10 Reasons Captain Hal Has America on Track

By Kraig KannSeptember 15, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 Ryder CupBLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Hes the right man for the job. I didnt have many doubts coming into this weeks Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills. Now, after sitting in on Suttons Tuesday news conference, I have absolutely none.
 
For the record, Sutton is a man of four previous Ryder Cups with a record of 7-5-4. This week, his line of thinking and his point of direction might lead to 12 men walking off the course come Sunday as winners. His sense of direction appears that strong.
 
Hal Sutton, he of 14 career wins and more than 15 million dollars in earnings, is a man of strong desire and a tremendous belief that winning comes from believing. And this week Sutton, for all his speeches and pep talks, is finding it within himself to leave his troops to themselves in search of their own self-motivation. In other words, keep em guessing but keep em focused. And at all times, keep a belief in the plan.
 
Example #1: Bernhard Langer chose to present his players with Rolex watches as gifts before the matches begin. Suttons response ' He put a lot of pressure right off the bat, didnt he? Yes, we bought gifts, but Im not going to give it to the players until a little later on in the week. I want it to be a surprise.

Example #2: Suttons team dinner on Monday night upon arriving at Oakland Hills was a held at a restaurant chosen by Suttons wife Ashley. The special guest ' Michael Jordan. Jordan was called in for a quick speech and a lengthy appearance. The NBA legend has a fond affection for golf and a good deal of experience in handling pressure at its highest level. As Sutton told it, Jordans zest for the Ryder Cup and the American Ryder Cup team made him the prefect man to make each and every player feel special about just being a part of it.
 
Example #3: Langer actually had masseuses on board the European team flight to Detroit in an effort to get his team relaxed. When asked about how he will try to keep his team loose with such lofty expectations and a recent record in International team competition that isnt exactly glittering, Sutton responded, Not through masseuses. I think weve got a comedian coming in a little bit later or a trickster of something like that.
 
Example #4: Sutton shot back at a perception that the Americans havent displayed a strong sign of nationalism, patriotism or whatever it takes. And when asked if he was summoning things to convince his team that it has to care as much as the Europeans, Sutton simply turned around in his chair and pointed to the back of his powder blue shirt. Do you see whats on my back? Sutton asked. Yall see that flag? Anything I can summon up, thats what were going to do.
 
Hal Sutton gets it. Period. Thats not to say that Lanny Wadkins didnt. Or that Tom Kite wasnt a good leader, or that Curtis Strange wasnt passionate enough, or that Ben Crenshaw, despite winning, wasnt just perfect.
 
I just see something different in Sutton. And I have from the get-go. He seems to push all the right buttons and SAY all the right things.
 
Example #5: When asked about possible stylistic differences between the Americans and Europeans, Sutton fired off one of his best lines of the day. Theres always that perception that the Americans play the ball in the air and the Europeans play it on the ground, Sutton said. I think, as a matter of fact, if you go out there, (Tuesdays practice round) they dont have any trouble getting it in the air.
 
For all his quick-witted thinking and quips made in media news conferences, Sutton has made it clear that this is HIS team, and it will be left up to him and ultimately only him as to how to send it on its way.
 
Example #6: When asked about possible pairings for Fridays morning fourball matches, Sutton didnt tip his hand. In fact, hes told his team the same thing hes told the media. Hell let them know sometime around the noon hour. I told them last night that I wasnt going to set the pairings for the practice rounds. Dont read anything into anybody youre playing with. Be prepared to beat the other two guys by yourself and if I give you a little help, then thats a bonus.
 
Suttons two assistant captains Steve Jones (winner of the U.S. Open in 1996 at Oakland Hills) and Jackie Burke (7-1-0 in five Ryder Cup appearances in the 1950s) have been tossing around ideas about certain things. Some have been received well. Others as Sutton put it are not negotiable. And Sutton is a man who wants no confusion about where he stands on his decision making.
 
Example #7: Sutton in response to questions about how hes handling his own expectations thus far went like this: Probably yall are not going to write one article at the end of this week that said Jackie Burke made some decision that cost the American team from winning, or youre not going to say the same thing about Steve Jones, BUT, that is a possibility where Hal Sutton is concerned. So, I will be decisive and assertive with what I think is in the best interests of the team.
 
And you know what? The players like that from a Captainat least this captain.
 
Example #8: Jim Furyk was asked about Suttons tactics thus far. Hes a guy I played along side of, Furyk said. Hes got a lot of spirit.

He has a formula for what he wants to do. Not all of it (pairings) has been conveyed yet. Were getting bits and pieces every day. And hes letting us be individuals as well as being part of a team.
 
Hal Sutton has made things perfectly clear about preparation. Do it on their own. Do what they do. They know how to do it. Sutton said that if a player knows who his partner might be he might start worrying about his partners game instead of their own.
 
And as for Tiger Woodsleave no doubt about his form coming in and what impact that might have on his role on this team. And if this quote wont get Tiger to jump in step, then what will?
 
Example #9: Sutton on Woods. I dont think hes in any sort of slump right now. I mean, I aspire to be in his slumps!
 
So, no, no dont be worried about Tiger Woods. If thats your only worry, you have no worries.
 
I think yall might see some of Tigers greatest golf this week, so buckle your chin straps.

One final message was sent Tuesday by Sutton. He was baited by a European journalist on the topic of ambition on both sides of the
Atlantic leading to emotions that have spilled over that some felt were not in the spirit of golf. Brookline specifically was mentioned, and Sutton fired one last parting shot.
 
Example #10: Sutton to the journalist. Look, yall have been kind of like a bad marriage partner. Weve apologized for five years for what happened in 1999. So yall need to forget about that. If we had it to do over again, we would not have run out on the green. But the truth of the matter is, were going to be ourselves. So we are going out there and were going to be ourselves. No more apologies or anything else.
 
And thats how Suttons news conference ended. And for me, thats all I needed to hear. Hal Suttons team might not win back the Ryder Cup this week. But Sutton is proving to be a winner of a Captain already. At least thats how I see it.
 
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  • Love him or not, Miller's authentic style stood out

    By Doug FergusonOctober 16, 2018, 10:11 pm

    The comment was vintage Johnny Miller, raw enough to cause most television producers to wince.

    Miller was in the NBC Sports booth at Doral in 2004 when he watched Craig Parry hit another beautiful shot to the green. Miller said what he saw. That was his job.

    He just didn't say it like other golf analysts.

    ''The last time you see that swing is in a pro-am with a guy who's about a 15-handicap,'' Miller said. ''It's just over the top, cups it at the bottom and hits it unbelievably good. It doesn't look ... if Ben Hogan saw that, he'd puke.''

    Parry got the last word, of course, holing out a 6-iron from 176 yards in a playoff to win.

    Except that wasn't the last word.

    ''I was in Ponte Vedra going back to the Honda Classic, and my phone is blowing up,'' said Tommy Roy, the longtime golf producer at NBC. ''It started percolating down in Australia, and you had radio stations demanding Johnny Miller be fired.''

    Miller could make golf more fun to hear than to watch.

    ''He doesn't have a filter. That's why he's so good,'' Roy said. ''What he's thinking comes out. And 99.5 percent of the time, that was a great thing for viewers, and for me. And 0.5 percent of the time, it was a problem for our PR department and for me.

    ''And it was worth it.''

    Roy was in Wisconsin on Monday night for his first look at Whistling Straits for the 2020 Ryder Cup. It will be the first Ryder Cup since 1989 that doesn't have Miller in the booth weighing in on good shots and bad with thoughts that immediately become words.

    He often entertained. He occasionally irritated. He was rarely dull.

    Miller is retiring after three decades calling the shots for NBC. His last tournament will be the Phoenix Open, the perfect exit for a Hall of Fame player once known as the ''Desert Fox'' for winning six times in Arizona. Miller was so good for so long that it was easy for younger generations to forget about that other career he had.


    Miller to retire from broadcast booth in 2019

    Best of: Photos of Miller through the years


    And to think that was nearly his only career in golf.

    Miller said he wasn't interested when NBC first approached him, but then his wife stepped in and told him it would be nice to have a steady paycheck. Even then, it took time for him to realize his audience was in the living room, not the locker room.

    He made his debut at the Bob Hope Classic in 1990 and it didn't take long for him to leave his mark. Peter Jacobsen faced an awkward lie to the 18th green with water to the left.

    ''The easiest shot to choke on,'' Miller said.

    People thought about choking. Miller said it because that's what he was thinking.

    ''What came into his brain came out of his mouth,'' said Mike McCarley, president of golf for NBC Sports. ''He was the first to really talk about the pressure. It's the most important element of the game, especially in those really big moments. He was doing it at a time when others weren't.''

    It wasn't just the word ''choke.''

    Phil Mickelson was getting up-and-down from everywhere at the 2010 Ryder Cup when Miller suggested that if Lefty weren't such a good putter he'd be selling cars in San Diego. Justin Leonard and Hal Sutton were losing a fourballs match at the 1999 Ryder Cup when Miller blurted out, ''My hunch is that Justin needs to go home and watch it on television.''

    During the 2008 U.S. Open playoff at Torrey Pines that Tiger Woods won in 19 holes over Rocco Mediate, Miller suggested that guys named ''Rocco'' don't get their name on the trophy, and that Mediate looked like ''the guy who cleans Tiger's swimming pool.''

    It wasn't all bad.

    Roy, who also has produced NBA Finals and Olympics, said he wants analysts who first-guess, not second-guess. The latter is for talk radio. First-guessing means sharing instincts, and Miller had plenty of them.

    Woods was playing the final hole at Newport in the 1995 U.S. Amateur when Miller said, ''It wouldn't surprise me if he knocked this thing a foot from the hole.''

    And that's just what Woods did.

    McCarley remembers how retired NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol used to worry whenever Miller called because he thought it was about retirement. McCarley soon inherited that feeling.

    ''Every time I'd see Johnny's number pop up on my cellphone, my heart would skip a beat,'' McCarley said. ''Two years ago, he made that call I had been dreading.''

    McCarley kept him working a slightly reduced schedule, but no longer. Miller is 71 and has been on the road for 50 years. His 24th grandchild was born on Sunday. He wants to teach them fly fishing in Utah, perhaps even a little golf.

    Miller wasn't sure he would last a week when he started. He never imagined going nearly 30 years.

    He leaves behind a style all his own.

    Most loved it. Some didn't. But everyone listened, and that might be his legacy in the broadcast booth. Roy said what he has heard from viewers he knows is that 70 percent really like Miller, and 30 percent really don't.

    ''But they all have an opinion,'' he said.

    Getty Images

    CJ Cup: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

    By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 16, 2018, 9:20 pm

    The PGA Tour returns to South Korea this week for the second edition of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges. Here is the key information for the no-cut event, where Justin Thomas is defending champion.

    Golf course: Located on Jeju Island, the largest island off the coast of the Korean Peninsula, The Club at Nine Bridges opened in 2001 and was designed by Ronald Fream and David Dale. The par-72 layout (36-36) will measure 7,184 yards for this week's event, 12 yards shorter than last year.

    Purse: The total purse is $9.5 million with the winner receiving $1.71 million. In addition, the winner will receive 500 FedExCup points, a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour, and invitations to the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions, Players, Masters, and PGA Championship.

    Last year: Thomas defeated Marc Leishman with a birdie on the second playoff hole to earn his seventh career PGA Tour win.

    TV schedule (all times Eastern): Golf Channel, Wednesday-Saturday, 10 p.m.-2 a.m.

    Live streamingWednesday-Saturday, 10 p.m.-2 a.m. 

    Notable tee times (all times Eastern): 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, 8:15 p.m. Thursday: Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Sungjae Im; 8:15 p.m. Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. Thursday: Marc Leishman, Si Woo Kim, Ernie Els; 8:25 p.m. Wednesday, 7:15 p.m. Thursday: Jason Day, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama

    Notables in the field: Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Ernie Els, Jason Day, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell and last week's winner Marc Leishman.

    Key stats:

     This is the third of 46 official events of the season and the second of three consecutive weeks of events in Asia

    • 78-player field including the top 60 available from the final 2017-2018 FedExCup points list

    The field also includes 12 major champions and two of the top five in the Official World Golf Ranking (highest ranked are No. 3 Koepka and No. 4 Thomas)

    Thomas and Koepka both have a shot to ascend to No. 1 in the OWGR this week - they will play their first two rounds grouped together

    Stats and information provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit

    Getty Images

    Els eyeing potential Prez Cup players at CJ Cup

    By Will GrayOctober 16, 2018, 6:55 pm

    Ernie Els is teeing it up this week in South Korea as a player, but he's also retaining the perspective of a captain.

    While the 2019 Presidents Cup in Australia is still more than a year away, Els has already begun the process of keeping tabs on potential players who could factor on his International squad that will face an American contingent captained by Tiger Woods. Els played in last week's CIMB Classic in Malaysia, and this week received one of eight sponsor exemptions into the limited-field CJ Cup on Jeju Island.

    Els played a Tuesday practice round with Presidents Cup veteran and Branden Grace and India's Shubankhar Sharma, who held a share of the 54-hole lead last week in Malaysia.

    "It's going to be a very diverse team the way things are shaping up already," Els told reporters. "We've got another year to go, so we're going to have an interesting new group of players that's going to probably make the team."

    In addition to keeping tabs on Grace and Sharma, Els will play the first two rounds with Australia's Marc Leishman and South Korea's Si Woo Kim. Then there's Sungjae Im, a native of Jeju Island who led the Web.com Tour money list wire-to-wire last season.

    "There's so many Korean youngsters here this week, so I'm going to really see how they perform," Els said. "Still a long way to go, but these guys, the young guys are going to be really the core of our team."

    Els, who will turn 49 on Wednesday, made only five cuts in 15 PGA Tour starts last season, with his best result a T-30 finish at the Valero Texas Open. While it's increasingly likely that his unexpected triumph at the 2012 Open will end up being his final worldwide victory, he's eager to tackle a new challenge in the coming months by putting together the squad that he hopes can end the International losing skid in the biennial matches.

    "The U.S. team is a well-oiled team. They play Ryder Cups together, they obviously play very well in the Presidents Cups against us, so they're a very mature team," Els said. "We are going to be a young team, inexperienced. But that doesn't scare me because I know the course very well down in Melbourne, I've played it many, many times. I feel I have a very good game plan to play the golf course strategy-wise and I'm going to share that with my players."

    Getty Images

    CIMB champ Leishman hopes to improve on CJ runner-up

    By Will GrayOctober 16, 2018, 6:29 pm

    Marc Leishman is back in Korea with momentum on his side, hoping to fare a little better than a year ago.

    Leishman nearly took home the trophy in the inaugural CJ Cup, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force a playoff with Justin Thomas. But the Aussie put his approach into the water on the second extra hole, allowing Thomas to wrap up the win a few minutes later.

    "Excited to be back in Korea. I have a lot of good memories here at this golf course," Leishman told reporters. "Hopefully I can play well again and go one better than last year."

    Leishman's playoff loss kick-started a strong opening stretch to his wraparound season, but he closed it without a victory. That drought ended in emphatic fashion last week, as he cruised to a five-shot win at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia for his fourth career PGA Tour win and his third since March 2017.


    CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


    Leishman told reporters last week in Malaysia that before the week started, his driving was so crooked that he feared his equipment reps might need to add a few golf balls to his locker. Instead, he found his groove en route to shooting 26 under par at TPC Kuala Lumpur and leaving the field in his wake.

    "Golf's a funny game. It can change very quickly from bad to good or from good to bad," Leishman said. "It was certainly a goal of mine to win this season, and to win my first event of the season is great. Also to be going back to Maui puts me in a different frame of mind for the whole year. For a lot of reasons, I'm really happy with what last week brought."

    Leishman played on the Korean PGA Tour in 2006 while getting his pro career off the ground, but even with that experience he expects a learning curve while going from the steamy conditions of Malaysia to the cool and wet climate that has greeted players this week on Jeju Island.

    "It's a big adjustment going from so hot and humid last week to fairly cold and hopefully not wet, but it was wet this morning," Leishman said. "The ball goes different distances, your body's not quite as loose as what it is when it's hot. Just little things like that that you have to adjust to."