Explanations or excuses? Phil walking fine line

By Randall MellSeptember 28, 2016, 10:07 pm

CHASKA, Minn. – Phil Mickelson keeps making the autopsy public, and there’s a danger in that.

There was an unpleasantness to exhuming the body of yet another failed American Ryder Cup captaincy the way Mickelson did Wednesday that makes people outside the European team uncomfortable. Mickelson carved up Hal Sutton’s captaincy as an example of why the American Ryder Cup culture is flawed. It’s a 12-year-old corpse.

As Mickelson seeks to justify the American mutiny at Gleneagles two years ago and the American Ryder Cup task force’s work, he threatens to alienate a segment of fandom. He threatens to go too far.

Where does the explanation end and the excuse-making begin?

How much are past captains to blame for the American woes and how much are players to blame?

Dragging Sutton back into this, Mickelson makes that the defining question this week.

Sutton was 0-1 as a captain. American teams are 2-8 with Mickelson on the roster.

Mickelson isn’t a playing captain at Hazeltine, but he might be the first playing spokesman in Ryder Cup history. It’s a big job trying to win and sell how it’s being won.

The Europeans know it, and you wonder how much they’re relishing watching Mickelson juggle the tasks.

“You don’t win Ryder Cups with your mouth,” Sergio Garcia said this week. “You win them out there on the golf course.”

Garcia wasn’t talking about Mickelson specifically, but this whole American Ryder Cup overhaul is the story that can’t be explained enough this week.

Twelve years removed from his controversial decision to pair world No. 1 Tiger Woods and No. 2 Mickelson at Oakland Hills, Sutton is back at the Ryder Cup. Sutton was so bitter about the blame he got for that loss at Oakland Hills, he went into a self-imposed exile for four years. Apparently, he has made his peace with his history, because he mingled with players in the American team room Tuesday night, joining former captains Ben Crenshaw, Curtis Strange, Lanny Wadkins and Corey Pavin.

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That’s what made Mickelson’s autopsy of Sutton’s captaincy awkward. He made Sutton an example of why the American system required change, of how captains in that antiquated system could put players in position to fail. Mickelson explained that Sutton set him up to fail telling him two days before the Tiger pairing that he was going to play with Woods and he was going to have to play Woods’ Nike ball.

“It forced me to stop my preparation for the tournament, and stop sharpening my game, and stop learning the golf course in an effort to [take a] crash course and learn a whole different golf ball,” Mickelson said. “Had we had time to prepare, I think we would have made it work.”

American captain Davis Love III was asked in his news conference Wednesday if Mickelson’s calling out Sutton again was appropriate. Love indicated Mickelson is in some ways playing defense.

“Unfortunately, some analysts just keep bringing it up over and over and over again, things that have happened in the past,” Love said. “Sometimes, you have to set the record straight.”

Mickelson’s effort to overhaul the American team construct is all about the nature of leadership. It’s something he’s passionate about, because he wants to win the Ryder Cup. It’s just that in defending the American overhaul he can come off as if he’s making the captains scapegoats for the American mess.

“It all starts with the captain,” Mickelson said. “That’s the guy that has to bring together 12 strong individuals and bring out their best and allow them on a platform to play their best. That's the whole foundation of the team.”

The essence of Mickelson’s message when he challenged Tom Watson’s leadership after the loss at Gleneagles two years ago is that the captain’s most important function is to put players in position to succeed.

“When players are put in positions to fail, most of the time they tend to fail,” Mickelson said.

The Americans have been trying so hard to create a team construct the Europeans make look so easy.

“What a massive pat on the back and confidence booster it is for Europe that Team USA needs to create a task force!” Lee Westwood tweeted when the task force was formed.

Mickelson has acknowledged the Americans are trying to create a model similar to what has worked so well for the Europeans, a model that is more “inclusive,” allowing players to have more “input,” and a model that creates more “continuity” from one American team to the next.

“We saw that Europe was a little bit more organized than us and a little bit more thinking long-term, and we decided to change our game plan,” Love said.

European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke is flattered the Americans are trying to model their team after Europe’s construct.

“I think the highest compliment that anybody can pay, is to try and maybe copy, or take a look at a few of the components that make up our success,” Clarke said. “The task force I look at as a huge compliment to the European Tour.”

Come Sunday, the American effort may be judged on whether another autopsy is needed and whether the players deserve the lion’s share of credit or blame.

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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.