#AskLav: Future U.S. Ryder Cup captain a hot topic

By Ryan LavnerOctober 2, 2014, 3:30 pm

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Ahhh, finally, a return to normalcy: Team Europe is taking a victory lap around St. Andrews, Phil Mickelson is reading and re-reading Paul Azinger’s book, and Tom Watson is back home, shooing those darn kids off his lawn again.

This question is seemingly asked every two years: Did Europe win the Ryder Cup, or did the Americans lose it?

The home team put on a remarkable display, from Paul McGinley’s near-flawless decisions to Justin Rose’s 3-0-2 record to Graeme McDowell and Victor Dubuisson’s new partnership to Rory McIlroy’s smash-mouth singles win. But it’s also clear that the U.S. team was dysfunctional, and for that there is plenty of blame to go around.  

Watson made virtually no effort to engage in any team-bonding exercises and believed his tough-dad act would fly with multimillionaires.

Ted Bishop wanted Watson to fill the role of Captain America, though not even the outgoing PGA president could have envisioned Watson keeping everyone – even his players – at a club’s length. 

Bubba Watson, the No. 1 player in qualifying, went 0-3 and was the only U.S. player who failed to earn a point. The beleaguered captain’s picks went 2-5-2. And Phil, after being benched for two of the four partner sessions, saved his best shots for after the matches were over.  

So, in the end, the week’s biggest winner – besides Callaway Golf, which quickly came up with these (and these!) genius P-Reed-inspired accessories – was Azinger, who, like all iconic leaders, spent Ryder Cup Sunday in a Harley Davidson bar. (FDR probably did the same.)    

The 2008 captain would seem the no-brainer choice for the PGA of America, but the question is whether he would jeopardize his legacy by agreeing to a second (or third) term. He looks smarter with each and every U.S. failure.



Donaldson hit the clinching shot for the Europeans, and he went 2-1 in his debut, and he was probably the most drunk on Monday morning … but he wasn’t the best player. That honor belongs to Justin Rose, who teamed with Henrik Stenson to produce arguably the greatest fourball performance of all time on Saturday, then won the 18th hole in the afternoon to deny the Americans a crucial full point and give Europe a (normally) insurmountable four-shot cushion. G-Mac was great, too, going 3-0, including a momentum-boosting singles victory over Jordan Spieth in the leadoff spot, but Rose was the man of the match. 



The hype last year was outrageous, and deservedly so. In not even a full year on Tour Spieth recorded nine top-10s (including a historic win) as he went from not having status on any major tour to a T-2 at the Tour Championship. In the months that followed there were some silly comparisons to Tiger Woods, though even a cursory glance at Spieth’s statistics revealed that he needed to show significant improvement in his ball-striking because he wouldn’t always be able to will the ball into the hole. In ’14, Spieth admittedly wore down at the end of a long season, mostly because of an erratic driver and the expectations that he put on himself after that breakout year. A winner at every level – junior, college, early in his pro career – this was one of the few times that the 21-year-old had faced adversity on the course, and his game suffered as he tried to claw his way out of a mini-slump. He may have had a quiet summer, but his Ryder Cup performance was encouraging (until the back-nine meltdown in singles) and I fully expect him to add to his win total in 2014-15. He’s incredibly motivated to fulfill that awesome potential. 



You’re right – it does seem obvious. But the PGA Tour and PGA of America are rivals in the search for captains, and Couples took the Presidents Cup gig first. A bummer, too, because he’s the rare U.S. captain who actually, you know, wins. Players say Freddie’s laid-back demeanor is a big reason for their success during his tenure as Presidents Cup captain (3-0), but the Ryder Cup is serious business with more appearances, more decisions, more public scrutiny. Typically, the PGA requires a two-year commitment from its captains, and Couples has already agreed to serve as an assistant for the 2015 Presidents Cup. Call it recon for Hazeltine. Couples should, and will, warrant serious consideration for the gig. 



Tiger’s health remains the biggest unknown, but we’ll likely know more on that front when he returns to competition in December. Once fully healthy (or as close as he can get), Woods can turn his attention to his swing, which was a mess last summer. Though he has always had an extra set of eyes on the range, Tiger said that he might go it alone after the failed Foley project. That process will take time. Sure, eventually, he could return to his “winning ways,” like winning 2-3 times per season, but it would seem his days of dominance are over. He’s 39 at the end of the year, with a brittle body and, now, a history-making world No. 1 to contend with. 



Justin Thomas. The 21-year-old would fit in seamlessly with the Patrick Reeds and Jordan Spieths of the U.S. squad, having grown up competing against them in amateur golf. He’s also a strong match-play performer – Thomas helped lead Alabama to the NCAA title in 2012 and represented the U.S. at the Walker Cup in ’13. Throw in Billy Horschel, and the Americans need more fearless birdie machines like those four players – guys who aren’t chronic losers in the cup, who don’t have years of scar tissue. Tiger, Phil and Furyk have combined for 56 losses. More than anything else, the influx of new blood will help make the Ryder Cup competitive once again.



This upcoming season might be his best chance, because the anchoring ban looms on Jan. 1, 2016. By his lofty standards it was a disappointing season for Scott, who won only once in the States, at the Colonial. Still, he finished in the top 15 in all four majors and was No. 1 in the Tour’s all-around statistic. He’s a rock-solid ball-striker – the most important attribute in getting into contention at majors – but it’s all about whether he can make enough putts. If he can shake in a few on major weekends, he’ll be a particularly strong bet to capture major No. 2 at Augusta, Chambers Bay or St. Andrews;



The first part of your question: With so much public support it’d be a surprise now if Azinger didn’t get the job, assuming he wants to risk his legacy and return for 2016. As for the second part, our Rex Hoggard reported that the PGA is already in the preliminary stages of changing its selection process, which is a positive step. On the European side, the last three captains, a player from the tournament committee and the circuit’s chief executive determine the next skipper. The PGA’s process is somewhat similar, but it needs to be a more collaborative effort with input from former captains and the players. That was Watson’s biggest mistake – the players on the team weren’t invested in the process. 

The second change would be to push back the deadline for the captain’s picks announcement. Yes, brochures have to be made, uniforms tailored and private-jet tickets booked, but this is 2014. Those last-minute details shouldn’t need three weeks of planning. If the PGA wants the hottest players on the team, and thus the best chance to win, then it needs to make the picks after the Tour Championship.



Good question. Ultimately, the players are the ones hitting the shots, although I’d argue that the captain has the responsibility to put the team in the best position to succeed. Watson clearly didn’t do that.

The benefits of the pod system are obvious, but let’s not also forget that Azinger’s 2008 squad also went up against European captain Nick Faldo, one of the worst captains in recent memory. That mismatch certainly helped. At this point, after three losses in a row and eight defeats in the last 10 cups, why not send out Azinger again? What’s there to lose? If he wins, great. Give him the job in ’18, too. If he fails, well, so has everyone else in the 2000s. If Phil said Azinger’s system helped bring out the best in the U.S. players, then that alone makes it worth another shot. 



That’s neither a question nor an option, but it’s worth remembering that these things are cyclical. Not too long ago the Europeans were considered a big underdog and the perceived slights helped fuel their success. That’s not the case anymore, with Team Europe boasting four of the top 5 players in the world. The U.S. will even the score and get its share of victories once the old wave is pushed out. That time is coming, soon. Mark it down: The Americans will win in 2016.  

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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.