Ryder Cup Chitchat

By Rex HoggardJanuary 14, 2010, 4:41 am

Of all the rabbits Paul Azinger pulled from his Ryder Cup top hat, his hard sell of a revamped selection process may have been the Valhalla VIP.

America’s five-of-six slide in the transatlantic grudge match did not bottom out because of a raucous Kentucky gallery or an ingenious pod system so much as it was saved by an overhauled selection process that favored a hot hand and the intrinsic value of a victory.

Just ask Colin Montgomerie, the European warhorse tasked with bringing Samuel Ryder’s chalice back home later this year. According to published reports, Monty pressed officials for a new system and more captain’s picks (suggesting, at one point, he wouldn’t mind 12 picks).

Officials met the Scot in the driveway, giving their captain an extra freebie and reducing the number of players who qualify off the World Ranking list (read: Europeans who play primarily in the United States) to four. However, the number of players picked from the European Tour list, which awards one point for every euro earned over the last 12 months, remained the same (five), a nod that should make the home tour more attractive and much more important in 2010.

It also creates a question for players looking to join Monty’s squad later this year in Wales. The World Ranking list, or at the least a captain’s pick, is the realm of the headliners – Lee Westwood, Padraig Harrington, et al. – whose focus is primarily on the PGA Tour and who are assured starts in the biggest events.

But if you’re not on a first name basis with Tiger Woods, Ryder Cup years present a dilemma for many Europeans who must decide whether to chase a Ryder Cup spot on the U.S. tour, or back home, if by back home you mean every continent where golf is played.

The only wrong answer seems to be a fractured, hectic schedule that tries to juggle membership on both the PGA and European Tours in an energy-sapping attempt to qualify on either list.

“I feel like I have the best chance of getting on the team through the World Ranking,” said England’s Luke Donald, who estimated he will play 75 percent of his 2010 schedule on the PGA Tour.

Northern Irish phenom Rory McIlroy seems to have subscribed to the same theory, earning enough as a non-member last year (11 starts, $849,000) to take up membership in 2010.

McIlroy and Donald, however, seem to be the exception to the rule this year.

Although the split European selection system has worked well since its inception prior to the 2004 matches – the far side of the pond is 2-1 under the duel process – Monty’s extra pick has reduced the room for error for American-based Europeans and made a year playing the European circuit much more appealing, particularly to younger players.

Like McIlroy, Oliver Wilson earned enough in ’09 thanks to top-11 finishes in three World Golf Championships for a PGA Tour card but declined membership. Instead the Englishman, who went to college in the United States and still owns a house in North Carolina, will play at least 15 European Tour events this year with an eye toward September’s matches.

“There are so many Europeans that are playing the U.S. Tour you have to worry you can make it based on the World Ranking,” said Rocky Hambric, Wilson’s manager with Hambric Sports. “Your best bet is playing in Europe especially if you’re a younger player and less likely to get one of the captain’s picks.”

Westwood and Henrik Stenson, both non-members in 2009, also turned down membership this year in the United States, although their status and Ryder Cup record would likely assure them a spot on this year’s team.

Although it’s still early in the selection process, the year’s first European Ryder Cup list was published this week and was dotted with the names of the next generation – McIlroy, Ross Fisher, Martin Kaymer and Francesco Molinari. Most of Class 2.0 will spend more time in Europe than the United States this year, and for Montgomerie that truth could be more encouraging than 12 captain’s picks, Dave Stockton Sr. on retainer as team putting guru and a Sergio Garcia resurgence.

The 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup team enjoyed a healthy collision of young and old. Phil Mickelson and Justin Leonard proved perfectly matched with Anthony Kim and Hunter Mahan. The result: a five-point American walkover.

Whether by design or destiny, the slightly tinkered European selection process could produce a similar concoction. And, as Monty knows, the outcome in Wales has probably already been decided. Just ask Azinger.

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Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88

By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 88.

Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.

Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.

The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.

On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.

Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.

He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.

In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.

Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.

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Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M

By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.

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“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.