McGinley's plan pays dividends for Europe

By Randall MellSeptember 28, 2014, 9:06 pm

GLENEAGLES, Scotland – Europe’s Thomas Bjorn didn’t notice the chill of the autopsy room with the corpse no longer there.

Bjorn didn’t notice as he galloped through the doors with Jamie Donaldson perched on his back, with Donaldson giggling and whipping him like a racehorse. He didn’t notice with Lee Westwood popping a champagne bottle and all his teammates parading in behind him, their respective national flags wrapped around their necks like scarves.

The Europeans marched into the Gleneagles media room after Sunday’s 16½ to 11½ victory unaware that the cold, dead form of the U.S. Ryder Cup effort had just been carved open there in a most gruesome dissection of what was wrong with the American team.

They didn’t know their sixth thumping of the United States in their last seven tries had led Tom Watson’s captaincy to be carved up in front of the world’s media in that very room just minutes before. They didn’t know until European captain Paul McGinley was asked in the news conference if he could explain why he got it right and Watson got it wrong.

In fact, McGinley was told that he got his plan so right that it inspired “an extraordinary attack” on Watson by his own team in the very seats the Euros were now sitting upon.

The media watching the Euros parade in were witness to Phil Mickelson’s recitation of what was right with the ’08 U.S. team that won in Valhalla, with Mickelson’s answer not so subtly exposing what he felt was wrong with the American team under Watson’s leadership.

There was no other way to interpret Mickelson explaining how U.S. captain Paul Azinger got everyone “invested” in his plan that week and “invested” in each other, and how the United States needed to “get back to that formula” because “nobody was in on any decision” this week.

Welcome to the post-mortem, Capt. McGinley.

“I’m sorry to hear that, if that’s the case,” McGinley said. “I have huge respect for Tom Watson.”

McGinley has made no secret that Watson was his boyhood hero, and that’s what made McGinley’s leadership style so powerfully poignant this week.

McGinley’s career as a player paled in comparison to Watson’s, with Watson winning twice as many majors (8) as McGinley won European Tour titles (4). Yet McGinley proved twice the captain Watson was this week in so many people’s eyes. Without any malice intended, McGinley’s style stood in such stark contrast to Watson’s. McGinley inadvertently exposed Watson’s shortcomings in the minds of Mickelson and others.

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In other words, McGinley was everything Watson wasn’t this week, with the final score dictating that final assessment.

Watson, 65, was old school, more Vince Lombardi than Norman Vincent Peale.

McGinley was, well, let Sergio Garcia explain the conversation he had with Bjorn this week: “Thomas was mentioning that he strongly feels that Paul is the new wave of captains. A lot more modern, every detail, it was right there. He thought of everything this week. It was amazing.”

Garcia, Bjorn, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Justin Rose, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and all the European players took turns raving about McGinley and how he created this architectural construct for winning, an atmosphere of trust that the Euros call their “template.”

“I couldn’t criticize his captaincy at any point this week,” Westwood said.

If the Americans want a meticulous, comprehensive new American Ryder Cup plan, the PGA of America might want to start by creating a covert operations division. They might want to start by slipping a deep cover operative into Ireland to steal McGinley’s black book. It’s a compilation of notes he has kept as a player on three Ryder Cup teams, as a vice captain on two Ryder Cup teams and as a captain on two Seve Trophy teams.

“Paul McGinley has been absolutely immense this week,” McIlroy said. “He has left no stone unturned. He's just been fantastic. Everything’s been tied in, from speeches that he's made, to the people that he got in to talk to us, to the imagery in our team room.”

The Euros praised McGinley not just for his plan, but his ability to communicate it to them, to connect them all to his vision, or as McGinley keeps calling it, the “template” that makes the European Ryder Cup effort work.

How did he “invest” players in his plan?

McGinley knew very little about Frenchman Victor Dubuisson when the Frenchman cracked into the European Ryder Cup picture late last year. With Dubuisson’s reputation as enigmatic, a bit of a mystery, McGinley flew to the Eurasia Cup in March specifically to get to know him.

Once they connected, once he got a feel for Dubuisson’s personality, McGinley went to work on McDowell, because he believed McDowell would be the perfect Ryder Cup guide for the French rookie.

He shared that plan with McDowell, and the pair went 2-0 together this week.

McGinley knew Jamie Donaldson. He captained him at the Seve Trophy, and he believed Lee Westwood would be the perfect guide for the English rookie. They were 2-1 this week.

McGinley teamed Ian Poulter with Scottish rookie Stephen Gallacher this week. That pairing didn’t work, with the duo getting crushed, but McGinley let his players know he was always working contingencies, always thinking about next steps.

“You have a skeleton plan,” McGinley said earlier in the week. “Nothing is written in stone. You don't ever write things in stone, and you have to react, and if you're not able to react, you've got a problem. As captain, I've been planning all week long. This is why you don't see a lot of me on the golf course. I'm plotting our next move.”

McGinley always seemed to be one step ahead of Watson.

There were also McGinley’s messages, themes built to address challenges he anticipated the Europeans facing. He shared those with players on their journey to Gleneagles and reinforced them with inspirational slogans and pictures tied to his themes.

“Everything I've been doing this week as captain has been working towards three or four key messages,” McGinley said on Saturday. “I’ll share that more on Sunday when we’re all done.”

McGinley knew Watson was selling the Americans on storming Gleneagles for redemption.

So, McGinley sold the Europeans on the virtue of being a rock, and then he followed that up posting an inspirational photograph just outside the team room, an image of rock being pounded in a storm on some European shoreline.

“We will be the rock when the storm arrives,” was the inscription on the poster.

Those themes didn’t fall on deaf ears. When asked Sunday night if he was ready to reveal what specific messages he was feeding his team all week, he asked the players to reveal them. As if on cue, they began shouting them out.

“Be the rock,” Rose said.

“Complacency,” McIlroy said.

“Wave after wave,” McDowell said.

“Concentration,” McIlroy said.

“Attitude,” they all shouted.

When McGinley invited Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United soccer legend, to speak to his team this week, he didn’t do it randomly. He shaped the message with Ferguson. He shaped it with the themes he was building upon.

McGinley didn’t just invest his players in his plan. He invested his vice captains and caddies.

“He has been so methodical,” Garcia said. “Every single aspect that he needed to touch on, he did.”

It’s a winning template even the American players sounded willing to buy into, something more on the lines of what Azinger brought than what Watson did.

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Dunlap, in 'excruciating pain,' shares early Dominion lead

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:29 pm

RICHMOND, Va. – Scott Dunlap and Fran Quinn shot 5-under 67 on Friday to share the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Fighting a left wrist injury that will require surgery, Dunlap matched Quinn with a closing birdie on the par-5 18th on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''Maybe excruciating pain is the key to playing good golf because I'm not getting nervous on a shot, you're just trying to get through it,'' Dunlap said. ''The worst parts are gripping it and getting the club started ... that's when that bone hits that bone.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

The 55-year-old Dunlap entered the week 29th in the standings. Playing through the wrist injury, he's coming off ties for ninth and seventh in his last two starts.

''I think I finally taped it the right way,'' Dunlap said. ''Or maybe it's the pain meds kicking in. I don't know, one of the two.''

Quinn is 64th in the standings.

''I finished up strong last year, too, kind of secured my privileges for the following year making eagle on 18,'' Quinn said. ''I played solid all day. I had a lot of opportunities. A couple hiccups.''

Jay Haas was a stroke back with Kent Jones, Stephen Ames, Woody Austin and Tim Petrovic. The 64-year-old Haas won the last of his 18 senior titles in 2016.

Vijay Singh and Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, were at 69 with Joey Sindelar, Tom Gillis, Billy MayfairLee Janzen, Glen Day and Gene Sauers.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer opened with a 70. The 61-year-old German star won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the points lead. He has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

Defending Charles Schwab Cup champion Kevin Sutherland had a 71. He's 14th in the standings. No. 3 Jerry Kelly shot 72. No. 4 Scott McCarron, the 2016 tournament winner, had a 74.

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Weather continues to plague Valderrama Masters

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 7:55 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Marc Warren helped his chances of retaining his European Tour card by moving into a tie for second place behind Englishman Ashley Chesters at the rain-hit Andalucia Valderrama Masters on Friday.

Bad weather interrupted play for a second straight day at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain before darkness caused the second round to be suspended until Saturday, with overnight Chesters still ahead at 5-under.

Weather delays on Thursday, including a threat of lightning, had kept 60 golfers from finishing their opening round. They included Scottish player Warren, who went out on Friday and finished his first round with a 2-under 69.

He then made three birdies to go with one bogey on the first nine holes of the second round before play was halted. He joined Frenchman Gregory Bourdy one shot behind Chesters.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

''I'm hitting the ball as well as I have in a long time,'' Warren said. ''Hitting fairways and greens is the most important thing around here, so hopefully I wake up tomorrow with the same swing.''

Chesters and Bourdy were among several golfers unable to play a single hole in the second round on Friday.

Warren, a three-time European Tour winner, has struggled this season and needs a strong performance to keep his playing privileges for next year.

Currently ranked 144th, Warren needs to break into the top 116 to keep his card.

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Watch: Is this the up-and-down of the year?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 3:30 pm

Play away from the pin? Just because there's a tree in your way? Not Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Watch him channel some Arnie (or, more appropriately, some Seve) with this shot in the Valderrama Masters:

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Cut Line: Johnny's exit, Tiger's fatigue

By Rex HoggardOctober 19, 2018, 2:06 pm

In this week’s edition we bid farewell to the most outspoken and insightful analyst of his generation and examine a curious new interpretation that will require players to start paying attention to the small print.

Made Cut

Here’s Johnny. After nearly three decades Johnny Miller will hang up his microphone following next year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Miller called his first tournament as NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst in 1990 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and he told Cut Line this week that at 71 years old he’s ready to relax and spend time with his 24 grandchildren.

“I was the first guy with an open microphone,” Miller said. “That requires a lot of concentration. It’s not that I couldn’t do it but the handwriting was on the wall; it would be more of a challenge.”

Miller will be missed for his insight as much as his often-blunt deliveries, but it’s the latter that made him one of a kind.

A long ride to the right place. After nearly four years of legal wrangling a group of PGA Tour caddies dropped their class-action lawsuit against the circuit this week.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in early 2015 in an attempt by the caddies to secure marketing rights for the bibs they wear during tournaments as a way to create better healthcare and retirement benefits.

The district court largely ruled against the caddies and that ruling was upheld by an appeals court earlier this year, but better healthcare options may still be in the cards for the caddies.

“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 Association of Professional Tour Caddies.

Sajtinac told Cut Line that the Tour has offered a potential increase to the longtime stipend they give caddies for healthcare and in a statement the circuit said talks are ongoing.

“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.

It’s rare when both sides of a lawsuit walk away feeling good about themselves, but this particular outcome appears to have ended with a favorable outcome for everybody involved.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A long haul. Tiger Woods acknowledged what many had speculated about, telling a group this week at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach that his season-ending push and his first victory in five years took a physical toll at the Ryder Cup.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

Woods went 0-4 for the U.S. team in France and appeared particularly tired on Sunday following the European victory at Le Golf National.

For Woods the result was worth the effort with his victory at the Tour Championship ending a five-year drought, but his play and concession that it impacted him at the Ryder Cup does create some interesting questions for U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who sent Woods out for both team sessions on Saturday.

Tweet(s) of the week: @BobEstesPGA (Bob Estes) “I spoke to a past Ryder Cup captain yesterday. We both agreed that there should be a week off before the [Ryder Cup] to adequately rest and prepare.”

Given Woods’ comments this week it seems likely he would agree that a break – which may become the norm with the Tour season ending three weeks earlier – would be helpful, but Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts had a slightly different take in response to Estes’ tweet. “I’m afraid a different schedule wasn’t gonna make the fairways wider. On that particular course with how we played, [the United States] had absolutely no chance. Hasn’t more than half the euros played playoffs too?” Colsaerts tweeted.

It’s never too early to get a jump on the 2020 trash talking.

Missed Cut

By the book. The USGA and R&A’s most recent rulemaking hill involved the use of green-reading materials. On Monday the game’s rule-makers unveiled new interpretations on what will be allowed starting next year.

Out will be the legal-sized reams of information that had become ubiquitous on Tour, replaced by pocket-sized books that will include a limited scale (3/8 inch to 5 yards).

While the majority of those involved were in favor of a scaled-back approach to what to many seemed like information overload, it did seem like a curious line to draw.

Both sides of the distance debate continue to await which way the rule-makers will go on this front and, at least in the United States, participation continues to be a challenge.

Banning the oversized green-reading books may have been a positive step, but it was a micro issue that impacted a wildly small portion of the golf public. Maybe it’s time for the rule-makers to start looking at more macro issues.