Q&A: Floyd on Masters win, Ryder Cup changes

By Ryan Reiterman April 5, 2016, 3:00 pm

In 1976, Raymond Floyd won his first and only green jacket by a whopping eight strokes. He tied Jack Nicklaus' record of 17 under par, which was eventually broken by Tiger Woods in 1997 and Jordan Spieth last year. Forty years after his Masters win, Floyd talks about his magical week, the secret weapon that helped him conquer Augusta, the future of the PGA Tour Champions and why the Ryder Cup holds a special place in his heart.

How did you feel going into that week?
I had been playing really well in the spring, coming to Florida. And was really playing well tee to green, but was having difficulty scoring. I wasn’t making putts and getting the ball up-and-down. I played Greensboro the week before Augusta, and the last round I had a 66 in not the best of weather, and I finally started making some putts. On the drive to Augusta, I had an epiphany, if you will. I just felt so confident, went full of confidence driving the whole way thinking about it, thinking of winning the Masters. Thinking this was my week that everything had fallen into place perfectly. Just went in there brimming with confidence.

So after shooting 65 in the first round did you feel like it was going to be your week?
As I said, I felt it before. I was … so full of confidence. The 65 just added fuel to that feeling. Now I go out and shoot 65 and now I’m brimming with confidence.

What was it like to sleep on the lead every night?
I never had trouble sleeping on the lead. I always felt like … I always wanted [the lead]. If I had a one-shot lead it took another person two to beat me. So I was comfortable with the lead my whole life and still am a good sleeper, so it didn’t bother me.

When you won there you still had to use a local caddie. Do you think some guys today would benefit from using an Augusta caddie?
No. No, the Tour caddies are much more sophisticated and better. However, there were caddies that caddied at Augusta National … there was probably six to 10 caddies from Augusta that were Tour caddies. So you had some really good caddies there, and you had some really good caddies that caddied for the members and knew the course and the greens. But they didn’t have 80 good caddies or 90. You were kind of luck of the draw if you got a good caddie at Augusta.

I couldn’t believe you were one of the first players to put a 5-wood in the bag.
I was the very first person. In the fall, I started thinking about Augusta National. I had the length to reach the par 5s, but in that era we used 1- and 2-irons, and the ball would be hot on the trajectory and it would hit … and the greens were harder then, this was pre bent grass, and the greens were much firmer, and the trouble was over the greens. Literally, you’d have a 1- or 2-iron into these greens and it would bounce. It’s like the 15th hole – there were more balls in the back lake than the front.

I kept thinking about the Masters. I can win this tournament. It suits me. It’s a long golf course. You have to drive it long. So I started thinking about it. If I have something to go into those par 5s and I can keep it on the green, it’d be a huge advantage.

Women had 5-woods in their bags, but there was no such thing in a man’s bag. A 4-wood was it. I started thinking about making some 5-woods up. Something I could carry about 200-210 [yards], something in that range. I got some 5-wood heads from a club manufacturer out of Memphis, named Bert Dargie. I called him and he had a handful of 5-wood heads. I had him send them to me, I lived in Miami Beach at the time, and I took them up to my guy that did all my repair and club work up in Hollywood, Fla., … Of course all those heads in that era were laminated. I was there when he grounded and set up my faces and we painted them and shaft them and got five, there might have been six [5-woods], and I started practicing with them that winter.

I broke a couple of them immediately in practice because the hosels were thin, it was a smaller head. They were women’s clubs. They didn’t take the force. Finally I got one that I liked a lot. I didn’t use it because I was breaking them at such a rate, but I would hit balls with it occasionally and then I never did use it in a tournament. I took it to Augusta and that was my first week [using it]. I think I was 14 under on the par 5s, which won me the tournament.

You think that’s still the key to winning the Masters? Taking advantage of the par 5s?
Oh, without a doubt. If you can play the other holes even, you can win the golf tournament if you play the par 5s under.

What impressed you most about watching Jordan Spieth win last year?
His quality of play. His quality of mind. The way he went about it. His maturity level is certainly older than his age. It was fun to watch him being in total control.

Do you think anyone playing today will pass Jack’s 18 majors or Tiger’s 14 majors?
It would be difficult, but it would have to be a player like Jordan or Rory [McIlroy] or one of these young kids who come out and win majors early. You’re not going to start at 30 and win your first major and get there, that’s for sure.

Is there too much emphasis on majors when we look back on a player’s career?
No. Absolutely not. Maybe not enough. What separates a player? A guy’s won 20 events but no major? Or a guy that won 15 events and two of them were majors, or one? It’s always been the barometer. Every player, I think there goal is to win a major championship.

I just always think of someone like Billy Casper who only won three majors, but who won 69 times as a professional and often gets overlooked.
But you see that’s relative. He won 69 events, but he won three majors. So that speaks volumes. There are guys that won in the 20s that didn’t win majors. Guys that were good players that never had a major. It’s the hole in their whole career. Look at Doug Sanders. Doug Sanders is not in the Hall of Fame, and there are guys in the Hall of Fame with less wins than Doug Sanders, and the reason is they won a major or two majors.

It’s also the 30th anniversary of not only Jack’s win at the 1986 Masters, but also your U.S. Open win at Shinnecock. Were you inspired at all by Jack’s win at 46?
I never thought of that. I always felt competitive. I was competitive in my 40s. I won on the Tour when I was almost 50. I won Doral when I was 49. I played with confidence, and I always said if I don’t feel like I can win that’s when I’ll quit the Tour. And I would’ve. But here came the seniors tour, and I felt like I could win there, which I did. That kept me competing.

You were certainly one of the players who helped to popularize the Champions Tour. But now with guys making so much money and so many outside business interests, do you think the Champions Tour will suffer?
Yeah I think it will somewhat. But still, guys have that competitive spirit. It gives them something to do. It keeps them healthy. To me, that was the key of the Champions Tour, it kept me working out and healthy, eating properly and doing things to stay competitive. That was a big positive for me.

Do you think a player over 50 years old will win a major?
Yeah, I do. At 50 and 52, I lost in a playoff [at the Masters] to [Nick] Faldo, and I finished second to Freddie Couples. If I did it back then, guys are in better shape now than they were in my era.

You were an assistant Ryder Cup captain for Paul Azinger in 2008. What was it like being back in that team room again?
It was awesome. Ryder Cups were always some of my fondest memories and best experiences. If somebody said to me if you had to take one thing out of your career? Would it be a Masters or a U.S. Open? If I had to pull one experience, it would be my captaincy at the Ryder Cup. My wife was involved. She captained the girls. It was a special, special, special time in my life. That is still today the one experience would be a Ryder Cup captain. Ryder Cups are very special, and to be invited back by Paul to be an assistant was really special to be a part of that.

Do you think the overall spirit is better now, especially after 9/11 when they had to postpone it for a year? It was getting pretty heated after what happened in 1999.
Yeah, and I think there is a better feel. We got away from that. Some of the ugliness in the galleries, I think that’s contained now and realizing the spirit of the competition and how it was started it was [about] relationships. One country with another, goodwill through the game of golf. And it got a little high-spirited, which I don’t think was good. But I think it’s leveled out now. Every two years, it is the golf event in the world.

What do you think of the U.S. task force?
I thought it was needed. I thought it was a good move. We were getting it handed to us year-in and year-out, and they had a system. They started a system that worked, and it has worked and it is strictly, I think it is a professional way of doing business, if you would.

And I think for our PGA of America to start thinking about how are we going to win, it’s a little more than just throwing a new captain in every year and there is no continuity, players don’t know what they are doing. The captain has assistant captains, but the continuity is not there as it was for years on the European side. The guy was an assistant captain for two or three years before he became the captain. He got the feel of it, and what it takes to win and how you go about winning.

And of course no matter what when you have for so many years a nucleus of the European team that was the nucleus of eight or nine guys and they were all playing together every year on their teams in alternate shot situations or foursomes, that’s a tough thing to beat when you got the same people playing together every year.

We had a bigger turnover. You can look back in our history and we’re likely six first-time Ryder Cuppers every two years. We had more of a turnover of good players. That’s why they say that experience is so important. However now you look back and some of our younger guys have done better in their first year than some of the veterans.

Did anyone ever try to change your swing?
No. My father was my teacher. I had a really classic, good golf swing early in my career, and I learned to play around injury. My swing would change with injury. I was blessed with the ability that I could perform by altering. Later in my career with a bad hip, I ended up having back surgery, and I ended up having knee replacement. And a good athlete can work around it and still perform. I was blessed to be able to do that. But, no, I had no peer pressure to do anything. I was doing the best I could.

Getty Images

Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

Getty Images

Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

Getty Images

Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.

Getty Images

Daly (knee) replaced by Bradley in Open field

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 12:13 pm

Former champion John Daly has withdrawn from The Open because of a right knee injury and will be replaced in the field at Carnoustie by another major winner, Keegan Bradley.

Daly, 52, defeated Costantino Rocca in a memorable playoff to win the claret jug at St. Andrews in 1995. His lingering knee pain led him to request a cart during last month's U.S. Senior Open, and when that request was denied he subsequently withdrew from the tournament.

Daly then received treatment on the knee and played in a PGA Tour event last week at The Greenbrier without the use of a cart, missing the cut with rounds of 77-67. But on the eve of the season's third major, he posted to Twitter that his pain remains "unbearable" and that a second request for a cart was turned down:

This will be just the second time since 2000 that Daly has missed The Open, having also sat out the 2013 event at Muirfield. He last made the cut in 2012, when he tied for 81st at Royal Lytham. He could still have a few more chances to improve upon that record, given that past Open champions remain fully exempt until age 60.

Taking his place will be Bradley, who was first alternate based on his world ranking. Bradley missed the event last year but recorded three top-20 finishes in five appearances from 2012-16, including a T-18 finish two years ago at Royal Troon.

The next three alternates, in order, are Spain's Adrian Otaegui and Americans Aaron Wise and J.B. Holmes.