Team USA Takes Fourballs…Cuts Euro’s Lead

September 27th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

ryder cup 14 logo troThe morning fourball matches closed with the team of Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker earning a tough half point from Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter.

Fowler’s eagle putt stopped just short of the hole and thereby cut the USA comeback a bit shorter than Captain Tom Watson had hoped.

Team USA was able to pick up a full point on the European Team taking the morning session at Gleneagles 2 ½ to 1½. That still leaves Europe with a one point lead 6 ½ to 5 ½ as the teams head to the final session of team play, afternoon foursomes.

The morning session started with the US team of Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar running into the buzz saw of a team of Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson. Rose has been blessed by the Golf Gods this week with a magic putter and was dropping putts from everywhere on the green. The Euro’s carded 10 birdies in their 3 & 2 win with Rose earning seven of them.

The good news for the Americans is that Bubba found his game and actually made a few birdies and Kuchar played well also but no one was going to top Rose today. So far he is the star of the week.

The second match pitted Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan against Jamie Donaldson and Lee Westwood with the Americans dominating from the start and earning a 4 & 3 victory. Furyk was finally given a teammate that carries his weight (not like all those Tiger pairings) and he and Mahan got an early lead and stepped on the gas. They were 3 up after seven and never looked back.  RoseStensonSata.jpg

Match three had the American Wunderkinds, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed vying against veterans Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer. Bjorn has whiskers in that beard of his that are older than the Americans but the youngsters gave the old dudes all they could handle.

Spieth and Reed were tested early as they went 2 down after the third hole but there is plenty of heart in those young chests. They fought back to all square at the sixth and took the lead at the ninth. From there they stepped on the gas with five birds in seven holes to close out the match on the fifteenth hole, 5 & 3.

Team Rookie gave the USA a 2-1 advantage in the morning sessions with the final McIlroy/Poulter vs. Walker/Fowler match going all the way to eighteen for the half. McIlroy played well and carried Poulter early in the match but it looks like the beast has awoken. Poulter found his game down the stretch with a chip in and some clutch putting. That doesn’t bode well for the Americans.

Walker and Fowler have played some very good golf and their matches have been the most tightly contested of the week. They have faced the best the Euro’s have to offer and not blinked once. Earning a half point in each of their matches may be construed by some as failure but with the teams they have faced and the level of play thrown at them these two have displayed the grit and determination that wins the Ryder Cup.

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Ryder Cup Lineup Shake Ups…

September 26th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

ryder cup 14 logo troArmchair quarterbacking is usually reserved for the NFL on Sunday but with the Ryder Cup I get to do it all weekend. Here are a few thoughts on the happenings so far at a very exciting 40th Ryder Cup.

Euro Captain Paul McGinley struck gold with his Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson pairing and looks like he’ll ride that one all weekend. He has them leading off on Saturday… smart move.

McGinley has broken up the very attractive pairing of Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia to put the world number one with Ian Poulter who uncharacteristically is struggling on his favorite stage. He’s hoping Rory can jump start Poulter who has looked nothing like the star he was at Medinah.

Jamie Donaldson and Lee Westwood who won in foursomes get the chance to go back out there early Saturday. Sergio Garcia is on the bench and while he’s a great cheerleader I can’t imagine he’s thrilled about not playing.

U.S. captain Tom Watson shook things up with his lineup a bit as he tries to overcome that two point deficit that Europe holds. day 2

Watson benched Webb Simpson and rightly so but his ineffective partner, Bubba Watson will be back out there in the opening fourball pairing with Matt Kuchar. I saw nothing from Bubba that warranted another start in team play. He and Webb Simpson needed to be buried until Sunday. And they are facing the hottest team in the Ryder Cup, Rose and Stenson.

That’s a tough task for Bubba who has major problems staying focused. Kuch will have his hands full trying to handle Bubba.  This could be construed as a bit of a panic move from Watson: Bubba and Kuch never practiced together all week.

Jim Furyk will team with Hunter Mahan (both lost on Friday) against Jamie Donaldson and Lee Westwood who won on Friday. Furyk and Mahan are straight hitters who should be able to compete with the Euro’s.

Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth were the biggest surprise on Friday and were chomping at the bit to play in the afternoon. Watson elected to sit them and I can understand that he wanted to get all his players on the course but the way those two were playing demanded an afternoon start. They will face the formidable pairing of Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer. But these two have such confidence right now they will be tough to beat.

Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler were the unsung heroes of Friday’s play. In the morning they battled back from 3 down and birdied two of the last three holes to halve the match against Bjorn and Kaymer. In the afternoon they faced McIlroy and Garcia who were hurting from their morning loss and the Americans struggled over the last few holes to salvage a half point. But against such grand competition they have to be thought of as a very strong team. That is why Watson put them in the anchor spot to face McIlroy and Poulter.

Missing from Saturday’s morning fourballs is Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley. Watson says they are tired and they need rest but they will be out in the afternoon foursomes. And this is where Watson blew it.  Phil-Mickelson-Shake

Phil and Keegan outdid themselves in the morning fourballs on Saturday beating the marquee pairing of Rory and Sergio. That took a lot out of them and they should have been rested in the afternoon.

The both of them while very long drivers aren’t accurate at all. They can make birds by the bunch and their fourball play was stellar. But their foursome (alternate shot) play left them standing in ankle deep, punishing rough or deep sand all afternoon.

Phil is 44 and battling arthritis and had to be gassed after that emotionally draining win in the morning. The time to rest him and maybe Keegan was in the afternoon. Not Saturday morning when he and Keegan could be working their magic together.

Alternate shot (foursomes) is a tough task. Hitting from the fairways is the way to go and that means players like Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk, and Hunter Mahan. This is some very deep rough at Gleneagles and Phil finds about as much rough as anyone out there.

Phil and Keegan should be playing on Saturday morning not Saturday afternoon. That would have given them some rest, some wins and maybe a chance at reclaiming the Ryder Cup.

 

 

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Studs & Duds at The Ryder Cup

September 26th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

DUDS

Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson. We don’t have to look too far to find our first and most resounding DUD of day one at the Ryder Cup. Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson started the day off and proceeded to lay the biggest egg of the day for the Americans. Bubba and his personal head doctor couldn’t even manage a single bogey in a very disheartening 5 & 4 loss to Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson.

Rosey and The Terminator (tell me he doesn’t look like a cyborg) were able to card five birdies while Bubba and Webb had a hard time finding the green…forget about birdies. Zero birdies in 14 holes. That doesn’t get it done on this stage. Both of them should be banished to the team room until Sunday.

Ian Poulter and Stephen Gallacher. The world was ready for another dose of Poulter the Maniacal. But the gleam was gone from those bulging eyes as Poults and his Scottish partner, Stephen Gallacher were on the wrong end of another 5 & 4 beat down. Poulter couldn’t make a putt and Gallacher looked shell shocked. Rookie phenoms Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed toasted the European Team from the start and even had a six up lead before their first bogey of the round handed the Euro’s their only hole of the day.  rose and Stenson ryder cup

Tom Watson. Watson did some things right but a few moves left him open for second guessing. Phil Mickelson needs rest this week and sending him out in the afternoon while a hot Spieth and Reed sat was questionable. His move of leaving veterans Matt Kuchar and Jim Furyk on the bench in the morning was odd but with the play of Spieth and Reed he was redeemed.

STUDS  

Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson. These two were the only players on either team to earn two points today. They shellacked Bubba and Webb 5 & 4 in the morning and for lunch they ate up Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson 2 & 1. I think they may be joined at the hip until Sunday Singles.

Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed. Watson showed plenty of faith in these two rookies sending them out together and against Ryder Cup stud Ian Poulter no less. The rooks took the Euro’s to the woodshed with a painful 5 & 4 drubbing. They pleaded with Captain Watson to head out in the afternoon but were sent to the sidelines.

Graeme McDowell and Victor Dubuisson. These two were rested and ready when a tired Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley faced them after a pressure filled 1 up win over Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia. GMAC and Frenchy got off to a 3 up lead early as the Americans bogeyed two of the first five holes. Phil and Keegs made a bit of a comeback but the fresh legs of the Euro’s outlasted the yanks 3 & 2.

Captain Paul McGinley. He got all his players on the course and has a two point lead on a home course. Enough said. And it looks like that whole Irish Litigation thing may have some legs. Rory and GMAC, formerly inseparable weren’t paired together and won’t be for the Saturday morning session. Unless they play together in the afternoon foursomes we can kiss that partnership goodbye.

Jimmy Walker. Did anyone make more dramatic plays than the lanky Texan? He sank a shot from a bunker for an eagle at nine, birdied 16 with a chip in and sank the putt that secured a great comeback in the morning fourballs to halve the match.

Captain Tom Watson. Yes, Old Tom is both a STUD and a DUD. For having the balls to put rookies Spieth and Reed out unaccompanied by an old tested veteran he deserves some credit.

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Ryder Cup Fourball Matchups Favors European Team

September 25th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

ryder cup 14 logo troThe 2014 Ryder Cup officially got under way today with the opening ceremonies at Gleneagles Scotland. Amid the pipers and anthems and speeches the captains announced their pairings for the opening fourballs segment tomorrow.

Captains Paul McGinley and Tom Watson finally broke their code of silence and gave us the opening day lineup for the biggest event in golf.

Starting off at 2:30am EST on Friday for Team USA is Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson. McGinley countered with Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson. Match two pits Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker against Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer. Match three has rookies Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed facing Stephen Gallacher and Ian Poulter. The anchor match has the trappings of a heavyweight fight with Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley taking on Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy.

For my money Captain Watson who decided not to shake things up with his captain’s picks certainly decided to shake things up a bit with his day one selections.  Captain McGinley may have one upped his counterpart with his lineup.

Match 1: Watson elected to put Bubba and Webb out first probably hoping for the mercurial Bubba to start things off with a bang. Bubba can fire up a crowd with his long ball but also has a history of self-destructing at times. Webb, who was a captain’s pick and due to his less than stellar recent play was thought to be one of the weakest links on the team, will be faced with the challenge of keeping Bubba contained and making some birdies. The Americans face a formidable team of Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson. Stenson hasn’t found his amazing 2013 form but Rose has rounded into form during the FedEx Cup playoffs.   ryder cup 14 am 4ball

This was a natural pairing for Watson as Bubba and Webb are former Ryder and Presidents Cup partners but sending them out first is a bit questionable.

Match 2: Captain Tom wasn’t shy about getting his rookies out on day one and he paired rookie Jimmy Walker (3 wins this season) with Rickie Fowler. Fowler has Ryder & Presidents Cup experience and had a world class major championship season. They face a very experienced team of Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer. Kaymer, the ’14 US Open and Players champion teams with Bjorn who has had a solid season on the European Tour standing at fourth in the Race to Dubai.

Match 3: This is where Watson went off the board in teaming two Ryder Cup rookies and putting them out on day one. This is a bold move by Watson but he feels that Spieth’s Presidents Cup experience and the fact that Spieth played on two Junior Ryder Cup Teams, one of which played at Gleneagles, gives him a veteran’s resume. Watson also loves rookie Patrick Reed’s bravado and self-confidence. Reed likes to think of himself as “a top five golfer in the world” and Watson has called on the rookie to put his money where his mouth is.
They face what could be the most popular team in Scotland, native Scot Stephen Gallacher and Ryder Cup legend Ian Poulter. Needless to say Gallacher will get the loudest cheers of all the players and Poulter’s experience and penchant for holing putts could very well overwhelm the American rookies.

Match 4:  This matchup has to be billed as the main event of the morning. Each captain elected to put out their heavyweight teams. Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley who have had good success in the past will face the new and impressive team of Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia. Mickelson has said that teaming with Bradley had reignited his love for the Ryder Cup. Bradley has been labeled as the emotional center of the American team and they may need it as they face the most impressive team of the week.

World number one McIlroy and world number three Garcia team to make the highest ranked team of the week. Their recent newfound friendship will serve them well as the favorites in this match. Both Rory and Sergio have had very good second halves of the season while Mickelson is coming off his worst season in a decade and Bradley has had a lackluster season and needed a captain’s pick to make the team.

Going into this Ryder Cup the European Team was said to be the stronger of the teams and the two man teams in the morning fourball session is no different.

With Watson keeping world number four Jim Furyk and number nine Matt Kuchar on the bench and the Euro’s having four of the top six ranked players in the world playing early the European Team has to be an overwhelming favorite…on paper.

But we all know that “on paper” sometimes doesn’t translate into reality.

For the American Team to win back the Ryder Cup success on day one is critical and we all know what a fickle game, even at this level, golf can be.

Bubba and Webb will need “the good Bubba” to show up. Rickie and Jimmy will be pressed to overcome a very experienced team. Can the U.S. rookies withstand a mismatch? Phil & Keegs will need Rory & Sergio to stumble if they want to earn a point.

I see it going in the European Team’s favor with Rose & Stenson winning, match 2 will see a split, and I am betting on the rookies to earn a surprising half point but Sergio & Rory will top Phil and Keegan giving the European Team a 3-1 lead at the end of the morning fourball.

Captain Watson will need some Ryder Cup Magic to find some momentum for his underdog American team.

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1993 Ryder Cup: Watson’s Win

September 23rd, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

The year was 1993 and a young Tom Watson was the captain that led his American Ryder Cup Team to victory.

Watson is back at the helm for this year’s Ryder Cup and is counting on a repeat performance as a winning captain.

Amazingly, Watson’s ’93 win was the last time the Americans were able to claim the cup on foreign soil.

Here’s a flashback of that victory. Maybe the Americans can use it for some inspiration as they try and break the European hold on the Ryder Cup

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Ryder Cup Week…Pressure, Pressure, Pressure

September 22nd, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

ryder cup 14 logo troRyder Cup: the most pressure in all of golf. It’s Ryder Cup Week and for twenty four of the world’s best golfers it is the most pressure they will ever experience in the game.

The stories that golfers tell of their feelings on the first tee of the Ryder Cup show just how nervous these seasoned professionals can get when teeing it up for their country.

Some are so nervous they can’t place the ball on the tee. Others have been unable to speak while some are so shaky that they have changed their game plan on the opening tee and made their partner hit the first tee shot. And we won’t even discuss the extra trips to the men’s room for so many anxious players.

Player after player will tell you that the Ryder Cup tee box is the scariest place in golf. Certainly, starting The Masters, The U.S. Open, The Open Championship and the PGA will get a player’s heart rate going but nothing makes their knees knock, their hands shake and their bowels work overtime like Samuel Ryder’s little trophy.

Each week on their respective tours these golfers are playing for millions of dollars this week they play for no money. But to a man they will tell you this is the most important week of their season. Playing for your country will do that. Playing for your teammates will do that. Playing at the Ryder Cup is the ultimate for any professional golfer. This week will make someone a hero and maybe a goat or two. It’s a week that these players will remember for the rest of their lives.

It’s Ryder Cup Week…the most pressure in golf.

Here are some great Ryder Cup resources to get us through the week and keep us up on all things Ryder Cup.

The Ryder Cup Team websites are filled with great info on the teams and history. The team USA site has a nice hole by hole preview of the Jack Nicklaus designed Gleneagles PGA Centenary Course.

The European Team’s website has a Europe vs. USA statistical break down that may surprise you. And speaking of pressure David Feherty says that the Euro’s are the one under the most pressure this year.

Much has been made of the “home field” advantage that the Europeans will have over the Americans. But it is really only as it relates to the fans. Certainly the raucous European faithful will cheer for their team but as far as the course favoring the Euro’s that‘s debatable.

It’s not a links course but rather a parkland layout that will seem familiar to the Americans. And not many European Team members have seen Gleneagles that often, other than Stephen Gallacher who lives 35 miles away. Alistair Tait gives us the inside dope on the home course advantage.  ryder cup tv

Golf Digest has published some insightful videos on our favorite team event. The one below tells us just how much pressure these players are under. Click here for the rest. 

Play starts early Friday morning at 2:30 EST. Get some rest and join me as one of the crazies that gets up early to watch this thing.

It’s one of the best weekends in golf and for sure the one with the most pressure.

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Saturday Swing Tip: Shift Gears Like Rory McIlroy…Or Try to

September 13th, 2014 No comments

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Miller, Kostis, Phillips: Simple Fixes for Our Game

September 12th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

The October issue of Golf Magazine hit my mailbox yesterday and yes I still subscribe to the archaic, old school, printed media. One of the advantages of getting the print version is that many of the articles in the magazine don’t appear on the Golf.com website for awhile and some not at all.

In this month’s The Golf Magazine Interview Cameron Morfit doesn’t have one interviewee but three. Hall of Fame golfer and analyst Johnny Miller, CBS analyst and teacher Peter Kostis and top 100 teacher Dave Phillips dish on a bunch of subjects.

They discuss who’s the best driver, should amateurs worry about launch angle, Tiger’s swing, Rory’s driver, the best putter ever and more.

Their responses to one interesting question posed by Morfit gives us hackers plenty of info on how we can better our game. It’s all so simple but so overlooked by all of us.

Question: What’s the most common mistake you see weekend players make?

Kostis: The typical golfer is always trying to hit the perfect shot. He’ll hit ten 7 irons and the longest one goes 155, so he’ll feel like every 7 iron should go 155. The Tour player is more respectful of mis-hits. 

Miller: I’ve played with amateurs for a million years and they just don’t hit many flush shots. I asked Tom Watson one time “Do you always hit the ball that flush?’ He said he once went five years without mis-hitting one shot- no thin shots, no fat shots. I advocate the brush-brush drill. Everybody works on their body or their posture. Just brush the grass, taking your divot after the ball. Do that and you’ll drop five shots in a week. 

Kostis: Johnny’s 100 percent right, but you can’t do that if you swing too hard, swinging out of your butt. 

Miller: Take more club and just hit the ball flush. It’s very hard to do-it takes a lot of coordination. 

Phillips: Agreed. Most people under-club dramatically and don’t know what to work on. They also want to hit the driver farther, which is fine-but they’re the worst putter or chipper in the world. Work on your weaknesses. 

So here are their tips: take more club, hit the ball first, swing under control and practice the short game. Now where have I heard that before?

It sounds so simple.  Maybe we should take their advice.

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PGA Tour’s Tribute to Arnold Palmer

September 10th, 2014 2 comments

by Jeff Skinner

The PGA Tour has put together a wonderful tribute to Arnold Palmer as he celebrates his 85th birthday today.  Jay Haas, Tom Watson, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus narrate a poem that hangs on Arnie’s office wall.  It speaks to Arnie’s indomitable will and the way he lived his life.  A very classy tribute by the tour for sure.

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LPGA Rolls Into the Final Major…The Evian Championship

September 10th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Golf’s major championship season ends this week as the LPGA travels to France and The Evian Championship.

Mike Whan’s LPGA Tour has had a memorable season and he hopes that continues at The Evian.

U.S. Women’s Open winner and the most popular player on tour, Michelle Wie returns from a month off due to a wrist injury. She has only been practicing for a few days but she’s anxious to get back on the course. Whether she can compete against a very strong field on a few days of practice may be too big a challenge.

Suzann Pettersen is the defending champion and will be trying to join Wie, Inbee Park, Mo Martin and Lexi Thompson as 2014 major champions.

Stacy Lewis hasn’t won a major this year and the world number one wants to change that in a big way.

Lydia Ko has found great success on the LPGA and would be the young major winner in history if she can manage her way over the hills of The Evian.

Inbee Park has regained her form and would like to be the only two time major winner in 2014.

So will Lexi Thompson who broke through for her first major at the Kraft Nabisco earlier this year.

The field is stacked at the picturesque Evian Resort Golf Club and it should be a great week in the mountains of France. But when The Evian rolls around to me it means one thing… The Evian Roller Babies. This one never gets old.

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