Clock ticking to make U.S. Ryder Cup team

By Rex HoggardAugust 10, 2012, 11:45 pm

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Few Fridays in golf are as emotionally toxic for the game’s top 1 percent as PGA Friday.

Each year, be it a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup calendar, those looking to play for crown and country receive the most Draconian of progress reports. That Friday at Kiawah felt more monsoon than major only served to add to the degree of difficulty.

The Ryder Cup clock has been running for two years now, but on Friday the hands finally caught up with the hopefuls.

One by one they drifted off a windswept Ocean Course counting strokes and crushed dreams. First off was Rickie Fowler, 12th on the U.S. points list but out of time following his second consecutive Friday 80.

The captain’s-pick-turned-darling of the 2010 matches will need another lifeline, this time from Davis Love III who will announce his four picks on Sept. 4, if he’s going to make it to Medinah.

On Thursday night Fowler, and a handful of other Ryder Cup hopefuls, attended a dinner hosted by Love at the tony Sanctuary Club on Kiawah Island, and Captain America’s message was predictably esoteric.

“(Love’s) biggest thing was just go out and have fun and play. Try not to worry about making the team or pushing yourself and putting extra pressure on yourself,” Fowler said. “Let it happen.”

Easier said than done, as all six players currently on the “pick bubble” (Nos. 9-14 in Ryder Cup points) learned on Friday.

Just three of the six bubble boys made the cut – No. 10 Steve Stricker, No. 14 Dustin Johnson and No. 15 Bo Van Pelt – while No. 12 Rickie Fowler, who rebounded from his Friday 80 last week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational with a weekend 69-69, No. 9 Hunter Mahan, No. 13 Brandt Snedeker will now have to wait until Sept. 4 to learn their Ryder Cup fate.

But then Van Pelt has been here before. In 2010 he arrived at Whistling Straits, another faux linksland design courtesy of Pete Dye, 13th on the U.S. points list. He tied for 28th to finish the week where he started at No. 13 and never got the phone call from captain Corey Pavin.

For Van Pelt, a salt-of-the-earth, no-nonsense type, getting worked up over the Ryder Cup is wasted energy.

“It’s one of those deals where you had two years to get inside that top 8,” said Van Pelt, who missed Thursday’s dinner to celebrate his son’s sixth birthday. “Coming down to the last week it’s kind of like an exam. Whatever happens, happens. It’s kind of out of my control.”

Mahan, who did attend Love’s dinner, seemed a tad more invested in the subject, the byproduct, no doubt, of a burgeoning cup resume that saw him emerge as a team leader at last year’s Presidents Cup.

“It’s not just one tournament, it’s all year long. It goes on for all year. The focus is on this week, but we have the next few weeks to make an impression,” Mahan said. “This isn’t a one-tournament pick. Through eight months of golf you’re not going to play well every week. You’re not going to play well when you want to.”

If the status quo remains unchanged – a distinct likelihood given No. 8 Phil Mickelson’s turnaround on Friday (71) and Lefty’s 600-point advantage over Stricker – conventional wisdom suggests Love would pick Mahan, Stricker and Furyk, who was 5-0 at last year’s Presidents Cup, and let Fowler, Snedeker, Johnson and Van Pelt decide who lands the last spot with their play over the next three weeks.

But then picking a rookie, either Snedeker or Van Pelt, over Fowler, who scored his first Tour victory this year and was a rare bright spot on the ’10 team, seems unlikely considering Love’s apparent aversion to risk taking.

In that scenario, the person with the most to lose, or gain, on a fierce Friday was Snedeker, who has not been treated kindly by the various team selection processes throughout his career.

In 2003 Snedeker won the U.S. Amateur Public Links, earned All-America honors at Vanderbilt and was named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and yet was snubbed for that season’s Walker Cup team.

Last year, he was again passed over for a spot on Fred Couples’ Presidents Cup team. A Ryder Cup snub would make it an imperfect trifecta, a reality that seemed etched into Snedeker’s face as he slumped onto a bench in the locker room following a second-round 78 that left him at 11 over.

“I don’t think I played poorly because of the Ryder Cup, I just played poorly. I can’t put my finger on it,” Snedeker said. “I didn’t put more pressure on myself, felt like I had good preparation for the tournament, sometimes you just have one of those weeks. You just don’t want it to be this one week because it is two years boiled down to this one week to try to make the team . . . that sucks.”

Snedeker missed Love’s soiree on Thursday, opting instead for an intense 45-minute session on the practice tee with his swing coach. There didn’t seem to be much Love could say, but he tried.

“He texted me at the British Open, he texted me this week. It’s just, ‘Have fun and play golf don’t worry about the Ryder Cup,’” Snedeker said. “That’s what we’re trying to do, but you want to get there.”

When it comes to playing for one’s country it seems you really can want something too much.

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Golf Channel adds Matt Farrell as GM of Alternative Golf & Exec. Director of World Long Drive Association

By Golf Channel Public RelationsOctober 23, 2018, 1:20 pm

Farrell’s New Role Follows Past Decade Spent as CMO of USA Swimming

Matt Farrell, CMO of USA Swimming, has joined Golf Channel as General Manager of Alternative Golf and Executive Director for the World Long Drive Association. Farrell is a 20-year veteran of sports and entertainment marketing spanning roles with USA Swimming, the U.S. Olympic Committee and Warner Brothers. The announcement was made today by Tom Knapp, Golf Channel executive vice president, partnerships and programming.

“Golf Channel is committed to the growth of the game by engaging new and different fans in our coverage of all aspects of the game,” said Knapp. “Alternative competitions like World Long Drive expand golf’s reach, and Matt’s proven track record of elevating sports, both through grassroots efforts, digital extensions and high-profile media opportunities will further fuel our efforts. Matt has a terrific reputation within the Olympic community, where he is known as an effective and strategic partner amongst colleagues across sport governing bodies and sponsors.”

“From the first time I experienced a WLD event, I immediately saw the progressive vision and promising future of long drive as a sport and unique avenue for golf to connect with younger, athletic-minded sports fans,” Farrell said. “And thanks to the investments of NBC Sports, the competitors, sponsors, and event hosts the past few years, we have an incredible foundation to expand upon with a global, long-term strategic plan. For me personally, I look forward to combining my background in commercial development, organizational leadership and digital content at USA Swimming and the U.S. Olympic Committee with Golf Channel’s entrepreneurial enthusiasm to grow the sport of golf in non-traditional ways.”

In the newly created role, Farrell will lead all domestic and international business elements for Golf Channel’s owned and operated alternative golf franchises, led by the World Long Drive Association, which has aired on Golf Channel since 2013. For these franchises, Farrell will oversee event sponsorships, marketing, communications, operations, player relations and TV/digital media extensions. Farrell will lead teams focused on further development of additional alternative golf competitions, events and franchises. Farrell will report to Knapp and his official start date is December 3.

Since making a commitment to add World Long Drive to its business portfolio in 2015, Golf Channel has elevated the sport to feature five televised live competitions in 2018, culminating in the Volvik World Long Drive Championship in primetime, and adding the women’s division to televised events for the past two years. Previously, World Long Drive’s exposure was limited to a single, tape-delayed presentation of the men’s world championship on ESPN2. Despite a history as a sport dating back to 1976, Golf Channel’s support drove World Long Drive to be named a 2018 finalist for a “Breakthrough Sports League of the Year” by the annual Cynopsis Sports industry awards. The broader sports industry also has taken notice, including ESPN proclaiming that long drive has “recently started to enter the mainstream of golf;” Men’s Journal noting “with the sport’s ascendant profile and ever-growing prestige,” fans should “buckle up for more high-octane action;” Golf Digest saying the WLD atmosphere is “on the upswing, gaining traction;” and Golf.com claiming it is “an eye-opening experience”.

Matt Farrell Professional Background:

  • USA Swimming, Chief Marketing Officer since 2008, previously Managing Director of Business Development since 2005.
    • USA Swimming is a National Governing Body with 400,000 members and the No. 1 Olympic swimming country in the world.
    • Under his leadership, delivered highest corporate partner revenue in organization’s history, including corporate partners such as BMW, Marriott, MilkPEP, Arena, TYR, Blue Diamond and Chobani, in addition to long-term partnership renewals with Speedo and Phillips 66.
    • Farrell developed partnerships with Disney and Discovery Education, as well as a diversity and inclusion partnership with Sigma Gamma Rho, an African-American sorority.
    • Signature programs created by Farrell include USA Swimming Productions digital video department, SwimToday youth participation campaign, USA Swimming House VIP hospitality experience, and annual SwimBiz conference focused on elevating the swimming industry’s business potential, sponsorship opportunities and social media influence.
    • Previous professional experience includes serving as Associate Director, Internet Marketing at the U.S. Olympic Committee from 2000-2005, and Director of Internet Marketing, Warner Home Video for Warner Bros. from 1999-2000. Additionally, Farrell served previously at the U.S. Olympic Committee as Manager of Online Projects from 1997-1999 and Communications Coordinator at USA Swimming 1993-1997, after starting his career in the Purdue University’s Sports Information Office from 1992-1993.
    • Farrell additionally has served on the boards for Adaptive Adventures (2013-16) and USA Ultimate (2010-12).
    • Farrell graduated from the University of Arkansas with a BA in Broadcast Journalism.
    • Farrell, a life-long golfer, will be relocating to Golf Channel’s World Headquarters in Orlando, Fla.
    • Farrell is married to Michelle Dusserre, 1984 Olympic silver medalist in gymnastics, who currently works in international sports consulting. They have two daughters – Abby and Zoe. Abby is currently at the University of Illinois and competes on the wheelchair basketball team; while Zoe competes in soccer, swimming and playing in the marching band.
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Randall's Rant: Tales of the lost and found

By Randall MellOctober 23, 2018, 12:28 pm

Give me a player who lost his way.

Give me a player who lost his motivation, or his confidence, or maybe just his hard-fought momentum, or, better yet, a player who lost all of the above.

Give me a man or woman like that as a winner on a tour Sunday, because there’s inspiration for all of us in those kind of stories.

This wicked, mysterious game comes with the dreary certainty that eventually we’re all going to have to make our way out of some deep patch of woods.

That’s what made this past week so special.

We hit the trifecta.

We didn’t just get one winner who came out triumphant after feeling lost this year. We got three of them.

We got Brooks Koepka winning the CJ Cup @Nine Bridges in South Korea, Danielle Kang winning the Buick LPGA Shanghai and Sergio Garcia winning the Andalucia Valderrama Masters in Spain.

If you’re a golf fan needing an offseason as much as the players do, maybe you were tempted to take the week off and just gorge on high school, college and NFL football. Koepka, Kang and Garcia made that hard to do. They had compelling stories to tell, or to keep telling.

Koepka, 28, ascended to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time with Sunday’s victory. Yes, it comes after he won his second and third majors this year and after he was named PGA Tour player of the year, but it also comes in a year that began with such a troubling start.

Koepka’s success is more remarkable when you remember he missed the Masters with a wrist injury. You can’t fully appreciate where he is now without reminding yourself he missed four months early in the year with a torn tendon in his left wrist, and that he spent two months in a soft cast and didn’t touch a club for 91 days.

“You go from playing some of the best golf I’ve probably ever played to being at the lowest point professionally that I’ve been,” Koepka said on the eve of the U.S. Open back in June. “It wasn’t anything I’d wish upon anyone.”

Six months ago, who would have believed he would seize the No. 1 ranking by fall? Six years ago, who would have believed it possible with Koepka beginning his pro career in Europe’s minor leagues? He’s the first European Challenge Tour player to win three majors.

“It’s unbelievable,” Koepka said. “Look where I started. My first pro start was in Switzerland. I don’t think I could have said six years later I’d be No. 1.”

And then there’s Kang.

Last year, the two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur winner broke through to win her first LPGA title, making it a major at the KPMG Women’s PGA.

By late this summer, Kang’s confidence was gone.

Kang, 26, said she was struggling with the yips over full shots and over putts in a run of missing five cuts in six starts. While she began working out her issues going to Butch Harmon a month ago, she was still wrestling with demons just a week ago. She said she needed “four minutes” to take the club back over a shot at the KEB Hana Bank Championship.

“I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball,” Kang said. “I just kept trusting my golf game.”

Kang was a bit of a mess early on Sunday in Shanghai, until her caddie handed her a wedge going to the back nine and told her to smash her golf bag with it, to exorcise her demon anger.

“I thank him for that,” she said.

And there’s Garcia, who broke through to win the Masters a year ago but looked as if he might not be worthy of a spot on the European Ryder Cup team last month. He missed eight of 11 PGA Tour cuts leading up to the Ryder Cup, including the cuts at all four majors, but he flipped a switch going to Paris. He returned to his former brilliance going 3-1 to help the Euros win.

Garcia, 38, carried his Ryder Cup momentum to Spain.

“To be able to win here at Valderrama three times in a row is a dream come true,” Garcia said.

Yes, but give me players who know what nightmares are. Watching them find their way out makes for terrific golf theater. It makes football’s shadow a little less formidable this time of year.

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Stock Watch: LPGA raises some Q-uestions

By Ryan LavnerOctober 23, 2018, 11:42 am

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Brooks (+9%): Golf’s new king looks built to last, with a powerful game, a rock-solid stroke and a chip on his shoulder the size of his South Florida mansion. As long as Koepka stays healthy, the game’s preeminent big-game hunter will continue to eat.

Danielle Kang (+7%): Two weeks ago her mind was so cluttered that she needed four minutes to pull the trigger on a shot. Battling chip and full-swing yips, she kept the demons at bay to earn an LPGA title even more satisfying than her major breakthrough.

Paul Azinger (+5%): Tabbed to replace the inimitable Johnny Miller in the NBC booth, Azinger was the best and the most logical choice for the job. He’s a sharp observer of the game who won’t be afraid to let it rip, when necessary.

Sergio Garcia (+4%): Whenever the Ryder Cup inevitably returns to Valderrama, even if he’s 65 years old, Garcia deserves at least some consideration for a captain’s pick. His record there is stupid-good: 14 appearances, three wins, seven top-3s, 13 top-10s.

Gary Woodland (+3%): He’s 37 under par across the first two events of the season, with no wins to show for it. Tough sport!


FALLING

Ian Poulter (-1%): Playing in the final group with Koepka in Korea, Poulter threw up a 1-under 71 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 22 – and nearly tumbled out of the top 10.

Slow-play penalties (-2%): Good thing the PGA Tour Champions rules officials finally cracked down on slow play at the senior level – by picking on Corey Pavin and not notorious slowpoke Bernhard Langer, who just so happens to be No. 2 in the points standings.

LPGA Q Series (-4%): The LPGA’s new version of Q-School gets underway this week, and the women’s college golf coaches are not happy about it: The top 5 players from last season’s individual rankings (Jennifer Kupcho, Maria Fassi, Patty Tavatanakit, Lilia Vu, Lauren Stephenson) automatically earned a spot in the final stage, guaranteeing at least some Symetra status and likely a full LPGA card, if they finish inside the top 45. The LPGA is cherry-picking the best from the college ranks, even if they’re not yet ready to make the jump.

World No. 1 parity (-5%): This was just the second time since the world rankings debuted that four players reached No. 1. That trend doesn’t seem like it’ll end in 2019, either – especially with Tiger Woods once again eyeing the top spot.

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What's in the Bag: CJ Cup winner Koepka

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 23, 2018, 12:50 am

Brooks Koepka closed strong to win the CJ Cup in South Korea, and he also took over the No. 1 ranking. Here's a look inside his bag.

Driver: TaylorMade M3 (9.5 degrees)

Fairway Woods: TaylorMade M2 Tour HL (16.5 degrees)

Irons: Nike Vapor Fly Pro (3); Mizuno JPX-900 Tour (4-PW)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 Raw (52, 56 degrees), SM7 Raw TVD (60 degrees)

Putter: Scotty Cameron T10 Select Newport 2 prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x