Tag Archives: Ryder Cup

When The Passion Runs Hot!

fightMedia pundits and some fellow bloggers need to relax about the rowdy fan behavior during Friday’s opening matches at the Ryder Cup, and enjoy the event.  There’s nothing wrong with a little jacked up passion because it allows folks to get energized and blow off some steam.  After all, it is the start of football season in the United States and is coupled with the run up to a divisive general election.  The two have fans simmering to a boil, and the Ryder Cup serves as a welcome pressure valve.  With each new edition of the bi-annual competition, the fire does burn a little hotter and the stakes seem a little higher, which was certainly the case yesterday at Hazeltine.

I’m pulling hard for the U.S. team but loved Rory McIlroy’s theatrics after holing his match-winning eagle putt on #16.  As long as players aren’t bothered during their pre-shot routines, or while making a stroke, I’m fine with the vocal outbursts.  While this may seem at odds with the gentlemanly nature of golf, it makes for a very memorable sports experience.

Think back to your own most memorable sports experiences.  They may not have been the best played events, but what made them memorable?  Emotion!  My three were the 1981 Orange Bowl between Oklahoma and Florida State which was a one point game decided in the last minute and accompanied by some outrageous fan behavior after the game was over; a 1982 basketball game between my Maryland Terrapins and the top-ranked Virginia Cavilers who were led by Ralph Sampson.  This was a one point overtime victory for the Terps and was categorized by a last second buzzer beater and a second half fight between the teams.  And finally, my first MLB playoff game in 2012 between the Orioles and Yankees at Camden Yards.  A three-hour rain delay with plenty of beer fueled the festivities.  Here’s a video I shot pre-game with folks getting warmed up.

Generally, these great events involve either a bitter rivalry, a close score, or some pent up hard feelings for the other side.  Golf is unique because it’s mostly individual competitions and fans provide ample support for players of different countries at most of the big events, but in the Ryder Cup, rivalry, closeness of the competition, and some hard feelings all form the key ingredients for a delicious passionate stew.

Let’s hope things don’t get out of hand; I suspect they won’t.  Enjoy the passion and the spectacle!

 

How To Drill For Match Play

Match PlayI love match play.  The upcoming Ryder Cup is the greatest match play tournament on the planet.  I wish the world’s best would play more in this format.

The huge momentum swings that happen on a single hole, or on a single shot, add an exciting element and keep competitors actively engaged in the contest; even when they’re not playing their best.  Ever start your stroke play round with a double or triple bogey?  It’s so deflating and often sets the tone for the rest of the round, but in match play if you botch your first hole, you’re only one down and have plenty of time to recover.

It makes sense to prepare for match play a little differently than stroke play and the key is to steel yourself against the inevitable momentum changes.  As a big believer in simulating game conditions for any format, the day before a stroke play round, I’ll usually play 9 or 18 holes on the driving range, using the mental images of the competition course for game planning.  Yesterday, I made a discovery playing alone on my 9-hole executive course early in the morning.  Usually, I’ll play a two-ball scramble using my best ball or worst ball to keep it interesting.  On this occasion, I was playing best ball, and was cruising along after five holes with two birdies and three pars.  I decided to play the last four holes with my worst ball (play two shots from the worst position until the ball is holed).  The cool thing about worst ball is that if you hit a great shot on ball #1, it means nothing.  It simply adds a layer of pressure to repeat on ball #2.  Immediately, I noticed a small shock to my system as my mental view of the game was altered and my physical approach quickly followed.  After playing the last four holes in 7-over, I realized that this would be an excellent simulation tool for match play because the sudden change in format elicited a rapid change in momentum which approximated a real match.  Presto!  New practice technique.

The best match play training is competing regularly in match play.  Whether it be an actual competition or a two dollar Nassau with friends, there is no substitute for putting yourself under the pressure of rapid momentum changes.  For my next round alone, I’m going to take it to the extreme by altering my best ball format on every hole.  I think this will be an even better way to train for match play.  What do you think?  Do you have any specific strategies to prepare for match play competition?

Please share if you do and play well!

Is Losing Becoming A Habit?

from golfweek.com
from golfweek.com

The fallout from the U.S. Ryder Cup Team’s defeat has settled, but theories of defeat are still abound as new details come out regarding behind the scenes team dynamics.  Let’s give Tom Watson a break, forget all the crap, and simplify:  When a team loses in golf or in any sport, the reason is usually that they have inferior players.  When losing is systemic in an organization, always look to the highest reaches of the organization for the answer.  In this case, the highest levels are the PGA Tour and the process it uses to select players.

All things being equal, the U.S. Team should have an inherent advantage year after year, being able to stock their roster with the largest pool of talented golfers in the world.  Yet they continually go down to defeat.  I propose that it’s time to remove the earning of qualifying points, over a two year period, and jettison captain’s picks.  Put the selection in the hands of the players.  Every U.S. professional with current year’s PGA Tour exempt status be allowed to vote on their Ryder Cup team representation, with the stipulation that they cannot vote for themselves.  The vote would take place one month in advance of the competition and would ensure the best and hottest players at tournament time would complete the team.  Imagine if we elected our political leaders on the polling results they accumulated over their last two years in office.  That’s crazy, and is why we have Election Day.

And someone please explain why being elected and serving as a Ryder Cup team captain is so important and is considered a full time job for two years?  If the player’s elect their own representation, you take the onus off the captain and let him focus on more important things like selecting the best and most colorful rain suits and focusing on how many gluten free options will be on the menu at the team meal.  All these guys should really be doing is working the line-up cards during the competition and keeping their players on an even emotional keel.  Seriously, how much preparation can you do over two years for a three day golf tournament?

The Ryder Cup will be at Hazeltine in 2016.  I’ll be watching and hopefully we’ll get it figured out by then.

What The Foley Firing Means

In short, nothing because Humpty Dumpty has already fallen.  Lanny H Golf nailed the motivation behind the timing of the firing with his piece today  and how it’s midway between the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup.  Tiger, being the narcissist that he is, couldn’t stand to stay out of the limelight for too long and kicked Sean Foley to the curb just as interest in Woods was waning.  What I found more than coincidental is that Foley also coaches Hunter Mahan, who just won The Barklays, and the dismissal came not one day after his victory.  Really Tiger?

Looking at the merits of the firing, this should have been done several years ago, but now it doesn’t matter who’s trying to put the pieces back together.  Readers of this blog know that I think Sean Foley’s approach is very technical, so much so that his students play golf swing; not golf.  The most casual observers of Tiger’s play under Foley could pick up the overly mechanical approach and it has devastated Tiger’s previously superior golf mind.

Again, it’s too late, but if Tiger even thinks he has a shot at resurrecting his game, I would advise a series of appointments with a Bob Rotella type to first get his mind right, then think about a swing coach.  Tiger is damaged goods and no top flight swing coach should think of taking on this rebuild project.

 

Bang! Woosh! End Of An Era

That sound is the deflating golf bubble, as we know it today, and much has been made of the recent decline in the industry.  Nobody likes to see 500 PGA professionals get fired at Dicks or five million fewer participants, but we are simply at the end of a massive market boom known as the Tiger Woods Era. While the economic impacts are real and unfortunate, they are not a terrible cause for concern because the underlying market factors are natural.

As in any sport, interest is driven by three entities: Domination, Rivalry, and Disaster, and when they are removed, interest wanes. While Tiger was the face of the sport, all three were in abundant supply. Now that he’s a middle-tier, often-injured shell of himself, the draw is gone and the vacuum hugely noticeable. Tiger still drives TV ratings when he appears, and the mainstream media bend over backwards for a smidgen of real time coverage, but between the injury time, scandal time, and missed cuts, air time is rare. Broadcast of his arrival in a SUV for a PGA practice round was silly/obsessive and reminiscent of another guy driving his SUV down the freeway in 1994.

Try this quick exercise: Think back to the half dozen most riveting golf moments you’ve ever seen on TV. Mine; in no particular order:

  • Nicklaus wins the 1986 Masters – “Yes Sir!”
  • Tiger drops the huge curling chip on #16 at Augusta in 2005
  • Justin Leonard sinks the bomb to win the 1999 Ryder Cup
  • Jean van de Velde at the 1999 Open Championship
  • Greg Norman’s historic collapse to Nick Faldo at the 1996 Masters
  • Phil crushing Tiger head-to-head by 11 in the final round at Pebble in 2012

Great theater, and there are many more, but each of these directly touches Domination, Rivalry, or Disaster, and that’s what sports fans live for. You had to love the playoff between Jason Day and Victor Dubuisson at the Accenture Match Play earlier this year with Dubuisson’s scrambling from incredible trouble in the desert to continually extend the match. It was truly fascinating, but Tiger wasn’t in the field and TV ratings plummeted. Whether you love him or hate him, Tiger was the major part of golf history for the last 15 years. Now he’s almost gone.

In three years, nobody’s going to remember “Day vs. Dubuisson In The Desert” so what will be the headliner? How will the industry recover? Does it need to recover or just return to the pre-Tiger state? Much is being hoisted on young Rory McIlroy’s shoulders because without him there is no compelling story out there. I wonder how this will play out.

In the meantime, enjoy the abundant starting times, wide open golf courses, and discounted merchandise at Dicks. What do you think will solve for this or does it need solving?

2013 Presidents Cup Picks

PrezOddly enough, the lead up to the 2013 Presidents Cup has been strangely quiet.  Almost anti-climactic for serious golf fans, with the only fanfare being the omission of Jim Furyk off Freddy Couples‘ American squad.  That controversy lasted about half a news cycle and then more silence.  At last check, there were still tickets available; the problem being that this event generates as much passion as a Thursday night football game between the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns, which incidentally is up against the prime time replay of the golf coverage on October 3rd.  Who’ll win the ratings battle?

Let’s get the predication out of the way and focus on some more interesting side stories.  The Americans are loaded for bear top to bottom and should win handily against an undermanned International team, but will struggle, as they do in most match play events, and win in a squeaker 18-16.  After watching the underdog Euro team dominate the heavily favored U.S. squad in this year’s Solheim Cup, nothing will surprise me.

Jordan Speith  From usatoday.com
Jordan Speith
From usatoday.com

If you believe as I do that the Ryder Cup is the premier international match-play competition, than the addition of Jordan Speith to the American Presidents squad has got to excite you.  This guy has got the stones for winning at a very young age and the match-play experience will only ready him more for next year’s competition at Gleneagles.  I also like that Hunter Mahan is on the team.  He needs the match play work to continue to exercise the choking demons of the 2010 Ryder Cup catastrophe at Celtic Manor.  See a pattern here?

This year’s International team is featuring five South Africans, but those not named Schwartzel, Els, or Oosthuizen have never sniffed international competition.  First timers Branden Grace and Richard Sterne are relative unknowns, although Grace finished 18th at The Masters, which was his top performance in 12 events on this year’s PGA Tour.

Finally, I am amused every week that Phil and Tiger are in the same field.  When Tiger struggles, the media has a sky is falling conniption fit, but when Phil plays poorly, hardly anyone notices.  The public roots more intensely for Phil over Tiger, but Woods has set his personal bar much higher, and Phil has rolled on the career roller coaster with predictable regularity.  At the end of the day, I think the players take The Presidents Cup more seriously than the fans.  Enjoy the spectacle and see you at Muirfield Village.