossible to make such a claim after losing, 16½ to 11½. Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed should have played Friday afternoon and Mickelson should have rested his 44-year-old body and then come back fresh with partner Keegan Bradley on Saturday morning. Watson stayed inside the box on his captain’s picks – Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson – and none of them did much to help the cause, combining to go 2-5-2.

They certainly weren’t the only ones to not play especially well – has anyone seen Bubba Watson yet? – but if Tom Watson had the picks to do over he might have given consideration to Brandt Snedeker, who in addition to being a great putter would have brought some extra life to the team room; or Gary Woodland, who would at least have brought some of the intimidating length off the tee that was lost when Dustin Johnson suspended himself in August.

But that’s not why the U.S. lost.

“Tom could have put his players out there in alphabetical order or by shoe size and we still would have lost,” David Feherty said. “The reason Europe won was because it was better and it played better. The reason we won in 2008 was because we played better – pods or not pods. It’s really very simple.”

Exactly. It’s that’s simple.

The question then is this: why does it seem that Europe almost always plays better when it has to; makes the putts or the chip-ins that decide close matches? The answer may very well go back to Mickelson: they are more invested in the Ryder Cup.

The captain, whether it’s Paul McGinley or Jose Maria Olazabal or Colin Montgomerie, doesn’t have to consult with his players on who they want to play with or who they don’t want to play with. McGinley decided not to pair Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell last weekend as much because they hadn’t played especially well together in the past as because of their legal entanglements.

It isn’t as if the European players walk into their team room singing “Kumbaya” every two years on the Monday before the matches start. Nick Faldo commented once that the reason he was paired with Montgomerie when Montgomerie was a young player was, “because none of the other guys much wanted to play with me.”

He wasn’t lying.

There’s been plenty of animosity among European players through the years. But it all goes away the week of the Ryder Cup. None of the Europeans come out and tell the media how close they’re becoming by playing ping pong. They just show up on the first tee completely invested in winning.

And then they go out and win.

PGA of America president Ted Bishop asked Watson to captain because he thought the team needed Watson’s tough-love brand of leadership. If Davis Love III had a weakness as captain in 2012 it was that he tried too hard to keep his players happy. Love acceded to Mickelson’s desire to sit out Saturday afternoon at Medinah even though he and Bradey had been absolutely dominant in their three matches.

Mickelson was happy with Love for listening to him but Love not telling Mickelson to take a long hot shower and then go back out and play might have been the turning point of those matches. This time, Mickelson was unhappy with Watson for not playing him and Bradley at all on Saturday.

Which all gets back to Feherty’s theory: You can put the players in pods or in bumper-cars or in ping-pong pods and the outcome of the matches is still going to be decided by who plays better golf.

In eight of the last 10 Ryder Cups the more emotionally invested team has been Europe. The fact that Mickelson, or anyone else, would believe that it is somehow up to the captain to get the players invested in playing the Ryder Cup may go a long way to explaining why the U.S. has been such a consistent loser the last 20 years.

The American players need to figure out how to be 100 percent invested when they step on the first tee regardless of who is the captain.


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Ko part of 5-way tie for Mediheal lead

By Associated PressApril 27, 2018, 3:20 am

DALY CITY, Calif. - Lydia Ko was back on top at Lake Merced.

Ko shot a 4-under 68 on a chilly Thursday morning at the LPGA Mediheal Championship for a share of the first-round lead. Jessica Korda, Caroline Hedwall, In-Kyung Kim and Su Oh joined Ko atop the leaderboard in the LPGA's return to Lake Merced after a year away.

''This is a golf course where you need to drive the ball well and putt well,'' said Ko, the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic winner at the course in 2014 and 2015.

Ko eagled the par-5 fifth and had four birdies and a bogey. The New Zealander has 14 LPGA wins, the last in July 2016.

''It's nice to come back to a place where you feel super-welcomed,'' Ko said. ''It just brings back a lot of great memories. ... My family and friends are here this week, so I'm hoping that I'm going to continue the solid play.''

She turned 21 on Tuesday.

''I don't think I feel a huge difference, but I know turning 21 is a huge thing in the U.S.,'' Ko said, ''So, I'm legal and I can do some fun things now.''

Korda, playing alongside Kim a group ahead of Ko, also eagled the fifth and had four birdies and a bogey. Korda won in Thailand in February in her return from reconstructive jaw surgery.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Mediheal Championship

''The score says one thing and my hands say another,'' Korda said. ''It was really cold out there today, so it was good that I stuck to kind of my process. ... Actually, this is still some of the nicer conditions that we've played in compared to the past. I'll take the cold as long as there's no rain.''

Hedwall and Kim each had five birdies and a bogey.

''I just love the city. It's really nice,'' said Hedwall, from Sweden. ''It's sort of a European-style city with all the shopping going on downtown and stuff. I love it here. I even like this weather, suits me really well, too.''

Oh had a bogey-free round. The Australian was the only one of the five players tied for the lead to play in the afternoon.

''It was cold and pretty windy out there and, because it's got a lot of elevation, it kind of swirls in the middle like in the low areas, so it was tough,'' Oh said. ''I hit the ball really solid today. Then the ones I missed, I made really good up-and-downs.''

Lexi Thompson, Sei Young Kim, Charley Hull and Celine Herbin shot 69.

''This course is very challenging, especially when the wind picks up,'' the third-ranked Thompson said. ''It's chilly, so it's a little longer of a course. Some of the par 5s are reachable, so you try to take advantage of that, but pars were good and just take the birdie chances as you can get them.''

Moriya Jutanugarn, the winner Sunday in Los Angeles for her first LPGA title, had a 71 playing with former Stanford student Michelle Wie and ANA Inspiration winner Pernilla Lindberg. Wie had a 74, and Lindberg shot 79. Ariya Jutanugarn matched her sister with a 71, playing in the group with Ko.

Top-ranked Inbee Park matched playing partner Brooke Henderson with a 72. The third member of the afternoon group, second-ranked Shanshan Feng, shot 73.

Juli Inkster shot 72. The 57-year-old Hall of Famer grew up in Santz Cruz, starred at San Jose State and lives in Los Altos. She won the last of her 31 LPGA titles in 2006.

Stacy Lewis had a 74 after announcing that she is pregnant with a due date of Nov. 3. She plans to play through the Marathon Classic in July and return for a full season next year.

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Glover, Reavie share Zurich lead with Chinese pair

By Associated PressApril 27, 2018, 3:04 am

AVONDALE, La. - Chez Reavie had quite a few good moments at TPC Louisiana on Thursday. So did teammate Lucas Glover.

In best-ball format, the most important thing was those moments came on different holes.

Reavie and Glover teamed to shoot a 12-under 60 for a share of the Zurich Classic lead with China's Zhang Xinjun and Dou Zecheng.

''Chez started well and I picked it up in the middle of the back nine,'' Glover said. ''He closed it off and then we both played really well on the front. Just kind of ham and egged it, I guess, as they would say.''

Reavie and Glover each had six birdies in the best-ball format, pushing through soggy weather early in the round before conditions cleared at TPC Louisiana. Six teams are two shots back in a tie for third after shooting 62.

''We were just rolling,'' Reavie said. ''I think we're comfortable. We like to laugh and have a good time when we're playing golf, and it definitely helps.''

Zhang and Dou birdied four of their final five holes. Dou made a 31-foot putt on No. 9 to cap the impressive rally and jump into the lead with Reavie and Glover.

Full-field scores from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos

Tony Finau-Daniel Summerhays, Chris Paisley-Tommy Fleetwood, J.J. Henry-Tom Hoge, Michael Kim-Andrew Putnam, Kevin Kisner-Scott Brown and Troy Merritt-Brendon de Jonge shot 62. Jason Day and Ryan Ruffels shot 64.

It's the first time since last year's Tour Championship that the reigning champs of all four majors have been in the same field. None of them were among the leaders after the first round.

Masters champion Patrick Reed and Patrick Cantlay had a 65, and British Open winner Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer were at 66.

''I didn't feel like there was really any rust,'' Reed said. ''I felt like I hit the ball all right today. I felt I hit some good quality putts. A couple of them went in, a couple of them didn't.''

This is the second year that two-player teams have competed at the Zurich Classic. The unusual tournament features best-ball play in the first and third rounds and alternate shot in the second and final rounds.

U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka and Marc Turnesa shot a 67. PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas and Bud Cauley shot a 70.

There are 80 teams in the tournament and the top 35, along with ties, will make the cut after Friday's second round.

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Lewis says she's expecting first child in November

By Randall MellApril 27, 2018, 2:18 am

Stacy Lewis is pregnant.

The 12-time LPGA winner confirmed after Thursday’s first round of the Mediheal Championship that she and her husband, University of Houston women’s golf coach Gerrod Chadwell, are expecting their first child on Nov. 3.

Lewis learned she was pregnant after returning home to Houston in late February following her withdrawal from the HSBC Women’s World Championship with a strained oblique muscle.

“We're obviously really excited,” Lewis said. “It wasn't nice I was hurt, but it was nice that I was home when I found out with [Gerrod]. We're just really excited to start a family.”

Lewis is the third big-name LPGA player preparing this year to become a mother for the first time. Suzann Pettersen announced last month that she’s pregnant, due in the fall. Gerina Piller is due any day.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Mediheal Championship

Piller’s husband, PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, withdrew from the Zurich Classic on Thursday to be with her. Piller and Lewis have been U.S. Solheim Cup partners the last two times the event has been played.

“It's going to be fun raising kids together,” Lewis said. “Hopefully, they're best friends and they hang out. But just excited about the next few months and what it's going to bring.”

Lewis, a former Rolex world No. 1 and two-time major championship winner, plans to play through the middle of July, with the Marathon Classic her last event of the year. She will be looking to return for the start of the 2019 season. The LPGA’s maternity leave policy allows her to come back next year with her status intact.

“This year, the golf might not be great, but I've got better things coming in my life than a golf score.” Lewis said. “I plan on coming back and traveling on the road with the baby, and we'll figure it out as we go.”

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Coach scores in NFL Draft and on golf course

By Grill Room TeamApril 27, 2018, 1:47 am

To say that Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio had a good day Thursday would be an understatement. Not only did his team snag one of the top defensive players in the NFL Draft - Georgia outside linebacker Roquan Smith, who the Bears took with the eighth pick of the first round - but earlier in the day Fangio, 59, made a hole-in-one, sinking a 9-iron shot from 125 yards at The Club at Strawberry Creek in Kenosha, Wis.

Perhaps the ace isn't so surprising, though. In late May 2017, Fangio made another hole-in-one, according to a tweet from the Bears. The only information supplied on that one was the distance - 116 yards.