Time for U.S. Ryder Cup task force to take action

By Rex HoggardFebruary 4, 2015, 1:28 am

Insanity [in-san-i-ty] noun. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

 SAN DIEGO – Give the PGA of America credit.

 The alternative, of course, was to dip back into the status quo, pluck a fifty-something former major champion from the archives to captain the 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup team and blindly hope that he can stem Europe’s dominance in the biennial blowout that has gone to the continent in eight out of the last 10 meetings.

But the answer, for all the well-intended ideals, is not a task force. Player input? Sure, that would be great. A more detailed plan? Absolutely. Just don’t turn it into a free-form jam session that doesn’t appear to have an end in sight.

The PGA confirmed the task force met on Monday in San Diego. And for the record, that’s the only thing the association was willing to say.

“We did have a meeting that went incredibly well and built off of the momentum of our first meeting,” PGA of America chief executive Pete Bevacqua told Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte. “The process is not yet complete but I feel I can speak for everyone on the task force when I say that we are all excited about the direction of our discussions.”

Anything beyond that has turned into a national secret, with the PGA installing a gag order when it comes to all things task force.

A source familiar with the meetings told GolfChannel.com that the task force has had “several productive meetings” but not to expect any type of announcement until the spring regarding the ’16 captain or anything else.

Like most meetings, this thing has jumped the proverbial shark. On this, last year’s U.S. captain Tom Watson had it right. “It’s not pods. It’s 12 players,” said Watson in the dusk of last year’s defeat at Gleneagles.

Old Tom probably feels the same about meetings.

The “Task Force 11” can talk this thing in circles but the essence of victory should have taken all of 20 seconds in the group’s initial meet-and-greet in December.

Bevacqua: “I’d like to open the floor to ideas.”

Tiger Woods: “Make Fred (Couples) the captain.”

Jim Furyk: “I second that.”

Davis Love III: “Third.”

Phil Mickelson: “And make Paul Azinger his assistant captain.”

The “ayes” have it.

Couples’ 3-0 run as a Presidents Cup captain is all the argument one needs to name Captain Cool America’s next front man.

Maybe it’s his hands-free attitude or laid-back demeanor that makes Couples such an effective captain. Maybe it’s his ability to lighten a team room and an entourage that includes Michael Jordan. Who cares?

If the PGA is serious about changing America’s Ryder Cup fortunes give Couples the keys to the fancy golf cart and let him ride with ’Zinger in tow.

The consensus on Tour is that Couples would be considered an inspired choice but some suggest the structured confines of the Ryder Cup, with all the pre-match obligations and 24-month news cycle, wouldn’t be conducive to his brand of magic.

But even that meeting could be quick and concise. If Freddie doesn’t want to be the PGA’s show pony for two years, than let him fly under the public radar. If Couples doesn’t look forward to a hectic dance card of endless official functions, than set up a few ping-pong tables in the team room and lock the door until the Day 1 matches.

The task force, which includes at least two future captains (Woods and Mickelson) and another (Furyk) who has the markings of a truly inspired choice to lead the team one day, started out with the best of intentions. In fact, it was Furyk who summed up the American mood during that tense post-match press conference last September and laid the groundwork for the task force.

“If I could put my finger on it, I would have changed this sh*t a long time ago but we haven't and we are going to keep searching,” he said.

The task force has now had multiple meetings to conjure up some answers, but it appears as if they are no closer to a solution than they were when they boarded the plane in September to leave Scotland.

This one, it seems, has been talked into the ground. It’s time to adjourn and move on.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”