Watson the right choice by PGA

By Rex HoggardDecember 13, 2012, 6:59 pm

Old Tom Watson, Scotland’s beloved adopted son and the most recent addition to the two-time Ryder Cup captains club, was not a plan 'B.' Nor was the 63-year-old an emergency selection by a panicky group of PGA of America executives.

As PGA president Ted Bishop figured, “We have broken the mold,” not to mention Larry Nelson’s ginormous heart, but that’s another story.

Thursday was about Watson, the ageless American who won a British Open at Turnberry, lost a British Open at Turnberry and became the oldest captain in Ryder Cup history when Bishop & Co. dumpstered said mold and made a pick that was 13 months in the making.

It was, by any measure, an outside-the-box pick by an organization that is quickly becoming boxed in by mediocrity at its marquee event. It was, with a monsoon of respect to Nelson, David Toms and any number of potential captains, the only choice.

Whether it be meltdown or miracle, depending on one’s perspective, Medinah will be remembered as a crossroads for the American Ryder Cup cause, a handy victory that turned in a blur of roars and a relentless European rally on a September Sunday.

In Watson the PGA plucked the calm in a storm from a sea of uncertainty. Remember, this is the same man who after losing a playoff to Stewart Cink at the 2009 Open Championship entered the press room and grinned, “This ain't a funeral, you know.”

The U.S. side needed Watson like this year’s captain Davis Love III needed one more 5-footer to drop on Sunday in Chicagoland. The red, white and blue has lost seven of the last nine matches and the last time the U.S. won an “away game” was in 1993, the last time Watson led a team onto Kingdom soil.

“I was waiting almost 20 years to get the call,” Watson smiled Thursday from New York.

The only real surprise may have been the revelation from Bishop that he began coloring outside the lines some 13 months ago on a plane ride from Bermuda to Indiana. It’s a time line that suggests the PGA was primed for something new regardless of what happened at Medinah.

But this seemed less about wins, which there have been far too few of for the U.S. side, and losses than a shrinking demographic. The status quo, major champions who had played in multiple Ryder Cups and were in their late 40s and still relatively active on the PGA Tour, simply wouldn’t work anymore as an increasingly large number of majors started going to Europeans, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

As Bishop pointed out there was indeed a “short list of potential Ryder Cup captains based on the current criteria.” The answer, at least in the short term, was a dramatic paradigm shift in the form of a second Watson captaincy.

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To make his case Bishop created an 85-page document that outlined why Watson would work in 2014, but the truth is he could have saved some paper and gone with a 140-character tweet: “It is time for a change. #Watson2014”

Conventional wisdom was against Bishop. At 63 the rub was Watson was too old to know today’s players, but – with apologies to Love, Corey Pavin, Tom Lehman, et al – familiarity has only bred an all-too-familiar result.

Besides, few players in their 60s have remained as active on Tour as Watson.

“We’ve played a ton together and I don’t think there will be any disconnect,” said Brandt Snedeker, who has played a practice round with Watson every year at The Masters and British Open since 2008. “We see him at the Masters every year and he still has the passion and that fire. It’s not like he’s rode off into the sunset.”

Nor does a perceived frosty relationship between Watson and Woods, a dustup that dates back to early 2010 when Watson said of Woods, “He messed up,” seem to be much of a concern.

Woods almost immediately released a statement praising the new captain early Thursday and Watson countered with a familiar take from recent U.S. skippers. “I hope Tiger is first of all on my team. He is the best player in the history of the game and if he’s not on the team for any reason you can bet he will be No. 1 on my pick list,” he said.

To be brutally honest, there is precious little upside for Watson in this deal. He has participated in five Ryder Cups, either as a player or captain, has a 10-4-1 record and has never been on a losing team. But then Old Tom has never been interested in the easy way.

Way back in the early 1990s when he was pursuing his first turn as a U.S. captain Watson specifically requested an overseas assignment, “because of my record I’d had over there.” At least at the ’93 Ryder Cup, those five Open titles helped produce an 18 ½ to 9 ½ U.S. rout.

It was telling that moments after Bishop referred to the “Watson luck,” the man himself gave a nod to the vague forces that often decide these biennial bashes.

“The most important thing for me as a captain is to get lucky. To get lucky and have all 12 players playing well when we get there,” Watson said.

The cynic would suggest given recent history – or, to be more precise, America’s 0-for-the-millenium slide in the transatlantic member-member – Watson’s only real challenge for Gleneagles would be quality raingear and a respectful consolation speech.

But that kind of defeatism, even when viewed through the prism of America’s pedestrian record, isn’t Watson’s style or the reason behind the PGA’s dramatic break from the norm. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, which would make Watson’s selection to lead the ’14 team, as crazy as it may seem, the most sane possible choice.

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Fowler (oblique) withdraws from playoff opener

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:44 pm

The injury that slowed Rickie Fowler at last week's PGA Championship will keep him out of the first event of the PGA Tour's postseason.

Fowler was reportedly hampered by an oblique injury at Bellerive Country Club, where he started the third round two shots off the lead but faded to a tie for 12th. He confirmed the injury Tuesday in an Instagram post, adding that an MRI revealed a partial tear to his right oblique muscle.

According to Fowler, the injury also affected him at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he tied for 17th. After receiving the test results, he opted to withdraw from The Northern Trust next week at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey.

"My team and I feel like it's best not to play next week in the Northern Trust," Fowler wrote. "I will be back healthy and competitive ASAP for the FedEx Cup and more than ready for the Ryder Cup!!!"

Fowler is one of eight players who earned automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team when the qualifying window closed last week. His next opportunity to tee it up would be at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship, where Fowler won in 2015.

Fowler has 12 top-25 finishes in 18 starts, highlighted by runner-up finishes at both the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in the fall and at the Masters. He is currently 17th in the season-long points race, meaning that he's assured of starts in each of the first three playoff events regardless of performance and in good position to qualify for the 30-man Tour Championship for the fourth time in the last five years.

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Playoff streaks in jeopardy for Garcia, Haas

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:12 pm

Since the advent of the FedExCup in 2007, only 13 players have managed to make the playoffs each and every year. But two of the PGA Tour's stalwarts head into the regular-season finale with work to do in order to remain a part of that select fraternity.

Sergio Garcia has rarely had to sweat the top-125 bubble, but the Spaniard enters this week's Wyndham Championship 131st in the current standings. Left with even more work to do is former FedExCup winner Bill Haas, who starts the week in Greensboro 150th.

Garcia got off to a strong start in the spring, sandwiching a pair of top-10 finishes in WGC events around a fourth-place showing at the Valspar Championship. But quality results largely dried up after Garcia missed the cut at the Masters; he has made only two cuts in 10 Tour starts since April, including early exits in all four majors.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Garcia has some history at Sedgefield Country Club, having won this event in 2012 to break a lengthy U.S. victory drought. He also finished fourth in 2009 but hasn't played the Donald Ross layout since a T-29 finish as the defending champ in 2013.

It's been a difficult year for Haas both on and off the course, as the veteran was involved as a passenger in a car accident on the eve of the Genesis Open that killed the driver. He returned to action three weeks later in Tampa, and he tied for seventh at the RBC Heritage in April. But that remains his lone top-10 finish of the season. Haas has missed 11 cuts including three in a row.

While the bubble will be a fluid target this week at Sedgefield, Garcia likely needs at least a top-20 finish to move into the top 125 while Haas will likely need to finish inside the top 5.

One of the 13 playoff streaks is assured of ending next week, as Luke Donald has missed most of the year with a back injury. Other players to qualify for every Tour postseason include Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, Brandt Snedeker, Charles Howell III, Charley Hoffman and Ryan Moore.

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Airlines lose two sets of Olesen's clubs in 10 days

By Grill Room TeamAugust 15, 2018, 7:50 pm

Commercial airlines losing the golf clubs of a professional golfer is not exactly a groundbreaking story. It happens.

But European Tour pro Thorbjorn Olesen is on quite the roll, losing two sets of clubs and five suitcases in the span of 10 days.

Olesen, the reigning Italian Open champ, claimed his primary set of golf clubs were lost last week. Having little faith they'd be found before this week's Nordea Masters, he decided to bring his backup set for the event in Sweden.

A veteran move by the 28-year-old, unless, of course, those clubs were lost too. And wouldn't you know it:

After pestering the airlines with some A+ GIFs, Olesen was reunited with at least one of his sets and was back in action on Wednesday.

He also still plans on giving his golf bag away to some lucky follower, provided it's not lost again in transit. Something he's no longer taking for granted.

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Podcast: Brandel compares Tiger and Hogan's comebacks

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 15, 2018, 6:48 pm

Tiger Woods on Sunday at Bellerive recorded his seventh runner-up finish in a major and his first in nine years.

A favorite guest of the Golf Channel Podcast, Brandel Chamblee joins host Will Gray to compare and contrast Tiger's return to competitive golf with that of Ben Hogan and Babe Didrikson Zaharias in the 1950s.

Chamblee also discusses Brooks Koepka's major dominance, Bellerive as a major venue, Tiger and Phil as Ryder Cup locks, and who else might be in line to receive Jim Furyk and Thomas Bjorn's remaining captain's picks.

Finally, Brandel shares what it was it was like to qualify for the Senior Open Championship and compete for a major title on the Old Course at St. Andrews. Listen here: