Waiting for the Ryder Cup Bounce

By Randall MellOctober 15, 2010, 4:05 am
Watch for the Ryder Cup bounce.

Rickie Fowler’s looking to ride it to another level in his return to golf this week at the Frys.com Open.

The bounce doesn’t necessarily happen overnight, but Ryder Cup rookies who come through in the clutch can see large dividends return to them when they re-join the PGA Tour.

Zach Johnson and Damon Green
Zach Johnson and caddie Damon Green celebrate a victory. (Getty Images)
Nothing more quickly exposes what’s inside a player than searing Ryder Cup heat. There’s no hiding from it like there can be in a major championship. There’s no shooting yourself out of contention early when your game’s off. You’re exposed from the first hole of a Ryder Cup, exposed with every shot, but the confidence built in Ryder Cup heat can last a long, long time.

Just ask Zach Johnson.

Or better yet, ask his caddie, Damon Green.

Johnson’s game reached another level after his first Ryder Cup experience in 2006.

“Playing in that Ryder Cup, pulling off the shots Zach did, it probably changed his career around,” Green said. “I really think it helped him win the Masters.”

Johnson believes it’s no coincidence he won the Masters in the spring of ’07 after his first Ryder Cup showing the previous fall.

“I had won once on the PGA Tour, and I had other opportunities to win, but once I played on the Ryder Cup team, I think that really did catapult my game,” Johnson said. “I think the biggest thing I learned is that I could execute shots under the most extreme situations, meaning under pressure, with all that’s at stake in a Ryder Cup.”

Fowler closed out his first Ryder Cup with four consecutive birdies in Wales 10 days ago. He came from 3 down with three holes to go to steal a half point from Edoardo Molinari, who left the course in a daze.

Fowler may find the memories of the shots he pulled off in that terrific finish will help him hit even bigger shots in the future. Johnson did.

In Johnson’s first match in his first Ryder Cup, he pulled off a series of shots he still draws upon for the confidence they bring.

And it’s remarkable what one clutch shot can do for a golfer’s soul.

In his first Ryder Cup match at the K Club in Ireland four years ago, Johnson and Chad Campbell were paired in foursomes, the alternate-shot format. They were 2 down with three holes to go against Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley when Johnson found himself over the kind of shot that can reverberate through a career. It may sound funny that it could come on the first day of the Ryder Cup, but that tells you the intense nature of that competition, what every hole and every point means to its participants. There’s choking and heroics at every hole. It’s what makes the Ryder Cup so special.

In the middle of the 16th fairway at the K Club four years ago, Johnson stood 250 yards from the pin with a large decision to make. Should he go for the green in two? It was far from a no-brainer, not with water in front of the green and right of the green. It was a tough call with the pin tucked left on a sliver of a narrow green and a steep bank making any miss left an impossible up and down.

“I was thinking 'I can hit this shot,’ but I just didn’t know if it was a smart play,” Johnson said.

American Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman was there, and Johnson consulted with him.

“You need to go with the shot you’re comfortable with,” Lehman told him. “I don’t care what shot you hit, just make sure you’re 100 percent committed to it.”

Johnson turned to Green, who didn’t flinch.

“We’re 2 down with three to play,” Green told his player. “You’re hitting 3-wood.”

Green can still see the shot, the gorgeous line, the beautiful arc, the ball landing at the front of the green and rolling 20 feet from the flagstick.

“It was magnificent,” Green said. “He had to hit a career 3-wood just to get it there.”

A two-putt birdie pulled Johnson and Campbell to 1 down.

“Up until that point in my career, it was the hardest shot I had ever encountered,” Johnson said.

At the 18th, Johnson repeated his feat, hitting yet another 3-wood onto the green at another par 5 to help win the hole and earn a half point in a dramatic charge.

“Those are shots you try to cling to, to keep in your memory banks, not just the outcome, but the memory of walking behind the ball, getting over the ball, your rhythm, the process,” Johnson said.

Johnson said a lot went into his Masters’ victory, the extra offseason preparation he took after the birth of his first son, but he counts the Ryder Cup experience as vital, especially the way he and Campbell closed that first match. Green said Johnson’s big finish actually started at the 15th hole, when he went over to Green with Harrington setting up over a chip shot.

“Zach turns to me and says, 'Padraig’s going to make this chip, and I’m going to knock my putt in right on top of his,’” Green said. “Sure enough, Harrington chips in. The crowd had just gone crazy, and Zach stands over his 15-footer, and he holes it. I’ve got goose bumps right now thinking about it.”

The Ryder Cup’s filled with so many of these moments, turning points in early matches that resonate profoundly, that create a Ryder Cup bounce in the wake of the matches. European players will enjoy them, too. They’re coming over the next year.

Johnson’s first Ryder Cup didn’t end triumphantly. The Americans got squashed, and he lost his singles match. Johnson had the distinction of drawing Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke as his opponent in the most emotional match that year. Clarke was still mourning the loss of his wife, Heather. With Irish crowds cheering him on, Clarke won the match, 3 and 2.

“If there are golf gods, they were certainly with him,” Johnson said. “I just felt like I didn’t have a chance in that match. Darren is a phenomenal player and an even better person.”

Even with that defeat, Johnson got his Ryder Cup bounce. He’s hoping to ride another one into next season. At Wales, Johnson came through with another clutch victory. He tied the matches, 13 ½ to 13 ½, late in singles when he defeated Harrington. It came with more Ryder Cup memories to build future triumphs upon.

Cut and not so dry: Shinnecock back with a new look

By Bradley KleinMay 21, 2018, 9:22 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. - The last time the USGA was here at Shinnecock Hills, it nearly had a train wreck on its hands. The last day of the 2004 U.S. Open was so dry and the turf so firm that play was stopped in the morning just to get some water on the greens.

The lessons learned from that debacle are now on display three weeks before Shinnecock gets another U.S. Open. And this time, the USGA is prepared with all sorts of high-tech devices – firmness meters, moisture monitors, drone technology to measure turf temperatures - to make sure the playing surfaces remain healthy.

Players, meanwhile, will face a golf course that is 548 yards longer than a dozen years ago, topping out now at 7,445 yards for the par-70 layout. Ten new tees have assured that the course will keep up with technology and distance. They’ll also require players to contend with the bunkering and fairway contours that designer William Flynn built when he renovated Shinnecock Hills in 1930.

And those greens will not only have more consistent turf cover, they’ll also be a lot larger – like 30 percent bigger. What were mere circles averaging 5,500 square feet are now about 7,200 square feet. That will mean more hole locations, more variety to the setup, and more rollouts into surrounding low-mow areas. Slight misses that ended up in nearby rough will now be down in hollows many more yards away.



The course now has an open, windswept look to it – what longtime green chairman Charles Stevenson calls “a maritime grassland.” You don’t get to be green chairman of a prominent club for 37 years without learning how to deal with politics, and he’s been a master while implementing a long-term plan to bring the course back to its original scale and angles. In some cases that required moving tees back to recapture the threat posed by cross-bunkers and steep falloffs. Two of the bigger extensions come on the layout’s two par-5s, which got longer by an average of 60 yards. The downwind, downhill par-4 14th hole got stretched 73 yards and now plays 519.

“We want players to hit driver,” says USGA executive director Mike Davis.

The also want to place an emphasis upon strategy and position, which is why, after the club had expanded its fairways the last few years, the USGA decided last September to bring them back in somewhat.

The decision followed analysis of the driving statistics from the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, where wide fairways proved very hospitable to play. Players who made the cut averaged hitting 77 percent of fairways and driving it 308 yards off the tee. There was little fear of the rough there. “We didn’t get the wind and the dry conditions we anticipated,” says Davis.

Moving ahead to Shinnecock Hills, he and the setup staff wanted to balance the need for architectural variety with a traditional emphasis upon accuracy. So they narrowed the fairways at Shinnecock Hills last September by seven acres. They are still much wider than in the U.S. Opens played here in 1986, 1995 and 2004, when the average width of the landing areas was 26.6 yards. “Now they are 41.6 yards across on average,” said Davis. So they are much wider than in previous U.S. Opens and make better use of the existing contours and bring lateral bunkers into play.

This time around, with more consistent, healthier turf cover and greens that have plenty of nutrients and moisture, the USGA should be able to avoid the disastrous drying out of the putting surfaces that threatened that final day in 2004. The players will also face a golf course that is more consistent than ever with its intended width, design, variety and challenge. That should make for a more interesting golf course and, by turn, more interesting viewing.

Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys Documentary Series Continues Tonight at 8 p.m. ET on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsMay 21, 2018, 8:27 pm

Monday’s third installment in the four-part series focuses on the Big 12 Championships and NCAA Regional Championships

Reigning NCAA National Champion Oklahoma Sooners and Top-Ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys Prepare for Showdown Friday at the 2018 NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships

ORLANDO, Fla., May 21, 2018 – Tonight’s third episode of the critically-acclaimed documentary series Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys (8 p.m. ET) wraps up the conclusion of the 2017-18 regular season and turns to post-season play for the top-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys and reigning NCAA National Champions Oklahoma Sooners.

Drivenwill take viewers behind the scenes with the conclusion of regular season play; the Big 12 Conference Championship, where Oklahoma captured their first conference championship since 2006; and the NCAA Regional Championships, where Oklahoma State and Oklahoma – both No. 1 seeds in their respective regionals – were both victorious and punched tickets to the NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships.

The episode also will set up the showdown starting Friday at the NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships, where Oklahoma State will attempt to dethrone Oklahoma as national champions, all taking place at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., Oklahoma State’s home course. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will be paired together for the first two rounds of individual stroke play Friday and Saturday.

Driven’s fourth and final episode will air on NBC on Saturday, June 16 at 5 p.m. ET, recapping all of the action at the NCAA Golf National Championships and the two programs’ 2017-18 golf seasons.

Golf Channel is airing back-to-back weeks of live tournament coverage of the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships. Golf Channel’s coverage begins today (4-8 p.m. ET) to crown the individual national champion and track the teams attempting to qualify for the eight-team match play championship. Golf Channel’s coverage on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 22-23 will include all three rounds of team match play, ultimately crowning a team national champion. Next week (May 28-30), the same programming schedule will take place for the NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships.

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Mann's impact on LPGA felt on and off course

By Randall MellMay 21, 2018, 8:00 pm

Just a few short hours after winning the U.S. Women’s Open in 1965, Carol Mann was surprised at the turn of emotion within her.

She called her friend and mentor, Marlene Hagge, and asked if they could meet for a glass of wine at the Atlantic City hotel where players were staying.

Hagge was one of the LPGA’s 13 founders.

“I’ll never forget Carol saying, `I don’t mean to sound funny, because winning the U.S. Women’s Open was wonderful, but is that all there is?’” Hagge told GolfChannel.com Monday after hearing news of Mann’s death.

It was one of the many defining moments in Mann’s rich life, because it revealed her relentless search for meaning, within the game, and beyond it.

Mann, an LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer, died at her home in Woodlands, Texas. She was 77.

“Carol was a very good friend, and a really sincere and good person,” Hagge said. “She was intelligent and insightful, the kind of person who always wanted to know the `why’ of things. She wasn’t content to be told this is the way something is. She had to know why.”

Mann’s search for meaning in the sport took her outside the ropes. She was a towering presence, at 6 feet 3, but her stature was more than physical. She won 38 LPGA titles, two of them major championships, but her mark on the game extended to her leadership skills.

From 1973 to ’76, Mann was president of the LPGA, leading the tour in challenging times.

“Carol was a significant player in the growth of the LPGA,” LPGA Hall of Famer Judy Rankin said. “She was involved when some big changes came to the tour. She was a talented woman beyond her golf.”

Mann oversaw the hiring of the tour’s first commissioner, Ray Volpe, a former NFL marketing executive. Their moves helped steer the tour out of the financial problems that threatened it.

“Carol was willing to do something nobody else wanted to do and nobody else had the brains to do,” Hagge said. “She loved the LPGA, and she wanted to make it a better place.”

At the cost of her own career.

Juggling the tour presidency with a playing career wasn’t easy.

“My golf seemed so secondary while I was president in 1975,” Mann once told author Liz Kahn for the book, “The LPGA: The Unauthorized Version.”

That was a pivotal year in tour history, with the LPGA struggling with an ongoing lawsuit, a legal battle Jane Blalock won when the courts ruled the tour violated antitrust laws by suspending her. With the tour appealing its legal defeats, a protracted battle threatened to cripple LPGA finances.

It was also the year Mann led the hiring of Volpe.

“I could barely get to the course in time to tee off,” Mann told Kahn. “There was so much other activity. I burned myself out a bit.”

Still, Mann somehow managed to win four times in ’75, but she wouldn’t again in the years that followed.

“I had launched a ship, and then I had to let it go, which was not easy,” she said of leaving her tour president’s role. “I was depressed thinking that no one on tour would say thank you to me for what I had done. Some would, others never would, and 10 years later players wouldn’t give a damn.”

Mann’s reign as a player and a leader aren’t fully appreciated today.

“A lot of players in the ‘60s haven’t been fully appreciated,” Rankin said.

Mann won 10 LPGA titles in 1968, the same year Kathy Whitworth won 10. Mann won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average that year. She won eight times in ’69 and was the tour’s leading money winner.

“Those were the toughest times to win,” Hagge said. “You had Kathy Whitworth and Mickey Wright, who is the best player I ever saw, and I saw them all. You had so many great players you had to beat in that era.”

Mann’s good humor came out when she was asked about her height.

“I’m 5-foot-15,” she liked to say.

After retiring from the tour at 40, Mann stayed active in golf, working as a TV analyst for NBC, ABC and ESPN. She found meaning in her Christian faith, and she was active supporting female athletes. She was president of the Women’s Sports Foundation for five years. She wrote a guest column for the Houston Post. She devoted herself to the World Golf Hall of Fame, taught at Woodlands Country Club and became the first woman to own and operate a course design and management firm.

“I’ve walked on the moon,” Mann once said. “I enjoy being a person, and getting old and dying are fine. I never think how people will remember Carol Mann. The mark I made is an intimate satisfaction.”

 

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Nelson win moves Wise to 12th in Ryder Cup race

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 7:12 pm

Aaron Wise received plenty of perks with his title Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson, but the victory also brought with it a healthy bump in the latest U.S. Ryder Cup standings.

The 21-year-old notched his maiden win at Trinity Forest in impressive fashion, holding off Marc Leishman in near-darkness. After starting the week at No. 46 in the points race for Paris, Wise is now all the way up to 12th with the top eight players after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically for the team.

Jimmy Walker moved from 18th to 15th with a top-10 finish in Dallas, while an idle Tiger Woods dropped one position to No. 32.

Here's a look at the updated standings, as the top 11 names remained in order this week:

1. Patrick Reed

2. Justin Thomas

3. Dustin Johnson

4. Jordan Spieth

5. Bubba Watson

6. Rickie Fowler

7. Brooks Koepka

8. Phil Mickelson

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9. Webb Simpson

10. Matt Kuchar

11. Brian Harman

12. Aaron Wise

It was also a quiet week on the European side of the race, where the top four from both the European Points and World Points list in August will join a roster rounded out by four selections from captain Thomas Bjorn.

Here's a look at the latest European standings:

European Points

1. Tyrrell Hatton

2. Justin Rose

3. Jon Rahm

4. Ross Fisher

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5. Matthew Fitzpatrick

World Points

1. Rory McIlroy

2. Tommy Fleetwood

3. Sergio Garcia

4. Alex Noren

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5. Ian Poulter