Azinger seeks long-term RC solution, not quick fix

By Rex HoggardOctober 15, 2014, 4:15 pm

If we’ve learned anything from the 2014 Ryder Cup it is that from inflated expectations can come colossal disappointment.

The Tom Watson experiment was supposed to stem the American slide, which has now been extended to eight losses in the last 10 matches. To put that in context, this year’s most successful U.S. Ryder Cup players – Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed – were still in diapers the last time the American team won back-to-back matches (1991 and ’93).

In retrospect, the expectations for Watson and an admittedly depleted U.S. team were decidedly unrealistic. In the rush to win at all costs the PGA of America and president Ted Bishop dusted off an aging legend and hoped for the best.

In the wake of another loss, the association will now turn to a blue-ribbon task force for answers in 2016, when the matches will be played at Hazeltine National, with an idea pinched from Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling: “The best way to have a great idea is to have a lot of ideas.”

But that optimism, however misplaced, comes with a built-in set of pitfalls. Following the U.S. team’s loss at Gleneagles the vitriol has reached an all-time high, a reality that will only be compounded by two years of king building.

Video: Azinger discusses possible 2016 Ryder Cup captaincy

However extensive the nip/tuck of the current Ryder Cup process may be, the crescendo leading up to the ’16 matches will only set the stage for even more handwringing if the United States can’t wrest itself from the trash heap of pedestrian play.

Paul Azinger knows all too well the heights the Ryder Cup road will travel the next two years and the danger of arriving at a cliff as opposed to a catapult in 2016. It at least partially explains why he chose to pass on the opportunity to sit on the 11-member task force, instead taking his ideas to the PGA powers in a more private setting.

Azinger already has a plan sketched out – “it’s ready to go,” he said – and will meet with the PGA of America early next month to discuss his ideas.

“It’s more than just how you pick the captain. I want to have my discussion with them in private. I don’t want to have an ultimatum with the PGA of America; I want to work with them,” he told the “Morning Drive” crew on Wednesday.

’Zinger, more than anyone, knows that the American Ryder Cup problem goes well beyond the need for pods and more timely captain’s picks. The margin between victory and defeat goes much deeper than a timely putt here or a fortunate bounce there.

The 2008 captain also realizes the inherent dangers of a quick fix and the red, white and blue elephant in the room – where does the U.S. side go if the result is another defeat in two years?

“If the two teams are perfectly even, the European team still has an advantage,” he explained. “Just look at the way they pick their captains. At Gleneagles I saw lots of past captains on the fairway, a lot of future captains. We don’t have a contingency plan. We don’t have the same continuity that they have.”

Although Azinger was reluctant to give specifics of the plan he will present to the PGA next month, it is clear his ideas go well beyond a Band-Aid. Forget potential pairings and horrid foursomes play, for the former captain, America’s issues start with the concept of a lack of ownership.

“I want to look at this Ryder Cup from 360 degrees; (Europe) may have a bigger advantage because right now they are a little bit better,” Azinger said. “They are invested in the Ryder Cup because it is owned by the European Tour and that makes a difference as well.”

In 2008 ’Zinger was a task force of one, creating a winning atmosphere, but it didn’t translate to a winning legacy. Just ask Phil Mickelson.

In fact, four years later it led to what appears to be the reactionary decision to pull Watson out of retirement and now a high-profile roundtable with the ultimate mandate – make the matches matter again.

The alternative is a continued march to irrelevancy. While Rory McIlroy dismissed the notion that a lopsided Ryder Cup is a bad Ryder Cup, falling back on a historical advantage the U.S. side enjoys (25-13-2), that must seem like ancient history to the current crop of American players.

Video: Azinger discusses Ryder Cup relevancy

But asked if he could envision a time when arguably the game’s greatest event could lapse into a predictably anticlimactic cycle, Azinger’s answer was telling.

“It could, yeah. America needs to win one,” he told your scribe. “It’s really interesting irony that you can’t focus on winning and you certainly can’t focus on losing. You want to focus on process. It’s razor thin and the future is bright for the Ryder Cup and the American team can still play well and win these matches.”

Just don’t try to tell that to the Europeans, who have become the Harlem Globetrotters to the U.S. side’s Washington Generals.

With tongue firmly planted in check, it is a measure of Europe’s confidence that Ian Poulter tweeted this week that the secret password for the newly minted task force was “0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 0” – the U.S. team’s Ryder Cup record the last 10 matches.

The PGA of America answered with a task force and a blank canvas, but the problem is that such drastic measures leave nowhere to go if it turns out the emergency button doesn’t work.

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'The Golf Club 2019' adds Elvy to commentary team

By Nick MentaJuly 19, 2018, 4:45 pm

“The Golf Club 2019” is adding a new name to its commentary team.

Broadcaster Luke Elvy will join returning announcer and HB Studios developer John McCarthy for the title's third installment.

Golf fans will recognize Elvy from his recent work with CBS in addition to his time with Sky Sports, FOX Sports, TNT, PGA Tour Live and PGA Tour Radio.

A 25-year media veteran from Australia, he now works in the United States and lives with his family in Canada.

"Ian Baker-Finch was my right-hand man on Australian televison," Elvy told in an interview at the Quicken Loans National. "And Finchy said to me, 'What are you doing here? You should be with me in the States.’ He introduced me to a few people over here and that's how the transition has happened over the last five or six years."

Elvy didn't have any prior relationship with HB Studios, who reached out to him via his management at CAA. As for why he got the job, he pseudo-jokes: "They heard the accent, and said, 'We like that. That works for us. Let's go.' That's literally how it happened."

He participated in two separate recording sessions over three days, first at his home back in February and then at the HB Studios shortly after The Players Championship. He teased his involvement when the game was announced in May.

Although he doesn't describe himself as a "gamer," Elvy lauded the game's immediate playability, even for a novice.

“It’s exactly how you’d want golf to be,” he said.

"The Golf Club 2019" will be the first in the HB series to feature PGA Tour branding. The Tour had previously licensed its video game rights to EA Sports.

In addition to a career mode that will take players from the Tour all the way through the FedExCup Playoffs, "The Golf Club 2019" will also feature at launch replicas of six TPC courses played annually on Tour – TPC Summerlin (Shriners Hospitals for Children Open), TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course (Waste Management Phoenix Open), TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course (The Players Championship), TPC Southwind (FedEx St. Jude Classic/WGC-FedEx St. Jude Championship), TPC Deere Run (John Deere Classic), and TPC Boston (Dell Technologies Championship).

“I played nine holes at Scottsdale,” Elvy added. “It’s a very close comparison. Visually, it’s very realistic."

The Golf Club 2019 is due out this August on PlayStation 4, XBOX One, and PC.

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Expired visa, helicopter, odd clubs all part of Vegas' journey

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 3:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jhonattan Vegas thought someone was playing a practical joke on him.

Or maybe he was stuck in the middle of a horror movie.

Scheduled to leave for The Open a week ago, he didn’t arrive at Carnoustie until a little more than an hour before his first-round tee time Thursday.

“Even if somebody tried to do that on purpose,” he said, “you couldn’t really do it.”

The problem was an expired visa.

Vegas said that he must have gotten confused by the transposed date on the visa – “Guessing I’ve been living in America too long” – and assumed that he was cleared to travel.

No problem, he was told. He’d have a new visa in 24 hours.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Except the consulate in New York didn’t respond to his application the next day, keeping him in limbo through the weekend. Then, on Monday, he was told that he’d applied for the wrong visa. UPS got shut down in New York and his visa never left, so Vegas waited in vain for seven hours in front of the consulate in Houston. He finally secured his visa on Wednesday morning, boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto, and then flew to Glasgow, the final leg of a 14-hour journey.

His agent arranged a helicopter ride from Glasgow to Carnoustie to ensure that he could make his 10:31 a.m. (local) tee time.

One more issue? His clubs never made it. They were left back in Toronto.

His caddie, Ruben Yorio, scrambled to put together a new bag, with a mismatched set of woods, irons, wedges and putter.

“Luckily the (equipment) vans are still here,” Vegas said. “Otherwise I probably would have played with members’ clubs today.”

He hit about 20 balls on the range – “Luckily they were going forward” – but Carnoustie is one of the most challenging links in the world, and Vegas was working off of two hours’ sleep and without his own custom-built clubs. He shot 76 but, hey, at least he tried.

“It was fun,” he said, “even though the journey was frustrating.”

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'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.

Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.

“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.

The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.

“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”

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Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.

“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.

“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”