Hawk's Nest: Paging Paul Azinger ...

By John HawkinsSeptember 29, 2014, 1:42 pm

Three consecutive losses, each distinct in its own demoralizing fashion. A comeback without completion at Celtic Manor, then a Sunday meltdown at Medinah, then another epic blowout that ended with the team’s most decorated player taking a swipe at his captain.

Not that Phil Mickelson and Tom Watson were BFF’s to begin with, but when you’ve played in 10 Ryder Cups and won two of them, you eventually look for a head on which to hang the goat horns. The pointed truth? Despite Watson’s supposedly inspirational presence as U.S. skipper, this group of Yanks proved to be as inferior as many cynics suspected.

He lost Dustin Johnson. He lost Jason Dufner. He never really had Tiger Woods. It was a squad doomed by timing and consequence, which isn’t to say a full fleet of Americans would have beaten the Europeans at Gleneagles. The home team was stacked, focused and appropriately motivated. Certainly not Europe’s strongest roster ever, but deeper and more talented than the opponent.

So throw this at the wall and see if it sticks: Mickelson’s post-rout callout of Watson might not be such a terrible thing. Lefty’s willingness to compare this latest ill-fated captaincy with that of victorious U.S. skipper Paul Azinger (2008) came with an underlying message: Let’s get serious, let’s get organized. May we all get sick and tired of getting beaten.

“He’s just frustrated by not winning,” Azinger told me Sunday evening. “It came to a head.”

A diplomatic, high-road response, for sure, but eight losses in the last 10 Ryder Cups? Inexcusable. A 1-7 record in foursomes matches this time around? Impossible to overcome, even tougher to explain. Playing another guy’s ball for several hours requires optimal preparation and strategic prudence. This U.S. squad clearly possessed neither quality.

Nothing does a finer job of measuring a team’s compatibility level than the game better known as alternate shot. The other two formats are basically normal golf – you hit it, find it, hit it again. Azinger’s bunch was hardly perfect in alternate shot at Valhalla, claiming four of eight points. After the Euro-thrashings in 2004 and ’06, however, breaking even felt like ground gained.

Too much credit, too much blame. Every Ryder Cup captain must cope with the notion that his legacy is rooted solely in the result, and maybe that’s not such a terrible thing, either. Dufner and Billy Horschel were among those who immediately began campaigning for Azinger’s return (via Twitter) in 2016.

Is Zinger interested?

“Can’t rule it out,” he replied Sunday night.

REALISTICALLY, THERE SHOULD be just two candidates for the United States captaincy in ’16: Azinger and Fred Couples. Anyone who thinks Couples’ laid-back nature might backfire against the Europeans probably has a point, but at this juncture, it’s all about W’s and L’s. Not only did Freddie go 3-0 as Presidents Cup skipper, his squads outscored the Internationals by a whopping 57-45.

If the PGA of America is serious about reversing its Ryder Cup identity, it needs to swallow its collective pride and approach Couples, who doesn’t fit the so-called mold any more or less than did Watson. It’s worth noting that Couples has already accepted a position as one of Jay Haas’ 2015 Presidents Cup assistants, which leads nicely into an idea hatched by GolfChannel.com editorial director Jay Coffin.

Hire one guy to captain the U.S. in both events for two years, perhaps even four. Mimic the template of USA Basketball, which has installed coach Mike Krzyzewski as a fixture and generated a sense of continuity within the program. If we’re going to have two team-match gatherings, there is no good reason why they can’t draw on their common characteristics and make both operations better in the long run.

Forget the politics. Never mind the tangle of egos and other governing-body B.S. Couples would be perfect in the inaugural role of dual skipper, which Coffin describes as such: “go out there and hang with the guys, work on partnerships, have drinks, play Tuesday money games with them, get to know their families, etc.”

Honestly? It probably makes way too much sense for either the PGA of America or the PGA Tour to seriously consider.

IT IS SECOND nature for golf fans to question a Ryder Cup skipper’s personnel decisions. Lanny Wadkins’ risky selection of Curtis Strange as a captain’s pick in 1995, Hal Sutton’s all-or-nothing decision to pair Tiger Woods with Phil Mickelson in 2004 (he got double nothing), Davis Love III’s rally-killer benching of Mickelson/Keegan Bradley in 2012 …

There was plenty to choose from at Gleneagles. Why sit a pair of young bucks (Jordan Spieth/Patrick Reed) immediately after they’d trampled Europe’s most dangerous player (Ian Poulter) Friday morning? Don’t you ride the two rookies for as long as you can, squeezing every drop from them while knowing youth is often impervious to fatigue?

Watson’s biggest and most obvious mistake, however, came the following day. Having proven themselves untouchable at Medinah two years earlier, Mickelson and Bradley teamed up to beat Rory McIlroy/Sergio Garcia in Friday fourballs at Gleneagles. They lost that afternoon, however, and Watson benched both for both sessions Saturday.

It was a move with far-reaching implications, given Philly Mick’s aforementioned post-mortem. “I expected what Phil said to me,” Watson recalled. “He said, ‘We can get it done, Captain. We want the chance.’ I told him the way this golf course sets up, the four teams I put out there gives us the best chance.

“He lobbied again. He texted me, ‘Give us a chance.’ I had to tell him no.”

Regardless of how you feel about Mickelson, he deserved a valid explanation – and he deserved to be told well before he’d warmed up and prepared himself for an afternoon battle. Pragmatically, the move made no sense. Mickelson took a respectable 4-5-4 foursomes record into Gleneagles. His successful partnership with Bradley had emerged as one of America’s most formidable weapons. And with the U.S. trailing by just a point through three sessions, Watson should have leaned on his most proven commodities Saturday afternoon.

Furthermore, a partnership that produces four consecutive big-time victories, then loses once, is not left to rot in a golf cart for an entire day. Not only was Watson’s decision an error, it was a mistake that suggests a personal vendetta – a lousy message issued to a young team on the brink.

As a footnote, there were 27 interview transcripts published Saturday from Gleneagles, not one of which quoted Mickelson or Bradley on the benching. No question in my mind, Lefty knew exactly what he was doing when he took out Watson in full public view the next day. And no wonder the Yanks got thumped.

TOO MUCH CREDIT, too much blame. Not only does this apply to Watson, whose shortcomings as both a captain and communicator turned PGA of America president Ted Bishop’s outside-the-box experiment into a bust, but Mickelson himself. In offering such a candid and visible assessment of the 2014 captain, Philly Mick was roasted by several prominent voices for violating the very essence of appropriate team conduct.

What happens in the team room stays in the team room, or so we’re led to believe. The funny thing about media – some of us chastise guys like Mickelson for talking out of school, then lick up every last crumb, no matter how dirty.

Some of my favorite golf journalists, including Golf Channel teammates Rex Hoggard and Tim Rosaforte, have referred to the U.S. news conference as one of the most awkward moments in Ryder Cup history, and I certainly wouldn’t disagree. It was hard to watch and impossible not to, if you know what I mean.

Perhaps it was also necessary, or at the very least, a much-needed attempt to shake up a system that has produced lousy results for far too long. Bishop chose Watson himself. Why is there no committee for such an important appointment? As I wondered here a couple of weeks ago, why are the U.S. captains’ picks made almost a month before the actual matches – before the final two FedEx Cup playoff events?

In 1999, four U.S. players (Mickelson, Woods, David Duval and Mark O’Meara) became villains for criticizing the PGA of America’s pocketing the immense revenue generated by the Ryder Cup. Their message was poorly represented – and thus, widely misinterpreted – but from that fracas, a reasonable solution was soon reached.

In the 15 years since, the PGA has donated portions of the income to charities as designated by the U.S. team members themselves – $100,000 per player in 2012. So what began as a case of potential squad-rotting dissension turned out to have a productive and happy ending.

Maybe that will happen again. Maybe it won’t, but as anyone can plainly see, the U.S. Ryder Cup program has a whole lot of work ahead of it.

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Golf Channel Ramps Up Six Weeks of Comprehensive College Golf Coverage Culminating With The NCAA Women's and Men's Golf Championships, May 18-30

By Golf Channel Public RelationsApril 24, 2018, 9:00 pm

Golf Channel to Announce NCAA Division I Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships Regional Selections on Wednesday, April 25 and Wednesday, May 2

 Golf Channel to Expand Coverage of NCAA Women’s and Men’s Regional Championships  

Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys, a Four-Part Docu-Series Executive Produced by Rickie Fowler, Premieres on Golf Channel Monday, May 7

 More than 100 News and Tournament Hours Planned for Women’s and Men’s Championships, Back-to-Back Weeks at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.


ORLANDO, Fla., April 24, 2018 – With conference championships underway, golf fans will be able to follow their favorite college golf programs and alma maters as they attempt to qualify and compete in the 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships in May at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., as Golf Channel expands its comprehensive on-air and digital collegiate golf coverage the next six weeks.

“Through our new long-term partnership, the NCAA and Golf Channel are successfully raising the profile of college golf by shining a spotlight on the game’s future stars and the passion these programs have in competing for national championships,” said Molly Solomon, Golf Channel executive vice president of content and executive producer. “With our expanded coverage of the regional championships and partnering with OSU alum Rickie Fowler for Driven, our viewers will be treated to the most college golf coverage in network history leading into the NCAA Golf National Championships.”

REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS SELECTION ANNOUNCEMENTS: On Wednesday, April 25 at 5:30 p.m. ET (women) and continuing Wednesday, May 2 at 5:30 p.m. ET (men), Golf Channel will announce the teams and individuals selected by the NCAA to participate in the women’s and men’s regional championships, the first step on the road to the NCAA Golf Championships. Live streaming coverage of selection shows will be available through the Golf Channel Mobile App or GolfChannel.com, and Golf Channel will aggregate social content for the shows using the hashtag #NCAAGolf. 

  • Women’s Golf Championships Regional Selections, Wednesday, April 25, 5:30 p.m. ET: Golf Central will announce (live) the 72 teams and24 individuals selected to compete in the four NCAA Women’s Regional Championships, May 7-9 (18 teams and six individuals per regional). 24 teams and 12 individuals will advance from regional sites to the national championships.
  • Men’s Golf Championships Regional Selections, Wednesday, May 2, 5:30 p.m. ET: Golf Central will announce the 81 teams and 45 individuals selected to compete in the six NCAA Men’s Regional Championships, May 14-16 (13 teams and 10 individuals at three regionals and 14 teams and five individuals at three regionals). 30 teams and six individuals will advance from regional sites to the national championships.

GOLF CHANNEL TO EXPAND REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS COVERAGE: New for 2018, Golf Channel will feature expanded coverage of the final day of the NCAA women’s and men’s regional championships, Wednesday May 9 and Wednesday, May 16, respectively. Beginning within Morning Drive, Golf Channel’s daily lifestyle news show, and continuing hourly throughout the day via live Golf Central news updates from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. ET that will be published to Golf Channel Digital and Golf Channel’s social media handles. Coverage will conclude with live news segments, featuring highlights and interviews, announcing the teams and individuals who qualified for the women’s and men’s national championships.

RICKIE FOWLER AND NBC SPORTS COLLABORATE ON FOUR-PART DOCU-SERIES DRIVEN: OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS: NBC Sports Group is teaming up with PGA TOUR superstar Rickie Fowler to give viewers a dramatic behind-the-scenes look into Fowler’s alma mater in a four-part documentary series – Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys. Driven, executive produced by Fowler, will premiere Monday, May 7 at 10 p.m. ET and continue Monday, May 14 (10 p.m. ET) and Monday, May 21 (8 p.m. ET). The finale will air on NBC on Saturday, June 16, recapping their season that culminates with a run at a potential 11th national championship, taking place on their home turf.

NCAA GOLF NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS COVERAGE: Contested in back-to-back weeks, May 18-30 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., Golf Channel will dedicate its full suite of production resources to the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships, featuring nearly 30 combined hours of live tournament coverage. In addition, Golf Central will feature nearly 30 hours of combined pre-and post-event live news coverage produced on location, as well as daily news updates on Morning Drive and Golf Channel Digital.                                             

Golf Channel NCAA Women’s Golf Championships Coverage

Monday, May   21       

Individual National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Tuesday, May   22          

Quarterfinals, Team   Match Play  

11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ET   (Live)

Tuesday, May   22                 

Semifinals, Team Match   Play 

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Wednesday, May   23            

Team National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)


Golf Channel NCAA Men’s Golf Championships Coverage

Monday, May   28      

Individual National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Tuesday, May   29          

Quarterfinals, Team   Match Play  

11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ET   (Live)

Tuesday, May   29                 

Semifinals, Team Match   Play 

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Wednesday, May   30            

Team National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)


COLLEGE CENTRAL – GOLF CHANNEL DIGITAL COVERAGE: Golf Channel is providing comprehensive coverage leading up to and during the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships as part of College Central,Golf Channel Digital’s home for college golf. Led by Jay Coffin, Ryan Lavner and Steve Burkowski, College Central will be the source for all things college golf, including tournament results and scores, features and columns, video highlights and breaking news.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS NEWS COVERAGE: Golf Channel will cover the conference championships with scores and analysis across its on-air news platforms - Morning Drive and Golf Central – and online within College Central.

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With help from partner, Burns could secure Tour status

By Ryan LavnerApril 24, 2018, 8:33 pm

AVONDALE, La. – This week Sam Burns has yet another chance to secure special temporary membership for the rest of the PGA Tour season, but his partner may determine whether he’s ultimately successful.

In an interesting twist, Burns is burning one of his seven available sponsor exemptions this week at the Zurich Classic. He is 80 non-member points shy of securing special temporary membership, which would allow him to receive unlimited sponsor exemptions for the rest of the season.

Burns needs at least a two-way tie for fourth to earn the necessary points, but it won’t all depend on how he plays this week. The Zurich is a two-man game, with two rounds apiece of fourballs and alternate shot.

Burns' partner this week is William McGirt. Their games couldn’t be more different – Burns ranks eighth on Tour in driving distance, at 309 yards per pop, while McGirt is 143rd (290) – but they hope to compliment each other over four days at TPC Louisiana.

Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos

“I got a good pair of spurs sharpened up last week while I was in San Antonio,” joked McGirt, who is looking for his first top-10 since the fall. “I told him I was going to ride him hard this week. It’ll be fun.”

Burns will have at least two (and maybe three) more opportunities to earn status, with starts lined up next week at the Wells Fargo Championship and also at the Memorial. He doesn’t face quite as much pressure because he won earlier this month on the Web.com Tour and currently sits fourth on the money list, essentially locking up his PGA Tour card for next season.

“It’s obviously nice to have that win,” he said, “but at the same time you have to be careful and make sure you play enough out there to where you’re secure for sure. You don’t want to get at the end of the year and then have two or three events left and you have to make a certain amount of money to get your card.

“So I’m just going step by step, tournament by tournament, and trying to figure out what’s the best route.”   

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Spieth-Palmer draw Rahm-Bryan early at Zurich

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 24, 2018, 7:49 pm

AVONDALE, La. – The PGA Tour’s only team event gets underway Thursday at the Zurich Classic. Here are some featured groups to watch at TPC Louisiana.

Justin Thomas-Bud Cauley/Daniel Berger-Gary Woodland: 8:39 a.m. ET Thursday off 10 tee, 2:08 p.m. Friday off 1: 

The Bama boys, Thomas and Cauley, team up for the second consecutive year, after tying for fifth a year ago on the strength of a final-round 61. Berger teamed with Thomas Pieters a year ago but missed the cut, so he’ll try his luck with Woodland, who also shares a management team at Excel Sports.

Jordan Spieth-Ryan Palmer/Jon Rahm-Wesley Bryan: 8:52 a.m. Thursday off 10, 2:19 p.m. Friday off 1: 

Spieth and Palmer finished fourth a year ago, five shots back of the leaders. Spieth is making his first start since his epic Sunday run at the Masters. Rahm and Bryan have opposite strengths – Rahm is one of the game’s preeminent drivers, while Bryan, statistically, is one of the worst – but the Spaniard is coming off a European Tour victory at home. Another wrinkle here: Even though no world-ranking points are on offer this week, Rahm is set to supplant Spieth as the third-ranked player in the world.

Jason Day-Ryan Ruffels/Brooks Koepka-Marc Turnesa: 1:31 p.m. Thursday off 1, 9:42 a.m. Friday off 10: 

Two stars with questionable sidekicks. Ruffels is an up-and-coming Australian who has been playing primarily in Latin America. (He also shares a manager with Day.) Turnesa, meanwhile, got the call late last week from Koepka, who is finally ready to return from a 15-week layoff because of a wrist injury. They both play out of Medalist in South Florida, but Turnesa, 40, has turned his attention to real estate instead of professional golf.

Patrick Reed-Patrick Cantlay/Jonas Blixt-Cameron Smith: 1:44 p.m. Thursday off 1, 9:53 a.m. Friday off 10: 

Reed makes his first start as Masters champion after taking off the past two weeks. This duo tied for 14th last year, undone by a Saturday 75 in foursomes play. Blixt and Smith are the defending champions, after shooting 27 under par last year and holding off Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown in a playoff. Blixt doesn’t have a top-10 on Tour since then, while Smith tied for fifth at the Match Play and the Masters.

Justin Rose-Henrik Stenson/Bubba Watson-Matt Kuchar: 1:57 p.m. Thursday off 1, 10:04 a.m. Friday off 10:

Rose and Stenson, who have proved to be a formidable pairing in the Ryder Cup, were a stunning missed cut last year, after shooting 6 under par for two rounds. Watson teamed up with J.B. Holmes to finish fifth last year, while Kuchar is making his first start in this event since 2009.

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Zurich Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 24, 2018, 7:09 pm

The PGA Tour tries team competition for the second year in a row at the Zurich Classic. Here are the key stats and information for play at TPC LouisianaClick here for full-field tee times.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Purse: $7,200,000 ($1,036,800 to each winner)

Course: TPC Louisiana (par 72; 7,425 yards)

Defending champions: Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt (-27) in a playoff over Scott Brown and Kevin Kisner

News and notes

• All four reigning major champions - Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed - are in the field this week. This is the first time all four reigning major winners have played this event since 1984 (Ben Crenshaw, Larry Nelson, Tom Watson, Hall Sutton).

 Both members of winning team this week will earn an official PGA Tour victory, two-year Tour exemptions, and exemptions into the Players and PGA Championships.

• That said, no Official World Golf Ranking points are awarded from this event and winners will not earn exemptions into the 2019 Masters.

Notable teams in the field 

Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson

 Rose won this event in 2014, when it was individual stroke play. From 2012-16, he was a combined 60 under at TPC Louisiana in stroke play, seven shots better than any other player.

 Rose has dramatically improved his performance on the greens from last season, moving from 123rd in strokes gained-putting to 10th.

 Stenson's last three starts look like this: solo 4th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, T-6 at the Houston Open, and T-5 at the Masters.

Jon Rahm and Wesley Bryan

 Rahm is coming off a victory at the Spanish Open, his second worldwide win in 2018 and fifth since Jan. 2017.

 Rahm outdrives Bryan by an average of 30 yards off the tee, 305.1 to 276.3.

 Rahm is second on Tour in the strokes gained-off the tee, while Bryan is 210th, last among qualifying players.

Patrick Reed and Patrick Cantlay

 Reed is just the fifth reigning Masters champ to play the Zurich since 2000, joining Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson (twice), and Bubba Watson.

 Reed has gone T-2, T-7, T-9, WIN in his last four starts.

 Cantlay broke through for his maiden PGA Tour win earlier this season at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas.