2014 Newsmaker No. 2: The Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardDecember 19, 2014, 1:00 pm

At its core the 2014 Ryder Cup was a case study in contrasting styles.

For Europe, Paul McGinley’s detail-oriented leadership was familiar, a legacy passed from captain to captain, while U.S. front-man Tom Watson represented a break from tradition.

The 65-year-old, two-time captain was supposed to be the game-changer, the variable that would allow the Americans to end a slide of five losses in the last six matches, but the juxtaposition between the two team rooms was vivid from the outset.

For the Europeans, the decision to choose McGinley was political and public and very much player driven. But for the American side, the decision to name Watson captain was made behind closed doors by a frighteningly small group of PGA of America executives.

“I know I speak for a lot of people when I say, we are just really tired of losing the Ryder Cup, and the decision to name this gentleman as our next captain, a lot of that was just about our weariness of what's happened in the past few Ryder Cups and we certainly hope that trend can change,” said then PGA president Ted Bishop in December 2012.

In the run up to this year’s matches, McGinley played 28 times around the globe to endear and introduce himself to potential players. Watson, on the other hand, played just 10 times over the last two years in non-Champions Tour events and struggled to keep current with the changing face of American golf.

Although he would specifically reference Brooks Koepka, the young American who forged his way onto the PGA Tour via the European circuit, as a player he considered for one of his three captain’s picks, just a month earlier during a brief exchange at the PGA Championship Watson would ask Koepka what golf course he worked at, confusing him for one of the PGA club professionals at the event.

Watson appeared to waffle with his captain’s picks, going with Webb Simpson over Bill Haas in an 11th hour decision, while McGinley, who likely had a more difficult decision considering the depth of his potential picks, went with experience and consistency in Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood.


2014 Newsmakers: 3. Tiger4. Social Media | 5. Bishop | 6. Wie7. Reed8. R&A9. Bubba | 10. DJ | Honorable mentions


But it was when the teams arrived at Gleneagles that the contrasting styles became so glaring.

McGinley kept his team loose and on point.

“Complacency . . . concentration,” smiled Rory McIlroy when asked on Sunday night to relay McGinley’s message for the week.

“Wave after wave,” followed Graeme McDowell.

“When the storm comes, we’ll be the rock,” added Justin Rose.

“Have fun,” McGinley smiled.

Watson, meanwhile, seemed to send mixed messages with many players unsure of who they would be paired with until the night before the matches, and his no-nonsense style failed to resonate with modern players.

That disconnect seemed to come to a boil during a team-bonding meeting Saturday night in Scotland. According to various reports, Watson scoffed at a gift given to him by his players, criticized many of the team members and took no responsibility for the American's four-point deficit heading into Sunday singles following a particularly dismal performance in foursomes play.

“The obvious answer is that our team has to play better,” said Watson after the U.S. team’s 16 1/2 to 11 1/2 point loss. “That's the obvious answer. I think they recognize that fact, that somehow, collectively, 12 players have to play better.”

From there things continued to unravel.

Where McGinley’s players focused on their captain’s message and the passion he brought to his team, Watson’s 12 appeared disinterested and, at least in the case of Phil Mickelson, disenfranchised.

“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said, adding, “No. No, nobody here was in any decision.”

There were rare bright spots for the U.S. side, including the solid play of rookies Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth, an inspired pairing that went undefeated in team play.

From the failed Watson experiment also came a newfound willingness by the PGA to be inclusive in its search for answers. The Ryder Cup task force, an 11-member panel that consists mostly of former captains and current players, met for the first time this month and there seems to be no rush to name the next captain.

The consensus among some observers, including Watson, suggests there’s nothing wrong with the U.S. Ryder Cup system that better play, particularly better putting, can’t fix. But that analysis ignores the fact the Europeans were five points better at Gleneagles.

This wasn’t a near miss like the one-point losses at Medinah in 2012 and Celtic Manor in ’10; this was a boat race that began at the top for each team.

Never before in the modern history of the matches have each team’s contrasting styles been so stark, and never before has it been so clear that a captain can make a difference, for better or worse.

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Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.


Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters


Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

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Austin wins Champions tour's playoff opener

By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:35 pm

RICHMOND, Va. -- Woody Austin knew Bernhard Langer was lurking throughout the final nine holes, and he did just enough to hold him off.

Austin shot a 3-under 69 for a one-stroke victory Sunday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Langer, the defending tournament champion and series points leader, made the turn one shot off the lead, but eight straight pars kept him from ever gaining a share of the lead. Austin's birdie from 6 feet on the closing hole allowed him to hang on for the victory.

''It seemed like he couldn't quite get it over the hump,'' Austin said about Langer, who also birdied No. 18. ''I'm not going to feel bad for the guy. The guy's kind of had things go his way for the last 12 years. Now he sees what it's like to have it happen.''

The 54-year-old Austin finished with an 11-under total for three rounds at The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course. He won his fourth senior title and first since 2016, and said windy and cool conditions that made scoring difficult played to his advantage.

''I was happy to see it. I really enjoy a difficult test,'' he said. ''... I enjoy even par meaning something. That's my game.''

Langer closed with a 70. The winner last week in North Carolina, the 61-year-old German star made consecutive birdies to finish the front nine, but had several birdie putts slide by on the back.


Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic


''I made a couple important ones and then I missed a couple important ones, especially the one on 16,'' Langer said. ''I hit three really good shots and had about a 6-footer, something like that, and I just didn't hit it hard enough. It broke away.''

Austin dropped a stroke behind Jay Haas and Stephen Ames with a bogey on the par-3 14th. He got that back with a birdie from about 5 feet on the par-4 15th and then got some good fortune on the final hole when his firmly struck chip hit the flag and stopped about 6 feet away.

''I always say usually the person that wins gets a break on Sunday,'' he said. ''That was my break.''

The 64-year-old Haas, the second-round leader after a 65, had a 74 to tie for third with Fran Quinn (69) and Kent Jones (70) at 9 under. Haas was bidding to become the oldest winner in the history of the tour for players 50 and older.

''Disappointed, for sure,'' Haas said. ''Not going to get many more opportunities like this, but it gives me hope, too, that I can still do it.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 move on to the Invesco QQQ Championship next week in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

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After Further Review: American success stories

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 8:35 pm

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the global nature of Koepka's rise to No. 1 ...

Brooks Koepka is an American superstar, and a two-time winner of his national open. But his rise to world No. 1 in, of all places, South Korea, emphasizes the circuitous, global path he took to the top.

After winning the CJ Cup by four shots, Koepka was quick to remind reporters that he made his first-ever start as a pro in Switzerland back in 2012. He cracked the top 500 for the first time with a win in Spain, and he broke into the top 100 after a good week in the Netherlands.

Koepka languished on the developmental Challenge Tour for a year before earning a promotion to the European Tour, and he didn’t make a splash in the States until contending at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.

It’s a testament to Koepka’s adaptability and raw talent that he can handle the heights of Crans-Montana as well as the slopes of Shinnecock Hills or rough of Nine Bridges. And as the scene shifts to China next week, it highlights the global nature of today’s game – and the fact that the best in the world can rise to the occasion on any continent. - Will Gray


On the resurgence of American women  ...

American women are on a nice roll again. Danielle Kang’s victory Sunday at the Buick LPGA Shanghai was the third by an American over the last five events. Plus, Annie Park and Marina Alex, emerging American talents looking for their second victories this season, tied for second. So did American Brittany Altomare. Two years ago, Americans won just twice, their fewest victories in a single season in LPGA history. Overall, women from the United States have won seven times this season.

The Americans are making their move with Stacy Lewis on maternity leave and with Lexi Thompson, the highest ranked American in the world, still looking for her first victory this year. Yes, the South Koreans have won nine times this season, but with four LPGA events remaining in 2018 the Americans actually have a chance to be the winningest nation in women’s golf this year. With all the grief they’ve received the last few years, that would be a significant feat. - Randall Mell

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In Buick win, Kang overcame demons of mind and spirit

By Randall MellOctober 21, 2018, 3:33 pm

Danielle Kang beat three of the most formidable foes in golf Sunday to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai.

Anxiety.

Frustration.

Anger.

Kang overcame these demons of mind and spirit to win for the second time on tour, backing up her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory last year.

“I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said.

Kang birdied four of the last eight holes to close with a 3-under-par 69, coming from one shot back in the final round to win. At 13-under 275, she finished two shots ahead of a pack of seven players, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (66).

It hasn’t been easy for Kang trying to build on her major championship breakthrough last year. She started the fall Asian swing having missed three cuts in a row, five in her last six starts.

“I had to go through swing changes,” Kang said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.

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

Through her swoon, Kang said she was struggling to get the club back, that she was getting mentally stuck to where she could not begin her takeaway. She sought out Butch Harmon, back at her Las Vegas home, for help. She said tying for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week felt like a victory, though she was still battling her demons there.

“Anxiety over tee balls,” Kang said. “People might wonder what I'm doing. I actually can't pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”

Kang, who turned 26 on Saturday, broke through to win last year under swing coach David Leadbetter, but she began working with Harmon while struggling in the second half this year.


Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos


“I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang said. “Things just weren't going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn't do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn't putt freely.”

Kang said her anger and frustration built up again on the front nine Sunday. She made the turn at 1 over for the round. She said her caddie, Oliver Brett, helped her exorcise some anger. After the ninth hole, he pulled her aside.

This is how Kang remembered the conversation:

Brett: “Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.”

Kang: “Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.”

Brett: “Here's a wedge. Just smash it.”

Kang did.

“Honestly, I thank him for that,” Kang said. “He told me there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped, and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things changed and momentum started going my way. I started hitting it closer and felt better over the putts.”

Kang said the victory was all about finding a better place mentally.

“I'm just so happy to be where I'm at today,” Kang said. “I'm just happy that I won.

“More so than anything, I'm finally at a place where I'm peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.”