Tuesday, October 6

Does the Presidents Cup Need a U.S. Loss?

THE UNITED STATES HAS WON EIGHT of 10 Presidents Cups. For the sake of the event, do the Americans need to tank this week in Korea? Do the Internationals need to get in the win column for a change? It would be their first victory since 1998.

Golf.com's Cameron Morfit suggested as much in his column.

"When the Presidents Cup began in 1994," Morfit wrote, "the idea was that the event would grow in stature every couple of years until it began to rival, at least a little, the Ryder Cup. Instead, the opposite has happened, with the Presidents Cup getting less and less relevant with every passing red, white and blue blowout."

Whether the Presidents Cup or the Ryder Cup, one-sidedness is definitely not a good thing. After a while, people think or say, "Who cares?" In fact, folks already say that about the Presidents Cup. ("Not interested in this fake Ryder Cup copy," said one Golf.com reader.)

On the plus side, two dozen of the world's best golfers will be facing each other in match-play formats this week, which has compelling possibilities, especially for the diehard golf fan. Two of those opposing players are golden boys Jordan Spieth and Jason Day. We would all like to see them go head to head at least once at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea.

Meanwhile, International Team Captain Nick Price understands the gravity for his side.

"I will tell you guys," Price said, "this is a really important Presidents Cup. I'm not going to say, 'What if?' But this better be closely contested. I'll let you guys figure out the repercussions."

Day just came out and said it: "Everybody knows we need to win."

U.S. captain's pick Phil Mickelson said, "I think this is going to be an extremely close, difficult match decided by one or two points."

That might help, especially if Day and his mates somehow pulled out a rare victory.

U.S. Team
Jay Haas (captain)
Jordan Spieth
Rickie Fowler
Dustin Johnson
Zach Johnson
Chris Kirk
Matt Kuchar
Patrick Reed
Jimmy Walker
Bubba Watson
J.B. Holmes
Bill Haas
Phil Mickelson

International Team
Nick Price (captain)
Jason Day
Adam Scott
Sangmoon Bae
Steve Bowditch
Branden Grace
Thongchai Jaidee
Anirban Lahiri
Danny Lee
Marc Leishman
Hideki Matsuyama
Louis Oosthuizen
Charl Schwartzel

Monday, October 5

The Twenty-Two Million Dollar Man

JORDAN SPIETH WON IT ALL in the 2014-2015 season, including $22,030,465. That's $22 million for a 22-year-old. Nice symmetry. On Friday, to no one's surprise, Spieth was named PGA Tour Player of the Year.

From PGATour.com:
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- The PGA TOUR announced Friday Jordan Spieth as the PGA TOUR Player of the Year and Jack Nicklaus Award recipient, and Daniel Berger as PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year, as voted by the TOUR's membership for the 2014-15 season. 
PGA TOUR members who played in at least 15 official money events this past season were eligible to vote. The balloting process ended on October 1. 
The 22-year-old Spieth became the youngest PGA TOUR Player of the Year since Tiger Woods won the award at the age of 21 in 1997. 
"The PGA TOUR enjoyed a sensational season from every perspective as our young stars shone brighter than ever before, but none brighter than the PGA TOUR Player of the Year Jordan Spieth," said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem. "He captivated us throughout a memorable year that included the FedExCup and five victories, highlighted by two major championships. And the sportsmanship he displayed in both victory and defeat was a stirring indication of the role model and ambassador he has become in a very short period of time."
Who's Hungriest?

The season started with Rory McIlroy on top, but that changed when Spieth won the Masters and U.S. Open. Rory missed the Open Championship as Spieth narrowly missed the playoff at the Old Course, where Zach Johnson prevailed. Then Jason Day made his incredible late-season spurt that included his first major victory, the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

All of the above has sparked McIlroy.

"It's motivating to see what these guys [Spieth and Day] are doing," he told BBC Sport. "You want to work harder, hit more balls, and try to keep getting better."

Rory added: "It has definitely given me that sense of hunger again."

That's good for the Northern Irishman, but I can't imagine Spieth and Day easing off the accelerator, even after breakout seasons. They don't strike me as players who will lose their focus or rest on their laurels.

And there are others out there. Fowler showed more than promise with a couple of impressive wins. There's a lot of young talent and hunger on the PGA Tour, which bodes well for the coming season and this new era in golf.

Friday, October 2

Friday Golf Shot: Johnny Goodman

Johnny Goodman at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.
(Courtesy of Boston Public Library, Lester Jones Collection, via Flickr)

JOHNNY GOODMAN WAS THE LAST AMATEUR to win the U.S. Open. Goodman won at Olympic Fields in 1933, edging Ralph Guldahl by a stroke. He had already made a name for himself. At the age of 19 Goodman beat Bobby Jones in the first round of the 1929 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach. Goodman later won the U.S. Amateur in 1937 and is credited with at least 60 tournament victories, according to Wikipedia.

The son of Lithuanian immigrants and orphaned when he was 14, Goodman grew up poor in Omaha, Nebraska, where today there is a golf course named after him.

Michael Blaine wrote a fine biography on Goodman published in 2006. It's called The King of Swings: Johnny Goodman, the Last Amateur to Beat the Pros at Their Own Game.

Thursday, October 1

Falling: Stock Market, Gas Prices and Elite Golfers in World Rankings


As Golfweek reported, name players are dropping in the Official World Golf Ranking. Obviously, Tiger Woods is the most famous and dramatic example, but there are plenty of others.

"How tough is it to maintain a high world ranking?" wrote Golfweek. "Well, more than 25 percent of those who began the year in the top 50 are now on the other side."

Following are some examples.

Tiger Woods was 32nd and is now 299th.

Graeme McDowell was 15th and is now 71st.

Victor Dubuisson was 17th and is now 57th.

Keegan Bradley was 28th and is now 53rd.

Joost Luiten was 29th and is now 66th.

Ryan Moore was 30th and is now 51st.

Luke Donald was 33rd and is now 60th.

Steve Stricker was 33rd and is now 170th.

Stephen Gallacher was 35th and is now 96th.

Thomas Bjorn was 36th and is now 142nd.

Jason Dufner was 38th and is now 101st.

Miguel Angel Jimenez was 40th and is now 60th.

Mikko Ilonen was 47th and is now 117th.

John Senden was 49th and is now 62nd.

As Golfweek noted, Graeme McDowell's ranking is his worst since mid-2008 and the last time Jason Duffner was outside the top 100 was in January 2011.

No doubt, it's very tough to stay near the top.

Wednesday, September 30

Jordan Spieth to Caddie: 'You Need to Yell at Me'

ABOVE: Caddie Michael Greller (left) with Jordan Spieth.

ESPN.COM'S MICHAEL COLLINS, A FORMER CADDIE, filed another edition of "Caddie Confidential." Only this week, it's not confidential. Michael Greller openly talks about what it's like to be Jordan Spieth's caddie, especially during this milestone season.

"Three years ago I'm literally in my sixth-grade class teaching ya know?" Greller told Collins. "And here I am talking to you guys about my boss that's won two majors, a FedEx and everything else."

This player and caddie have developed a special relationship. Among other things, Collins asked, "When did you feel comfortable enough to give him a verbal kick in the pants?"

Greller said:
Like this year at the John Deere, he told me on Thursday. He said, "Michael, you need to yell at me." And he'll tell me that I need to, in so many words, grab him by the [he's searching for PG rated words] neck. And get his head right. He'll give me permission to. 
And it's weird, like your boss is telling you to yell at him! And it's just a strange thing, but there's times when you gotta do that. You have to have faith and trust in your relationship and know he's not gonna take it personally just like when he is upset with me, I can't take it personally. And that's been something we've both made adjustments to over the past three years.
Read the full Q&A at ESPN.com.

Tuesday, September 29

VIDEO: 'Never Say Die – The Jason Day Story'


THIS MINI-DOCUMENTARY ABOUT JASON DAY is nicely done, well worth 10 minutes if you want to learn about Day's background and unlikely climb to the No. 1 ranking in golf.

From Day's sponsor RBC:
Jason Day’s journey to the top of the golf world is unlike anyone else's. From humble beginnings in Australia, Jason overcame adversity to find his path through hard work and dedication. Through exclusive, behind-the-scenes access Jason's story is shared with the world for the first time here. We're proud to call Jason a member of Team RBC.

Monday, September 28

'Major' Week Caps Major Year for Jordan Spieth

"THIS IS INCREDIBLE," SAID JORDAN SPIETH after wrapping up his fifth PGA Tour victory of the year at the season-ending Tour Championship.

In fact, you could say Spieth put a wrap on everything, also winning the FedEx Cup worth $10 million, returning to No. 1 in the world (displacing Jason Day, who was on top for one week), putting an exclamation point on Player of the Year (although it's not official), winning the Vardon Trophy and finishing the season with record earnings.

I could think of other adjectives, but I suppose Spieth's "incredible" will do. As NBC golf anlayst Johnny Miller said more than once, "You just got to keep reminding yourself this guy is 22 years old."

Spieth is hyper-motivated. After winning the year's first two majors, contending in the other two and winning a pair of other tour events, the young Texan could have coasted through the dregs of the PGA Tour season.

But no.

"This is an event where we approach it like a major championship because we know this is possible at the end of it," Spieth said. "We didn't have a great playoffs but we put a lot of hard work into this week. I was out here early Monday morning. We approached it as if it was a major, and mentally we stayed in it even when I didn't have my best ball striking. Boy that putter sure paid off."

The hints of greatness are in that answer. Like the legends, Spieth wins without his best. Hard work, mental approach, competitiveness and "that putter" lift Spieth to greater heights than his extremely accomplished peers.

Poor Henrik Stenson. Did you see the looks on his face as Spieth dropped putts from every distance on East Lake's slick greens?

"I got frustrated," Spieth said about his play in recent weeks.

"I missed two cuts in a row. I had never done that. I lost the number one ranking. I was watching Jason Day just dominate golf. It was frustrating so I got to work. Put my head down a little more right after the PGA knowing we could still peak this week and that is what we did."

"Unreal." That was Spieth's adjective for his year.

"I don't know how we sit down and figure out how to improve on it," he said, "but we are going to try to do that."

That will be fun to watch.

Friday, September 25

Friday Golf Shot: Playing for Trophies

Gary C / Flickr Public Domain

AT THE TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP IN ATLANTA, Rory McIlroy was asked about the pot of gold at the end of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. A cool $10 millon. Rory said:
No, money's never motivated me. It's never been a motivating factor in my life. My dad and mom together probably earned I don't know, 40, 50 grand a year. Combined. That was sort of our household income.

So it was never really a motivating factor to me because we never had that much to begin with. So, I probably don't -- I mean starting off, I started earning money at 18 years old and earning quite a lot, so I probably don't appreciate the value of money like some other people do. It's just never been that important to me. It's nice, it's nice to have it. It's nice to have that security for your future and for your family's future, I guess. But if I wanted to get into golf for the money, I would be in it for the wrong reasons.
Then it must be about the trophies. Of course, Rory is playing for different trophies than the rest of us.

(H/T Bernard Daily)