U.S. needs to break mold with next Ryder Cup captain

By Randall MellOctober 3, 2012, 4:05 pm

Extreme measures are in order.

With the United States losing five of the last six Ryder Cups now, seven of the last nine, the pressure is on the PGA of America to snap out of a prideful, stubborn pattern that’s hurting the American team.

The PGA’s next choice as U.S. captain may rank as its most important since these matches began in 1927.

The PGA’s choice to lead the Americans against Europe at Gleneagles in Scotland in 2014 ought to be narrowed down to two men right now: Paul Azinger and Fred Couples.

But they’re long shots.

The problem is that either choice defies the modern regime’s stubborn history.

Azinger, 52, broke Europe’s stronghold on the cup by leading the Americans to victory in ’08 at Valhalla. He probably would have come back to lead the Americans again in ’10 if he had been asked, but the PGA doesn’t bring captains back anymore. Nobody has been given a second shot at being captain since Jack Nicklaus (1983, ’87).

The Euros can’t seem to make a wrong call in the Ryder Cup anymore, but they’ll probably make a big mistake in failing to ask Colin Montgomerie to come back and lead them in his native Scotland in two years. Montgomerie proved an effective captain leading the victory at Celtic Manor in ’10, and he wants to return to skipper in his homeland, but he is on the record saying he does not expect to be asked.

By bringing Azinger back, the PGA has a chance to outsmart the Euros and give the Americans an early advantage.

Would Azinger be willing to reprise his role?

“I wouldn’t rule it out,” Azinger told Golf Channel this week. “I just don’t know. If I were to be asked, I would probably consider it.”

Couples, 53, will lead the Americans as the Presidents Cup captain for a third consecutive time when the United States is host to the Internationals at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, next year. Couples led the Americans to lopsided President Cup routs in ’09 and ’11. The fact that he’s busy with Presidents Cup duties is problematic, but not that problematic with a good team around him. It’s almost the same job, really. The PGA Tour wouldn’t like it, but it would serve the greater good for American golf. It’s just wrong if Couples never leads a Ryder Cup team.

But Couples is an even longer shot than Azinger. The PGA isn’t going to name a Ryder Cup captain that the PGA Tour tabbed first for its Presidents Cup. That’s unfortunate. That’s just cutting your nose off to spite your face.

The most likely American choice, it seems, is David Toms.

Here’s how Las Vegas might handicap the possible captains if they were laying odds:

David Toms 2/1

He didn’t just win a major, he won a PGA Championship, helping to make him a priority choice to lead the Americans at Gleneagles in two years.

Toms, 45, is a 13-time PGA Tour winner who played on three American Ryder Cup teams (’02, ’04 and ’06). All three of those teams lost, two of them in record routs. Toms was 3-1-1 in the ’02 loss at The Belfry, where he was a bright spot for the Americans. He was 4-6-2 overall in Ryder Cup play. He is a well-respected and deserving choice, but he’s also young enough to wait should Azinger be named again.

Mark Calcavecchia 10/1

If Toms gets the nod, Calcavecchia’s time has probably already passed. If Toms is the pick, it would appear Calcavecchia is being skipped over. Calcavecchia, 52, is a 13-time PGA Tour winner with a British Open title (’89) among his wins. He played on four Ryder Cup teams (’87, ’89, ’91 and ’02), just one of those a winner. He is 6-7-1 in Ryder Cup play. He would liven up the interview room with his colorful take.

Paul Azinger 20/1

If anyone is equipped to battle the spirit of Seve Ballesteros, it’s Azinger, his Ryder Cup rival. Azinger “cracked the code” in helping the Americans break a string of three consecutive losses to the Euros in ’08. He is a proven skipper with the smarts, passion and strong personality needed to lead the USA on the road.

Justin Leonard 30/1

His role in helping the Americans’ epic comeback on that brilliant Sunday in ’99 makes him a lock for future captaincy, but, at 40, he is probably too young this time around. Leonard made that 45-foot putt on the 17th at Brookline in Sunday singles that helped seal the victory. He is a British Open champ who played on three Ryder Cup teams, two of them winners. He is 2-4-6 in Ryder Cup play.

Davis Love III 50/1

As a losing captain, Love will get nitpicked for decisions, but he was able to create the same kind of supportive environment that Azinger did. He didn’t fail his players as much as they failed him on Sunday. Still, he captained an American team that blew the Ryder Cup. It makes him a real long shot to return.

Fred Couples 100/1

The PGA of America won’t hire a guy the PGA Tour beat them to the punch to, and it won’t hire a guy who would be juggling two jobs as the ’13 Presidents Cup and ’14 Ryder Cup captains.

Larry Nelson 500/1

One of the great injustices of Ryder Cup captaincy is the fact that Nelson was never named captain. He won three majors, two of them PGA Championships. He was 9-3-1 on American teams that were 2-1. He is 65, and the PGA won’t right this wrong.

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Tiger putts way into contention at The Open

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 5:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – When Tiger Woods benched his trusty Scotty Cameron blade putter last month at the Quicken Loans National for a new TaylorMade mallet-headed version some saw it as a sign of desperation, but if his performance on Carnoustie’s greens on Saturday were any indication it could end up being a calculated success.

Woods stormed into contention on Day 3 with a 5-under 66 to move to within shouting distance of the lead at The Open, thanks in large part to his vastly improved putting.

“I hit so many good putts out there today, and this week from distance, I've had really good feels,” said Woods, whose 29 putts on Saturday belies his performance on Carnoustie’s greens. “Even as this golf course was changing and evolving, I've maintained my feels with the putter. I've made a couple of putts from about 40 to 60 feet, which is nice. I just feel like I've been able to roll the ball.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

The highlight of Woods’ round came at the par-4 ninth hole when he charged in a 40-footer for birdie from the front edge of the green to begin a run of three consecutive birdies. Perhaps more impressive, he didn’t have a three-putt, and has only had two all week, which is always a bonus on links courses.

Woods temporarily took a share of the lead with a lengthy birdie putt at the 14th hole and scrambled for a par save at the last after his drive nearly found the Barry Burn.

“I hit a few putts that I think should have gone in from 20, 30 feet today," he said. "So that's always a good sign.”

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TT postscript: A 66, he's in contention - awesome

By Tiger TrackerJuly 21, 2018, 4:58 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods went berserk Saturday and shot 5-under 66 to vault up the leaderboard at The Open at Carnoustie:


At 4:13PM here in Scotland, when Tiger two-putted for birdie on the par-5 14th hole, he held a share of the lead in a major championship. It was once unthinkable, but it happened. I saw it with my own eyes.

• Tiger’s last two weekend rounds in the 60s in The Open both happened at Carnoustie and both happened on July 21. In 2007, Woods shot 69 here. On Saturday, that score was clipped by three shots. Tiger shot 65 in the second round of The Open at Royal Liverpool in 2006. He won his third claret jug that week. Tiger last shoot 66 in a major during the second round of the 2011 Masters.

• This is the sixth time that Tiger has recorded three consecutive rounds of par of better to start The Open. He went on to win three of the previous five times.

• One bad swing, the only bad swing of the day according to Tiger, produced the luckiest of breaks. Standing on the 18th tee with an iron in hand, Tiger pulled his tee shot that hit on the top of the Barry Burn and very easily could’ve ended in a watery grave. Instead it ended in thick rough, some 250 yards from the pin. Tiger punted it up the fairway, but got up and down from 83 yards to save par and shoot 66. “I hit my number,” he quipped about hitting wedge to 2 feet.

• On the other hand, the lone bogey came from one poor putt. On the par-3 16th hole, with half of Scotland screaming his name, Tiger missed a 7-footer for par. It was deflating at the time because the last three holes are so difficult. Pars on the last two holes were stellar.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• Final stats: 12 of 15 fairways, 14 of 18 greens and 29 total putts. Tiger hit six drivers and one 3-wood, proving that he was way more aggressive. He hit four drivers on Friday and only one on Thursday.

• One of the aforementioned drivers that he hit on the ninth hole was well left and in some thick round, 170 yards from the hole. A safe approach to 40 feet set him up for and easy two-putt par. But he slammed the putt home and made an improbable birdie. “I hit so many good putts out there today, and this week from distance, I’ve had really good feels,” he said.

• In his own words about his chances of winning: “It certainly is possible. I’ve shown that I’ve been there close enough with a chance to win this year. Given what happened the last few years, I didn’t know if that would ever happen again, but here I am with a chance coming Sunday in a major championship. It’s going to fun.”

Yes, yes it is.

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Watch: Guy sleeps next to many beers at Open

By Grill Room TeamJuly 21, 2018, 4:55 pm

It's Moving Day at The Open Championship for all but one sedentary fan.

Cameras caught this potentially browned-out man having himself a Saturday snooze on the browned-out grasses of Carnoustie:

Browned out. That's a great term. Glad it's in the public domain. We've been using it all weekend. I imagine we'll continue to use it. A lot.

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Watch: Tiger makes 6 birdies, 1 amazing par in Rd. 3

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 4:10 pm

Tiger Woods started the third round of The Open at even par, having made seven birdies and seven bogeys over the first 36 holes at Carnoustie.

Following three pars to start on Saturday, Woods went on a birdie binge.

No. 1 came with this putt at the par-4 fourth.

No. 2 with this two-putt at the par-5 sixth.

No. 3 thanks to this 30-footer at the par-4 ninth.

No. 4 after nearly jarring his approach shot on the par-4 10th.

No. 5 when he almost drove the green at the par-4 11th and two-putted, from just off the green, from 95 feet.

And No. 6, which gave him a share of the lead, came courtesy another two-putt at the par-5 14th.

Woods bogeyed the par-3 16th to drop out of the lead and almost dropped - at least - one more shot at the par-4 18th. But his tee shot got a lucky bounce and he turned his good fortune into a par.

Woods shot 5-under 66 and finished the day at 5 under par.