The Game of Risk

By Randall MellSeptember 7, 2010, 10:25 pm
LEMONT, Ill. – Rickie Fowler is a gamble.

He’s as much a captain's risk as he is a captain's pick.

There’s no way around it.

He’s a PGA Tour rookie who has never won a professional event.
Rickie Fowler
Rickie Fowler is the first U.S. captain's pick never to have won a PGA Tour event. (Getty Images)
You can be sure European fans are well aware that no American’s ever taken that resume to the first tee of the Ryder Cup in what is billed as golf’s most intense event.

That makes Fowler the boldest American captain’s pick in the history of the matches.

He seems destined to meet one of two spectacular extremes Oct. 1-3 at Celtic Manor in Wales. He seems destined to blossom or melt down.

A rookie on that stage? Is there any middle ground when you make your debut in the seventh game of the World Series? Because that’s what the Ryder Cup is like. It isn’t anything like golf’s major championships, where confidence and pressure build to a Sunday back-nine rush. The Ryder Cup is searing heat before the first shot is hit. It’s about winning and losing from the first hole. It’s about triumph and failure every hole. It’s about a player feeling as if he is lifting his team and country with every shot ... or letting them down. It's the kind of pressure that made American Mark Calcavecchia weep after he melted down and began hyperventilating at Kiawah Island in 1991.

“People tell you that you will be as nervous as you have ever been on the first tee of the Ryder Cup, and you say, `Nah.’ ... but you are that nervous,” American J.B. Holmes said of his Ryder Cup debut two years ago at Valhalla.

And that was a home game for Holmes.

The nature of the Ryder Cup stage is what makes Fowler a glorious gamble and a wondrous risk.

So is the fact that so many of his American teammates don’t see his selection as a particularly large gamble or risk at all.

American Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin polled his eight automatic qualifiers before he made his captain’s picks. He wanted to know who they liked. He even polled his first three captain’s picks, asking Tiger Woods, Zach Johnson and Stewart Cink who they liked before he named Fowler. Pavin wouldn’t have chosen Fowler if there were reservations within his newly formed team.

“I’m not surprised Rickie was a captain’s pick,” said Matt Kuchar, one of eight Americans who made the team on points. “I think he was a consensus pick. I think we all see Rickie as a guy who isn’t afraid of anything, as a 20-year-old with a whole lot of talent who’s got a bit of a swagger and plays with the feeling he’s bulletproof.”

Johnson also pointed to Fowler’s attitude when asked what he liked about the selection.

“His youth, the way he goes about his business, could be a good thing for the team,” Johnson said.

Fowler’s confidence and passion figure to collide dramatically with all that Ryder Cup history and pressure. It’s what makes Fowler the most compelling American storyline going into this Ryder Cup, more compelling than how Woods will fare.

Is Fowler being pushed out onto the this stage too early? Or is he just what this American team needs? Pavin had to be asking himself those questions before pulling the trigger on the former All-American from Oklahoma State.

Fowler was the blinding flash and spark Tuesday in the otherwise sedate unveiling of Pavin’s four picks.

Pavin didn’t take the safe path selecting Fowler in an announcement fittingly made at the New York Stock Exchange. Pavin made a giant investment in the future of American golf. He went all in on his belief Fowler will return a giant dividend as a can’t-miss blue-chip stock.

On a day when Woods was made a captain’s pick for the first time, Fowler practically upstaged that news. Fowler was all the buzz on the driving range at the BMW Championship.

You could hear the excitement Fowler generated in Sean Foley’s voice in the parking lot behind the practice range at Cog Hill. You could hear it after Foley hopped out of a car and spotted young European sensation Rory McIlroy.

Foley, who knows something about being a hot topic as Woods’ new swing coach, slapped McIlroy in a hearty embrace and immediately asked him what he suspects McIlroy will be asked a lot of over the next three weeks.  

“Are we going to see Rickie take on Rory in the Ryder Cup?” Foley asked McIlroy. “I think everyone wants to know that.”

In other words, are we going to see the future of American golf take on the future of European golf?

You can argue McIlroy’s time has already arrived with his breakthrough on American soil in his victory at Quail Hollow this year and his European Tour breakthrough victory a year ago.

Fowler, who’s shown spectacular potential, has yet to prove he’s a winner at all in the professional ranks. In 30 PGA Tour starts, though, he’s finished among the top-10 nearly a quarter of the time, with three second-place finishes, one of those in a sudden-death playoff loss.

Still, Fowler’s vast potential trumps his record in this selection.

McIlroy huddled with Fowler Tuesday afternoon near the equipment trucks behind the practice range at Cog Hill. McIlroy knows Fowler’s passion for national team events. Fowler was 4-0 helping the Americans beat Great Britian/Ireland in the Walker Cup matches last year. He’s 7-1 overall in Walker Cup play. Three years ago, Fowler teamed with Billy Horschel to defeat McIlroy and Jonny Caldwell, 2 and 1, in an alternate-shot match in Northern Ireland.

“Rickie’s a really good competitor,” McIlroy said. “He’s really good under pressure. He holes a lot of putts, and he isn’t a guy who is going to let down. He just keeps going. That’s a very good thing in the Ryder Cup.”

Zach Johnson got a close-up look at Fowler’s game under pressure at the British Open at St. Andrews this year. They were paired together in the third round. Fowler shot 71 to Johnson’s 74.

“You hear all the hype, but you never know until you see the player in person,” said Damon Green, Johnson’s caddie. “I watched Rickie, and my reaction was, 'Wow.’ He played fearlessly. I think he was bogey free that day. He drove the ball really well, just a very solid player, very impressive. I could see why there was so much hype.”

If Fowler doesn’t win the BMW Championship this week or the Tour Championship in two weeks, his most important victories as a pro will come at the Ryder Cup in three weeks. Perhaps his most devastating losses, too.

That’s what makes him such a compelling gamble and risk.
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Wie has hand surgery, out for rest of 2018

By Randall MellOctober 18, 2018, 9:43 pm

Michelle Wie will miss the rest of this season after undergoing surgery Thursday to fix injuries that have plagued her right hand in the second half of this year.

Wie announced in an Instagram post that three ailments have been causing the pain in her hand: an avulsion fracture, bone spurs and nerve entrapment.

An avulsion fracture is an injury to the bone where it attaches to a ligament or tendon.

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I think John Mayer once said, “Someday, everything will make perfect sense. So for now, laugh at the confusion, smile through the tears, be strong and keep reminding yourself that everything happens for a reason.” A lot of people have been asking me what’s been going on with my hand and I haven’t shared much, because I wasn’t sure what was going on myself. After countless MRI’s, X-rays, CT scans, and doctor consultations, I was diagnosed with having a small Avulsion Fracture, bone spurring, and nerve entrapment in my right hand. After 3 cortisone injections and some rest following the British Open, we were hoping it was going to be enough to grind through the rest of the season, but it just wasn’t enough to get me through. So I made the decision after Hana Bank to withdraw from the rest of the season, come back to the states, and get surgery to fix these issues. It’s been disheartening dealing with pain in my hand all year but hopefully I am finally on the path to being and STAYING pain free! Happy to announce that surgery was a success today and I cannot wait to start my rehab so that I can come back stronger and healthier than ever. Huge thank you to Dr. Weiland’s team at HSS for taking great care of me throughout this process and to all my fans for your unwavering support. It truly means the world to me. I’ll be back soon guys!!!! Promise

A post shared by Michelle Wie (@themichellewie) on

Dr. Andrew Weiland, an attending orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed the procedure.

“It’s been disheartening dealing with pain in my hand all year, but, hopefully, I am finally on the path to being and staying pain free,” Wie wrote.

Wie withdrew during the first round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open with the hand injury on Aug. 2 and didn’t play again until teeing it up at the UL International Crown two weeks ago and the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week. She played those events with what she hoped was a new “pain-free swing,” one modeled after Steve Stricker, with more passive hands and wrists. She went 1-3 at the UL Crown and tied for 59th in the limited field Hana Bank.

“After 3 cortisone injections and some rest following the British Open, we were hoping it was going to be enough to grind through the rest of the season, but it just wasn’t enough to get me through,” she wrote.

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Wie, who just turned 29 last week, started the year saying her top goal was to try to stay injury free. She won the HSBC Women’s World Championship in March, but her goal seemed doomed with a diagnosis of arthritis in both wrists before the year even started.

Over the last few years, Wie has dealt with neck, back, hip, knee and ankle injuries. Plus, there was an emergency appendectomy that knocked her out of action for more than a month late last season. Her wrists have been an issue going back to early in her career.

“I don’t think there is one joint or bone in her body that hasn’t had some sort of injury or issue,” Wie’s long-time swing coach, David Leadbetter, said earlier this year.

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Woods receives his Tour Championship trophy

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 8:57 pm

We all know the feeling of giddily anticipating something in the mail. But it's doubtful that any of us ever received anything as cool as what recently showed up at Tiger Woods' Florida digs.

This was Woods' prize for winning the Tour Championship. It's a replica of "Calamity Jane," Bobby Jones' famous putter. Do we even need to point out that the Tour Championship is played at East Lake, the Atlanta course where Jones was introduced to the game.

Woods broke a victory drought of more than five years by winning the Tour Championhip. It was his 80th PGA Tour win, leaving him just two shy of Sam Snead's all-time record.

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Garcia 2 back in storm-halted Andalucia Masters

By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 7:08 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Ashley Chesters was leading on 5-under 66 at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters when play was suspended because of darkness with 60 golfers yet to complete their weather-hit first rounds on Thursday.

More than four hours was lost as play was twice suspended because of stormy conditions and the threat of lightning at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

English journeyman Chesters collected six birdies and one bogey to take a one-shot lead over Gregory Bourdy of France. Tournament host and defending champion Sergio Garcia was on 68 along with fellow Spaniards Alvaro Quiros and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, and Australia's Jason Scrivener.

''It's a shame I can't keep going because the last few holes were the best I played all day. Considering all the delays and everything, I'm very happy with 5 under,'' Chesters said. ''The forecast for the rest of the week is not very good either so I thought I'll just make as many birdies as I can and get in.''

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Caddies drop lawsuit; Tour increases healthcare stipend

By Rex HoggardOctober 18, 2018, 3:33 pm

After nearly four years of litigation, a group of PGA Tour caddies have dropped their lawsuit against the circuit.

The lawsuit, which was filed in California in early 2015, centered on the bibs caddies wear during tournaments and ongoing attempts by the caddies to improve their healthcare and retirement options.

The caddies lost their class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court and an appeal this year.

Separately, the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, which was not involved in the lawsuit but represents the caddies to the Tour, began negotiating with the circuit last year.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the APTC.

In January 2017, Jay Monahan took over as commissioner of the Tour and began working with the APTC to find a solution to the healthcare issue. Sajtinac said the Tour has agreed to increase the stipend it gives caddies for healthcare beginning next year.

“It took a year and a half, but it turned out to be a good result,” Sajtinac said. “Our goal is to close that window for the guys because healthcare is such a massive chunk of our income.”

In a statement released by the Tour, officials pointed out the lawsuit and the “potential increase to the longtime caddie healthcare subsidy” are two separate issues.

“Although these two items have been reported together, they are not connected. The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

Caddies have received a stipend from the Tour for healthcare for some time, and although Sajtinac wouldn’t give the exact increase, he said it was over 300 percent. Along with the APTC’s ability to now negotiate healthcare plans as a group, the new stipend should dramatically reduce healthcare costs for caddies.

“It’s been really good,” said Sajtinac, who did add that there are currently no talks with the Tour to created a retirement program for caddies. “Everybody is really excited about this.”