Captain Am-error-ca

By Rex HoggardNovember 4, 2011, 4:05 pm

In this week’s edition, the PGA Tour gets an injection of new talent courtesy the Nationwide Tour, Yani Tseng gets her chance at history and Fred Couples gets a rare “missed cut” for his missed opportunity.

Who says the silly season is all fun and games?

Made Cut

Class acts. Note to PGA Tour: This is how a Tour Championship is supposed to feel. Sunday’s big finish at the Nationwide Tour finale left no unanswered questions, unlike the primary circuit’s closing frame at East Lake, and produced an avalanche of compelling storylines heading into 2012.

Billy Hurley III, the U.S. Navy lieutenant turned Tour card holder, held on to the final spot on the money list and will begin his Tour career where he ended his Navy resume – in Honolulu at the Sony Open.

Two-time heart-transplant recipient Erik Compton can try on a long awaited new title – Tour member; and 42-year-old Ken Duke won the finale to crack the top 25 and earn a return trip to the Tour.

The cream of the ’11 class, however, may be Jason Kokrak. Sure the 26-year-old is crazy long (his 318-yard average led the Nationwide Tour) but there is a compelling softer side to this prospect.

“Everybody talks about how far he hits it,” Kokrak’s father, Kenny, said last Saturday, “but he’s got a great short game. He works so hard at it.”

Think a John Daly crunchy shell around a Luke Donald-like soft center. We call it the mash-mallow.

Tiger Woods. Some will interpret the comments from “Red Shirt” this week in Asia as an excuse, but the world No. 56 made an interesting point when asked to reflect on the last year.

“You look at everyone’s career, you have these ebbs and flows,” said Woods, who turns 36 in December. “We don’t play well all the time.”

If that sounds like a plea, consider the career of Jack Nicklaus, who Woods will forever be measured against. In 1979 the Golden Bear was 39 and a year removed from being named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, yet he played just 12 events, failed to win a Tour event for the first time since he turned pro in ’62 and finished 71st in earnings. The next season Nicklaus won two majors (Nos. 16 and 17).

It remains to be seen if Woods’ next move is a “flow” but history suggests we should withhold judgment until all the votes are counted.

Tweet of the week I: @bencranegolf “Met prime minister of Malaysia. Good dude. He pretty much just wanted to know how to swing it like a boomerang-a-tang.”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Yani Tseng. Call it a publicity stunt. Call it a pipe dream. Whatever you dub it, the one thing you can’t call Tseng’s flirtation with the PGA Tour is unwarranted. Eleven worldwide victories this season and two major championships is enough to open any door.

It’s just the Trump International layout in Puerto Rico may not be the best venue for Tseng to go next level. It’s long (7,569 yards) and often wet and the tournament is played opposite the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral.

If Tseng wants to take her shot against the men she should do so on her terms on a course that offers her the best chance for success (Harbour Town in South Carolina, Colonial in Texas and Riviera in California immediately come to mind). Tseng has earned the right to test her game against the Tour’s best without any asterisks (opposite-field event) or excuses.

Player Advisory Council. If Luke Donald considered the Tour’s move to delay the release of this year’s ballot for Player of the Year “sketchy,” news that the ballot will not include nominees for the Comeback Player of the Year award is downright stupefying.

The Tour decided to make the CPOY award an optional honor after Steve Stricker won it in back-to-back years and in 2009 the 16-member PAC, which nominates players for the year-ending awards, decided there wasn’t a reclamation project worth recognizing.

But the move to forgo this year’s comeback award has flummoxed many who point to the progress that players like Aaron Baddeley, David Toms and Harrison Frazar made in 2011.

Baddeley began the year ranked 271st, won the Northern Trust Open and finished third at the Tour Championship to earn a spot on Greg Norman’s Presidents Cup team; Toms had slipped outside the top 100 before finishing 2-1 at The Players and Colonial, respectively; and Frazar emerged from hip surgery in 2010 to win the FedEx St. Jude Classic.

Maybe that’s not exactly Cinderella stuff, but that PAC is one tough crowd.

Tweet of the week II: @southpaw444 (Steve Flesch) “Stricker has them (Comeback Player of the Year awards) all up in Madison (Wis.). None left!”

Missed Cut

Faux WGCs. Despite the Tour’s attempt to include results from this week’s HSBC Champions in the Player of the Year voting there is no escaping the feeling that the China stop is a WGC in name only.

Three years into the WGC experiment the event still does not award official Tour money, small print that at least partially explains poor attendance from the American contingent.

China was a bold move to put the “World” back in the WGCs, but unless something changes – either a dramatic makeover of the Tour schedule or a date swap for Shanghai – the faux World Golf Championship will never get the respect it deserves.

Fred Couples. Golf’s “Most Interesting Man” is already 1-0 as a Presidents Cup captain and is making things interesting this week at the Champions Tour finale. But as the matches inch closer it seems Captain America missed his chance to nurture a future Presidents Cup prospect and assure the U.S. side doesn’t have to play shorthanded at Royal Melbourne.

When asked on Wednesday if he considered offering Keegan Bradley, who was bypassed for a captain’s pick, a special role on the American team, like that enjoyed by Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer at recent Ryder Cups, Couples said he didn’t think that was appropriate.

“Sergio asked to be there. They didn’t call Sergio. If Keegan were to call me I would fall down backwards to have him there,” Couples told

Kaymer, who was passed over by European captain Nick Faldo for the 2008 Ryder Cup matches but was included as a special assistant at Valhalla, seems a more apropos comparison.

Perhaps Bradley has no interest in carrying a walkie-talkie in Australia. Sadly, we’ll never know.

Tweet of the week III: @WestwoodLee “First-round 69, four behind playing partner (Bradley). The U.S. must have a really good team for the Presidents Cup if he’s not on it!”

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.  

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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