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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Descending into golf's depths, and trying to dig out

By Brandel ChambleeApril 23, 2018, 3:05 pm

Watching Alvaro Quiros finish second this past week in Morocco, I was reminded of just how rare it is for player to come back from the depths of golf hell.

Quiros, a player of immense ability, hype and length, won the Dubai World Championship – his sixth win in four years – to close out 2011 and then went down the rabbit hole of trying to change his golf swing. He would miss 11 cuts in 2012 and either miss the cut or withdraw in another 41 European Tour events over the next four years. Because he hadn’t won a major championship, his epic backwards slide in the world rankings (435th prior to this past week) mostly went unnoticed – but it was far from unusual.

Ian Baker-Finch won the 1991 Open Championship, but just three years later, when he played 20 events on the PGA Tour and missed 14 cuts, he no longer looked anything like a recent major champion. In 1995, he played in 18 events and either missed the cut, withdrew or was disqualified from every one of them. In 1996, he missed the cut in all 11 events he entered on the PGA Tour; and in 1997, he shot 92 in the first round of The Open, withdrew from the championship and stopped playing professional golf.

Like Quiros, Baker-Finch’s downfall came after his biggest win, when he finally thought he had the time, because of the 10-year exemption he received, to change his golf swing.

David Duval won the 2001 Open Championship and just two years later he shot 83-78 in the same event and missed the cut, which was one 16 events he either missed the cut or withdrew from that year. In 2005, he missed 18 cuts in 19 starts. Duval’s competitive demise may well have been precipitated by injuries and an existential malaise after winning golf’s oldest championship, but it was accompanied by queries far and wide as to how to correct his swing and thinking, just like Baker-Finch before him and Quiros thereafter.

These desperate searches for help, like the indelible ink stains on dyer’s hands, are the one common thread amongst those who suffer from the absolute negation of their technical and then creative abilities. Those who take as indisputable the theories of others are, in the deepest sense, wounding their own intuition. They are controverting the evidence of their own senses in such a way that is comforting to the insecure player, but tragic to the artist. To quote Carl Jung: “Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.”

As I write this, PGA Tour winners Steven Bowditch (1,885th in the world) and Smylie Kaufman (337th) are in similar downward spirals in their careers and no doubt are desperate for, and susceptible to any suggestion.

One player they can look to who made it back from the frantic madness that accompanies losing one’s game, is Henrik Stenson. He put his trust in one man, Pete Cowen, even though while working with Pete he missed 14 cuts in 2002, followed by 15 missed cuts in 2003, and 11 in 2004. What Stenson did not do was panic and run from teacher to teacher, from shrink to shrink, as the missed cuts piled up.

Stenson, with Cowen’s help, slowly built one of the most reliable swings in the history of the game. A swing that regularly leads events in fairways found and greens hit in regulation. A swing that authored the lowest score ever shot in major championship history. A swing that is a far cry from the OB-launching swipes he was taking in late-2001 and 2002.

Given the soul-eating depths of where he came from, a place from which few have dug themselves out of, I watch Stenson play golf with a far great admiration than I otherwise would, and similarly was pulling for Quiros in Morocco. The same way I am pulling for Bowditch and Kaufman to find their games again.

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Langer skipping Senior PGA for son's HS graduation

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 23, 2018, 2:53 pm

Defending champion Bernhard Langer will miss this year’s Senior PGA Championship to attend his son’s high school graduation.

Langer made the announcement Monday, during Senior PGA media day at Harbor Shores in Michigan. The event will be held May 24-27.

“I won’t be able to defend my title this year because my son graduates from high school that very same weekend,” he said. “Family comes first in my life, so I have to be there to celebrate.”

Langer said that his son, Jason, will play golf for the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. Langer and his family live in South Florida.

Langer won last year’s event at Trump National outside Washington, D.C. The 60-year-old has no wins but three runners-up in eight senior starts this season.  

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Landry reaches OWGR career high after Valero win

By Will GrayApril 23, 2018, 12:40 pm

After notching his first career PGA Tour win at the Valero Texas Open, Andrew Landry also reached unprecedented heights in the latest installment of the Official World Golf Ranking.

Landry shot a final-round 68 at TPC San Antonio to win by two shots, and in the process he cracked the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time at age 30. Landry started the week ranked No. 114, but he's now up to 66th. The move puts him within reach of a possible U.S. Open exemption, given that the top 60 in the May 21 rankings will automatically qualify for Shinnecock Hills.

Trey Mullinax went from No. 306 to No. 169 with his T-2 finish in San Antonio, while fellow runner-up Sean O Hair jumped 29 spots to No. 83 in the world. Jimmy Walker, who finished alone in fourth, went from No. 88 to No. 81 while fifth-place Zach Johnson moved up five spots to No. 53.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

Alexander Levy took home the title at the European Tour's Trophee Hassan II, allowing the Frenchman to move from No. 66 to No. 47. With no OWGR points available at this week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Levy is guaranteed to stay inside the top 50 next week, thereby earning a spot in The Players.

Idle since an MDF result at the Houston Open, former world No. 1 Lee Westwood dropped two spots to No. 100 this week. It marks the first time Westwood has been ranked 100th or worse in nearly 15 years, ending a streak of consistency that dates back to September 2003.

The top 10 in the rankings remained the same, with Dustin Johnson leading off at No. 1 followed by Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose. Rickie Fowler remains No. 6 with Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Sergio Garcia rounding out the top 10.

With no starts announced until the U.S. Open in June, Tiger Woods dropped two more spots to No. 91 in the latest rankings.

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What's in the bag: Valero Texas Open winner Landry

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 23, 2018, 12:34 pm

Andrew Landry won his first PGA Tour event at the Valero Texas Open. Here's a look inside the winners' bag.

Driver: Ping G30 (9 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 65X shaft

Fairway woods: Ping G (14.5 degrees adjusted to 15.5), with Project X HZRDUS Yellow 75X shaft; (17.5 degrees), with Project X HZRDUS Yellow 85X shaft

Irons: Ping iBlade (3-PW), with Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 105 S shafts

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 (52, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shafts

Putter: Ping PLD ZB-S

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x