by Jeff Skinner
Much was has been made of Tiger Woods’ decision to shut his season down and withdraw from Ryder Cup consideration. With Woods health in question and the sub-par quality of his limited play this season it is most likely a blessing Woods won’t tee it up at Gleneagles.
Blasphemy! You say…how can that be? Wouldn’t Team USA be better with Woods, even an ailing Woods in the mix? Well a healthy Woods hasn’t contributed much to the U.S. team over the years.
The European dominance of the Ryder Cup has come at the same time Woods has been available for the team and most American players have pretty dismal records. But you would figure the greatest player of his day would have solid numbers at the Ryder Cup.
Think again. Woods has an overall Ryder Cup record of 13-17-3 in seven appearances. And he has only played on one winning team, the miracle comeback at the Country Club at Brookline in 1999. He missed Captain Azinger’s triumph in 2008 due to injury.
His singles record is solid at 4-1-2 but when Tiger teams up with another American he has struggled to a 9-16-1 mark.
Hats off to the Golf Channel Digital Team for compiling Tiger’s entire Ryder Cup record. Click here to see all of Tiger’s results in his seven appearances.
by Jeff Skinner
The LPGA continues it very successful 2014 season this week with a final stop in Rochester, New York at the Wegman’s LPGA Championship. This major championship will become the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next year and move from upstate New York to historic Westchester Country Club.
It’s a bittersweet week for many and player after player has expressed hope that the tour could return to Rochester sometime in the future as the community has strongly supported the LPGA for years.
One of the brightest young stars of the LPGA, Lexi Thompson shares the lead with Meena Lee after both shot matching 66’s.
Thompson is hoping to win her second major of the season to go with her Kraft Nabisco Championship. She is also looking to up her profile and is featured in the latest commercial by her clothing sponsor, Puma.
Take a look…Lexi is sitting in a hot tub with two guys. They grow up fast on the LPGA I guess.
by Jeff Skinner
The 2014 golf season has been an ongoing soap opera for Tiger Woods. It finally came to a merciful end when he uncharacteristically removed himself from Ryder Cup consideration.
Woods’ return to play since his March surgery has been marked by missed cuts, withdrawals, sprayed golf shots and too much double talk.
Tiger has never been one to share his feelings with the media. All along he has said he had his doctor’s clearance to play and all he needed was “more reps” to find his game. Anyone who saw Woods play knew that those were fanciful words at best.
To Tiger’s credit he said he wanted to earn his way onto the Ryder Cup and relieve the pressure from Captain Tom Watson to have to select a player so far down the points list. This move takes that option away from Watson and he will certainly have his work cut out to field a solid and healthy team.
On the face of things this looks like Tiger is “taking the high road” as Watson said but I think there is so much more to this decision. Tiger rarely takes the high road he usually only travels on “Tiger’s Road.”
Tiger and his team have a long history of doing one thing and saying another. Many have said that Tiger “is doing the right thing” here in sitting out. I say it is absolutely the right thing to do but Woods isn’t doing this for the good of the team. He is doing it for the good of Tiger Woods. He does everything for himself and his image and he has been doing it that way from day one.
Tiger had said he was healthy enough to play but it was obvious to everyone except himself and his team of yes men that he wasn’t. Tiger may have been able to convince Watson to select him, after all the only thing bigger than his on course achievements is his unchecked ego. And a Tiger that says publicly he wants to be on the team may have been difficult for Watson to deny.
Tiger expresses disappointment on not playing this year but what he does is remove himself from a team that is a significant underdog going into the competition.
So his not playing is a win-win for Woods, especially if the U.S. team loses. If Woods isn’t on the team that gets whitewashed in Scotland he shares none of the blame. If the team wins it is a bonus and Woods looks like he took one for the team.
Also if Woods did get selected and plays poorly, as he usually does in team competition, he would be the focus of much criticism. This way he is relived of any responsibility.
It also spares Woods the embarrassment of not getting selected for the team by Watson. Even with Watson’s declaration that he wanted to pick Tiger there was still a very good chance that Captain Tom would leave him home. After all, Watson and Woods aren’t the friendliest two golfers in the world. If the PGA of America hadn’t gone outside the box a contemporary of Tiger would be sitting in Watson’s seat. And not selecting Woods would have not been an option.
So now Captain Watson can concentrate on selecting three players that are at the very least healthy and hopefully playing well.
On the surface this move by Tiger looks selfless but if we add Tiger’s past history into the equation it’s more selfish.
A team without the 2014 version of Tiger Woods is the right thing, whether Watson or Woods made that decision.
But we shouldn’t think that Woods did this for the good of the team. It’s for Tiger; it is always just for Tiger.
by Jeff Skinner
In a surprising announcement Tiger Woods has removed his name for consideration from the Ryder Cup. Woods put out this statement on his website last evening.
I’ve been told by my doctors and trainer that my back muscles need to be rehabilitated and healed. They’ve advised me not to play or practice now. I was fortunate that my recent back injury was not related to my surgery and was muscular only.
I have already spoken to Tom [Watson] about the Ryder Cup, and while I greatly appreciate his thinking about me for a possible captain’s pick, I took myself out of consideration. The U.S. team and the Ryder Cup mean too much to me not to be able to give it my best. I’ll be cheering for the U.S. team. I think we have an outstanding squad going into the matches.
I plan to return to competition at my World Challenge tournament at Isleworth in Orlando, Florida, Dec. 1-7. It’s an event that’s important to me and my foundation, and it will be exciting to be playing again.
Woods finished in 70th place on the Ryder Cup Points list and Captain Tom Watson had said he would only pick Woods if he was healthy and playing well. Woods is not healthy and having his worst season as a professional.
Watson will now have one less decision to make as he fills out his roster for the September matches in Gleneagles Scotland.
by Jeff Skinner
As Rory McIroy was making his way around the 18th green on in the darkness Sunday night posing for photographers his smile was as wide as the huge Wanamaker Trophy. Watching him from my living room so was mine.
Rory McIlroy’s fantastic finish at the PGA Championship has placed him among the most elite players in the game. In the modern era only eleven men have won more major championships. Only Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus have won four professional majors faster than Rory. Rory could head off to play soccer and drink Guinness for the rest of his days and still make it to the Hall of Fame. And he is only twenty five.
McIlroy’s accomplishments on the course have garnered him millions of fans but his personality may have earned him millions more.
The golf world has been searching for the “next big thing” and the player to replace Tiger Woods for years and Rory has done his best to do just that.
Now, I am not saying that Woods is done and will never win another major but in his current state a return to his previous dominance is doubtful.
Will Rory win fourteen majors? Will he threaten Jack’s record? Both are questions that will be debated for awhile and I can’t say if either will happen but I will say this: Rory McIlroy is the new hero in golf.
We like our heroes to be brave and strong, to be honest and respectful, to be humble and to fight the good fight.
In the six years we have watched Rory mature from a young, chubby cheeked phenom to the fit and powerful number one player in the world. We watched him fall apart while trying to win his first major at The Masters. And then we watched him bounce back two months later to lap the field at the U.S. Open.
All along the way he has been open and honest and lived his life under scrutiny that would make others retreat from the media.
Has Rory had a misstep or two? Of course. You can’t grow up and not make mistakes.
He is on his third management team and suing his last team for mismanagement. During a spell of particular poor play he walked off the course mid-round. After happily living his life on social media he had to endure to pain of a breakup in the public eye.
But he took responsibility for all those issues. He is adamant about his lawsuit and is asking for what he feels he was promised. He admitted to making a huge mistake in withdrawing mid-round and said he has learned from it. And his breakup, as painful as it was, is just another step in growing up. Who hasn’t has relationship issues. Unfortunately his celebrity and affinity for social media forced his to be very public.
These issues have only made Rory stronger and more self-assured. Let’s face it growing up with every moment of your life in the public eye isn’t easy. All things considered Rory has done it fairly well.
What draws us to Rory is his honesty and openness. He’s a human not a programmed automaton. Ask him a question and he always answers. He doesn’t worry about his image or what is politically correct. He’s a straight hitter and a straight talker and the most likable of characters.
His golf game earns him millions of dollars but it’s his personality that earns him his fans.
The horse country of Northern Kentucky, with Churchill Downs just down the road, proved an appropriate setting as all the thoroughbreds of professional golf gave great chase for the Wanamaker Trophy at Valhalla Golf Club today. There was also some jockeying for position among the Links Life Golf touts with a great closing rush by the youngsters in our group.
The final standings are:
1. TOP FINISHER: 4 of 5 of the LLG db’s had Rory in their lineup- Lil Skins, Big Skins, Big Dick and G. Rennie all rode the chalk.
2. TOTAL MONEY: those upstarts, Lil Skins and Big Dick, both jumped on Phil and scored the exacta payoff. Lil Skins wins by a nose as Sergio’s T36 beat out Big D’s T70 from Zach Johnson.
3. TOP FINISHING LONG SHOT: the Stewards inquiry is in over the eligibility of Rickie Fowler as an acceptable long shot. How can a guy with three top five finishes in this year’s previous majors be a legit long shot? Pending review, Big Skins gets the unofficial win here.
4. CUMULATIVE SCORE: at 51under par my stable held onto the lead and closed 9 strokes ahead of Big Skins. By the way, this category gets the biggest payout.
This was a memorable major championship season and the best was saved for last.
Can’t wait until April.
by Jeff Skinner
1. The PGA was by far the most dramatic major of the season. Valhalla gave us plenty of excitement. We like birdies and look at the cast of characters in this drama, world class all of them. It doesn’t get much better that Saturday and Sunday at the PGA.
2. There were some world class pars the last two days. Jason Day’s from the jungle on number two. Rory McIlroy’s from the water right after that. And how about Rickie Fowler’s slinging hook from the 15th fairway onto the 16th green? Just amazing.
3. I felt for Rickie’s caddie as he ran back and forth trying to get his man a good number. He must be a track man.
4. Rory McIlroy is all you can ask for in a champion. He skilled and willing to try any shot and in front of the microphone he’s humble but confident and as honest as anyone in the game.
5. That being said, I think Rory may have irked Phil Mickelson a bit when he wanted to hit up and play as a foursome on eighteen. Of course Phil was diplomatic and said it wasn’t a big deal. But it looked like he and Bones wanted no part of it as they headed up eighteen.
6. Watching the lead changes and the quality of the players vying for the Wanamaker Trophy this may just have been one of the best majors of all time.
7. Rickie’s major season: T5 Masters, T2 U.S Open, T2 Open Championship, T3 PGA Championship. Bittersweet I guess but what a great turnaround for Rickie.
8. If Rickie’s season isn’t proof that Butch Harmon is the best instructor in the game look at the leaderboard. Phil, Fowler and Jimmy Walker all finished in the top seven and all are Butch’s Boys.
9. Jim Furyk just keeps hanging around every time he tees it up. He bounced back with a 66 on Sunday after a 72 on Saturday.
10. Cheers to the two Champions Tour players that made the weekend. Kenny Perry made the most of a special exemption granted to him by the PGA and finished T27 in front of his hometown fans. Colin Montgomerie made the weekend and tied for 70th. Not bad for some old guys.
11. There is plenty of speculation and griping about Rory’s decision to tee off on eighteen while Phil and Rickie were still in the fairway. There could have been some strategy or additional pressure if play had proceeded as normal. As it was, Rory got to see his competitor’s position and maybe that allowed him to play the hole differently.
12. The PGA of America has certainly enhanced its standing and reputation this year. They have broadened their reach and started many new programs and initiatives to promote golf. And they put on one heck of a championship.
by Jeff Skinner
So much for the naysayers that don’t hold the PGA Championship in the same regard as the other three majors. Once again the PGA had the most exciting major of the season. Even Mother Nature couldn’t ruin the greatest finish of the year.
On the soaked and softened Valhalla Golf Course we got to see a true prizefight as Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson went blow to blow in what for awhile looked like a Battle Royal from the World Wrestling Federation.
The last man standing was Rory McIlroy and his emphatic fist pump as the winning putt fell was indeed a knockout punch. McIlroy has now won two consecutive majors with a World Golf Championship wedged between them. His winning streak of three straight is a resounding declaration of his position in the game. Right now he is the best golfer in the game, bar none.
It wasn’t an easy day for the 25 year old Northern Irishman. He saw his one stroke lead disappear rather quickly as he carded two bogeys in his first six holes while his challengers were lighting up a generous Valhalla.
Stenson birdied five of his front nine holes and went out in 30. Mickelson birdied two of his first three and finished the front nine in four under 31. Fowler carded the lone bogey of these three on the front but bounced back with a string of three birds and went out in 32.
This left McIlroy, who showed no visible signs of stress, three strokes behind. He had lost control of the championship but not of his composure or his game.
Knowing he needed to kick start his game on the back nine he unleashed a vicious three wood from the tenth fairway. His ball ran and ran onto the green and settled ten feet from the hole. It seemed to be the only shot that got any run out on Valhalla all week.
McIlroy stepped up and stroked it in for an eagle three which got him to -14 only one back of Fowler. At that point the race was indeed on and the four of them traded blows throughout the back nine and Rory landed the most powerful ones.
Stenson made some amazing saves but unfortunately they were for pars and could only manage one birdie and a matching bogey.
Fowler did the same but an amazing shot from the fifteenth fairway into the sixteenth could only salvage a par.
Mickelson was the real threat to McIlroy on the back but he still trailed by two shots on eighteen. Mickelson almost forced a playoff as his eagle chip ran just by the hole.
McIlroy’s margin of victory came with his birdie on seventeen where he got up and down from a fairway bunker to get to sixteen under par. He bunkered his approach on eighteen also but he had no problem with that at all.
A less than perfect bunker shot was followed by an excellent lag putt and all that was needed was a tap in to finish off his competition for a one stroke victory.
McIlroy has joined some very rare company with this PGA Championship. Only three other golfers have won four majors at 25 or younger: Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Bobby Jones.
McIlroy is a five foot ten inches tall and weighs about 160 pounds. But he is no lightweight. This kid is one of the great heavyweights.
It’s fitting that McIlroy won here in Louisville the home of Muhammad Ali, the greatest of all time.
McIlroy won this heavyweight match today and it’s too soon to start a Rory versus Jack count.
He’s not the greatest of all time, yet. But he’s off to a great start.
by G. Rennie
One of the benefits of major championship weekends is the added special TV programming offered by Golf Channel. They give blanket coverage from the course for hours on end both before and after play and they add interesting and sometimes insightful guest commentators to their capable crew.
Yesterday we we’re privileged to hear Paul Azinger pop off about the state of Tiger’s game, the upcoming Ryder Cup challenges faced by the US team and some rehashing of his approach to a successful Ryder Cup captaincy in 2008.
Zinger is a rare breed for an analyst as he combines straight out you candor with deep felt passion. Along with that you get an adventurous mind that is willing and able to wander off the trodden path of conventional thought. The U.S. golfing public and the PGA of America should whisper a word of reverential thanks to Azinger at every mention of the Ryder Cup because he’s the only captain to secure a win for the U.S. of A. in a real long time. He used an entirely new concept in golf to assemble a team that would bond together on a level comparable to the Europeans. And this concept was drawn from a supremely American source- US Navy SEAL team training.
Why the PGA hasn’t seized on this team building format in subsequent competitions is a huge mystery to me. Why throw out a successful formula? Is it too radical for some other captain to adopt?
If that’s the case just bring back Zinger to the Ryder Cup Captaincy.
Zinger wasn’t stumping for a return bit but I will. He had a few words of advice for Tom Watson that centered on whipping that underdog status into a real motivating factor. Obvious but good advice.
Zinger and Brandel Chamblee had a fine time dissecting the corpse of Tiger Woods’s season and the former PGA champ waxed eloquent and impassioned when talking about Tiger. He said watching Tiger’s recent play was like “watching Van Gogh paint by numbers”. Lamenting the mechanical, technical approach Tiger has embraced was like seeing “an artist become an engineer”. Zinger continued with” Tiger won five times last year despite this flawed approach” because he’s just so great. A number of other commentators have expressed similar opinions but few, if any, have delivered the message so well.
Paul Azinger proved his worth anchoring pro golf telecasts for ABC when that network had a piece of the game. He was paired with his exact opposite, Nick Faldo, and the combination of extreme opposites was a treat for the golf viewer. Why CBS chose the former ice man now tuned cockney clown as their lead analyst instead of Zinger is as much a mystery as the stubborn slide to golf swing technician by Tiger is.
Bring back Paul Azinger to a regular spot in the eighteenth tower and then get him back in the Captain’s chair. Hazeltine 2016 is closer than we think.