Hawk's Nest: RC captain's role biggest with picks

By John HawkinsSeptember 2, 2014, 2:00 pm

NEWTON, Mass. – Once he’s hired a fleet of loyal assistants, finalized wardrobe details and signed off on the pillow mints, a Ryder Cup captain can bear down on his most crucial task: selecting the players who fill out his 12-man roster. No decisions made by either skipper will have a greater impact on the final outcome.

Compatible partnerships are obviously important, but there is no dictating how anyone will perform once balls are in the air. Months of preparation can become wholly insignificant. You spend hours in a golf cart watching, like everyone else.

“As a captain, you surrender control,” says Paul Azinger, who piloted the U.S. to victory in 2008. “The funny thing is, you control everything before it starts, then it all gets taken away.”

When Europe added a pair of captain’s picks to its team-composition process in 1979, it was partly out of desperation. The mighty Americans hadn’t lost a Ryder Cup in 20 years and would go on to win the next three, but as the series began to even out, then slide in Europe’s favor, the role of the skipper’s additions became a major cause for the turnabout.

Jose Maria Olazabal was 8-5-1 as a three-time pick, winning at least two matches in all three meetings. At the back-to-back Euro blowouts in 2004 and ’06, the four selections combined for an astounding 11-2-3 record. Then, of course, there is Ian Poulter, whose 8-1 mark as a captain’s choice tells us a couple of things.

He can look like dog meat from January through August, but put a flag on his back and he turns into a superhero.

If there’s a bright side to the American cause this year, it’s that Tom Watson’s picks as the 1993 skipper remain the most productive since the U.S. adopted the procedure in 1989. Raymond Floyd and Lanny Wadkins went 5-2-1 at The Belfry, which happens to be the last time the Yanks won overseas.

It also remains the best example of why experience is such a valued commodity at an event defined by intense pressure – Floyd was 51 at the time, Wadkins 43. When Lanny leaned hard on the same premise two years later, however, Curtis Strange lost all three of his matches and came apart down the stretch, losing a pivotal point to Nick Faldo.

Faldo, incidentally, had been added to the Euro squad by Bernard Gallacher. Wadkins was roasted for picking Strange well before that fateful Sunday at Oak Hill, but of all the memories I retain during my 20-plus years covering pro golf, Strange’s take-it-like-a-man confessional afterward ranks among the more poignant.

“Losing like this doesn’t hurt as much as winning feels good,” was the line that stood out.

AS A FEW cynical writers pondered what shapes up as the weakest U.S. team ever at TPC Boston this past weekend, the notion struck me: this year’s squad is so inferior, it might even beat the Euros at Gleneagles. Azinger’s group in ’08 was the first American side that wasn’t favored to win on U.S. soil, and then battered the bewildered visitors.

“Tiger not being there did a couple of things,” Azinger says. “It allowed us to play the role of underdog – Faldo [the opposing captain] said it unnerved him a bit. It also really helped us at a place [Valhalla] where you can hear things going on all throughout the back nine.

“Momentum is invisible. It’s like the wind. You can’t see it, but it’s really powerful.”

The problem with this U.S. team is that it has to play in Scotland, where love from the galleries will be very difficult to decipher. That would seem to make the value of Ryder Cup experience even more precious, although Rickie Fowler played pretty well as a rookie (and captain’s pick) in Ireland four years ago.

Regardless, it leaves Watson a bit cornered when he announces his three captain’s picks Tuesday evening. The practice of adding “hot golfers” is vastly overrated – the matches are still a month away. When you consider that Watson chose a couple of grizzled warhorses 21 years ago and emerged with a victory, there’s no reason to believe he’ll abandon the philosophy this time.

THE PGA TOUR’S on-site travel agent was as busy as I’ve ever seen him during the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship. Those still alive in the FedEx Cup derby (and not rich enough to own a private jet) were looking to hustle out to Denver for the third installment of the playoff series, and the Monday finish at TPC Boston obviously shortened the amount of time between the events.

We’re also talking about a site (Cherry Hills) a lot of players have never seen, making a practice round and acclimation in general more vital than usual. Add distance between the cities and the mile-high thin air, and you’re left with one big question: Why didn’t the Tour schedule an off-week – or move the Deutsche Bank up to a conventional Sunday finish?

Maybe that’s two questions. “Poor planning by our government,” griped one pro who rarely complains, although Camp Ponte Vedra was left in a tough spot this month. It basically comes down to this – do you take the bye week now and leave no gap between the Tour Championship and the Ryder Cup, or do you finish the season Sept. 14 and give America’s team some time to catch their breath?

The PGA of America isn’t going to move their shindig into October just so the Tour can hurl millions at everyone still standing in Atlanta. Move the Tour Championship to the week after the Ryder Cup? Now there’s an idea, but hey, we can’t do that. We’ve gotta get the second edition of the wraparound season off and running!

Just another reason to …

Oh, never mind.

TWENTY MINUTES AFTER I filed last week’s column, news broke that Tiger Woods had dismissed Sean Foley as his swing coach. Timing, anyone? Journalistically, I felt a bit deprived, kind of like the guy whose wife won’t let him attend his buddy’s bachelor party because it’s raining outside.

So the headline is eight days old. Which, in most cases, means I wouldn’t bother, but some people have been waiting three years for Woods to fire Foley. Which means eight days is more like eight minutes.

Some thoughts:

Red Shirt doesn’t need someone standing next to him on the practice range persuading him to overdose on mechanics. The Big Guy Upstairs (Earl) is his swing coach. At the age of 2, Woods was hitting golf balls on national television. He was blessed with an abundance of natural ability nobody else on earth can comprehend. Just go play, dude. Think shot, not swing.

That said, perhaps Woods’ increased reliance on a coach has become a crutch – or a convenient source of blame for shortcomings brought on by age, injury, a lack of practice, or all of the above. When Tiger was at his best, Butch Harmon wasn’t nearly as omnipresent as was Foley, who seemed to be constantly videotaping Eldrick’s move. Since when does a player-coach relationship have to be a 24/7 thing?

Woods’ search for perfection has gotten him nowhere. His visual memory, however, is ridiculously powerful, his instinct and sensory command almost otherworldly. Translation? He’s a feel player. Again, just go play.

As he approaches his 39th birthday, Tiger needs to come to terms with reality. His body keeps breaking down, his performance affected to whatever degree, and at this stage of the game, he needs to dance with whom he brung. Which is a pretty damn good-looking woman, regardless of how unsuccessful the Foley regime was.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 21, 2018, 2:15 pm

Tiger Woods, in search of his 15th career major championship title, started the weekend six off the lead at Carnoustie. We're tracking him in Round 3 of The Open.

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Rose's Saturday 64 matches Carnoustie Open record

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 1:03 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Justin Rose needed to sink a 14-foot putt on the final hole Friday just to make the cut on the number at The Open.

Freewheeling when he came to the course Saturday, Rose tied the lowest score ever recorded in an Open at Carnoustie.

Entering the weekend nine shots off the lead, the world No. 3 carded a bogey-free, 7-under 64 to at least make things interesting. It won’t be known for several hours how many shots Rose will be behind, but his back-nine 30 gives him an opportunity, if the wind blows 25 mph Sunday as forecast, to challenge the leaders.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

After all, Paul Lawrie was 10 shots back entering the final round here in 1999.

“I think the birdie on 18 last night freed me up, and I’m just very happy to be out on this golf course and not down the road somewhere else this morning,” said Rose, who is at 4-under 209. “So that might have been part of the shift in mindset today. I had nothing to lose from that point of view.”

Rose’s 64 matched Steve Stricker and Richard Green’s record score at Carnoustie (2007).

It also was Rose’s career-low round in a major.

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 12:20 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Saturday, Day 3 (Times ET)

4:30-7AM (Watch): Sunny skies and birdies were on the menu early in Round 3, as Justin Rose made his way around Carnoustie in 64 strokes. Click here or on the image below to watch.

Friday, Day 2 (Times ET)

8:20AM-3PM (Watch): As the skies cleared on Friday afternoon, defending champion Jordan Spieth made a run to try and regain the claret jug. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

1:30-8:20AM (Watch): On a rainy Friday morning at Carnoustie, Rory McIlroy shot 69 to reach 4 under, while Zach Johnson fired a 67 for the early lead. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Brooks Koepka, Ian Poulter and Cameron Smith.

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 8:30 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)