2015 Hyundai Tournament of Champions Superlatives

Time to go a little old school with a PGA Tour Superlatives column just like back in the day. The 2015 portion of the 2014-15 season kicks off this week in beautiful Kapalua, Hawaii with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions an exclusive event with a select field of golfers comprised solely of last year’s champions. That it unless your last name is McIlroy, Scott, Rose or Kaymer in which case you bypass the event and wait for the tour to hit the lower 48 in a few weeks. And before you scoff at these 4 champion golfers for turning down what is essentially an all expense paid trip to beautiful sunny Hawaii understand that unlike us, they don’t need the extra hassle of a private jet or an exclusive bungalow overlooking the Pacific. To Rory, Adam, Justin and Martin that’s just another day in the life.

Alas, the field is still full of the rich and famous. The hungry up and comers with something to prove and the erstwhile major champions hoping to rekindle that old magical feeling. Therefor without further ado, here are your 2015 Hyundai Tournament of Champions Superlatives.

Group Most Likely To Report For Military Service: Sang-Moon Bae and Scott Stallings

Bae must return to South Korea by the end of the month for two years of mandatory military service because technically, South Korea is still at war with North Korea a little known fact that was not mentioned during any part of the Sony hacking scandal which, with the more time that passes without any credible links to the North Korean gov’t, looks like an inside job perpetuated by a movie studio hungry for a hit. Think I’m crazy? Ok, then answer this, were you more likely to see The Interview starring James Franco and Seth Rogan before Sony pulled it from theaters or after when every one came to their senses and realized that if Kim Jong-un can’t even provide electricity for his people then it’s probably somewhat far-fetched to think that he could launch a couple ICBM’s at the ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood?

Either way, Bae is one of the best young players on tour and it would be a shame to lose him. Can’t he pay for a replacement just like Teddy Roosevelt’s father did during the American Civil War? Maybe he should ask John Daly, that guy seems like he’ll do just about anything for money.

Group Most Likely To Avoid Scuba Diving: Geoff Ogilvy and Hideki Matsuyama

Ogilvy makes his return to Kapalua after withdrawing in 2011 after cutting his hand open on a piece of coral. Back then he was the two time defending champion of this event and a bonafide superstar in the making before years of struggle led most of us to wonder what ever happened to that guy? Now Ogilvy is back apparently and in 2015 will compete in all four majors for the first time since his index finger nearly became a hidden treasure.

Group Most Likely To Choose Their Words Wisely: Patrick Reed and Russell Henley

Patrick Reed morphed into something of a fan favorite after his charismatic performance during the 2014 Ryder Cup. He was one of the few Americans, along with his playing partner Jordan Spieth, who went shot for shot with the Europeans. He played with hutzpah and passion and we were ready to embrace him and his giants “cajones”. That was until the WGC-HSBC Champions in November when our collective opinion shifted once again after Reed was caught on camera using a gay slur. To be fair, he was both remorseful and apologetic after the fact and is not the only one spewing vile, repugnant language on a golf course. (see Watson, Bubba) Regardless, only time will tell if the public is ready once again to give Reed a big ol bear hug. He is a top 5 player in the world after all.

Group Most Likely Caught Staring Up At The Stars: Jimmy Walker and Hunter Mahan

Jimmy Walker is a bonafide space nut. Like total star gazing dork. It’s one of the most endearing things about him. Do you think he keeps a telescope in the trunk of his complementary car at all times and wheels it out onto the golf course at night so he can study Cassiopeia? I do. I bet the other players get sick of him asking them if they’d like to lie on the hood of his car. Especially Patrick Reed.

Group Most Likely To Win The Hyundai Tournament of Champions: Jason Day and Matt Kuchar

It’s going to be a big year for the Australian born/Ohio resident Jason Day. First bold prediction of 2015: The Ohio State Buckeyes beat Oregon in the college football national championship on Monday night and Day outlasts Rory McIlroy in a playoff in Augusta for the first major of his career. Take it to the bank.

Enjoy the golf everyone!

 

I’m Dreaming of a Green Jacket

Tis the season for the world’s #1 golfer to be inspired by a Christmas classic.

 “Green Jacket”

Music and Lyrics by Rory McIlroy

I’m dreaming of a Green Jacket

Just like the one worm by Faldo

Where the azaleas glisten

And caddies listen

To hear the galleries call my name

 

I’m dreaming of a Green Jacket

With every autograph I write

May my clubs stay shiny and bright

And may all my golf balls be white

 

I’m dreaming of a Green Jacket

Better than thinking about Caro

Where Rae’s Creek glistens

And Amen Corner listens

To hear Tiger wince in pain

 

I’m dreaming of a Green Jacket

With every lawsuit that I fight

May my court case stay merry and bright

And may all my witnesses be right

Phil Mickelson For 2016 Ryder Cup Captain

When asked if he had a desire to be the next United States Ryder Cup team captain Phil Mickelson should have said yes. Then all of us who disagree with the timing of his vitriol could forgive and forget. But he said no. Actually his exact words were “Oh, no, no — I’ve been on eight losing teams”. This unfortunate mentality leaves the U.S. team with a void at the top where the current American player with the most Ryder Cup experience and influence is unwilling to accept more of leadership role. Yes, Mickelson will be a Ryder Cup captain eventually, (Bethpage 2014???) and yes, his performance at Sunday’s now infamous Ryder Cup press conference was blunt, honest and perhaps accurate. But in order for his opinions to carry significant weight he must be willing to support his words with action otherwise he runs the risk of coming off as shallow, bitter and petulant which, with the current tumultuous state of the entire U.S. Ryder Cup program, is the last thing anyone who professes to love and embrace the competition should desire.

Pods or no pods, the most unsettling and astounding aspect of this press conference was the overall lack of accountability by both the Mickelson and captain Tom Watson which has sadly become indicative of American athletes and athletic programs in general. (see University of Michigan football.) Athletes should be allowed to criticize their leaders. Public or private people in positions of power must be held accountable. Would it have been better for Mickelson to question Watson’s strategy behind closed doors and away from the glare of the cameras? Sure. But maybe he had already voiced his displeasure privately and after nothing changed he felt the need to air his and the other players grievances in a much more public forum. And Watson didn’t exactly take on the responsibility of this latest American failure when at the press conference he said that it takes “12 players” to make for a successful Ryder Cup.

Both Mickelson and Watson are to an extent correct but the real issue for the U.S. Ryder Cup team moving forward is a lack of leadership not just from the captain but from the players as well. The primary job of the coach/captain is to put their players in a position to succeed. Win or lose a leader must be willing to take responsibility for the final outcome. But players too must understand that a coach controls only so much and that ultimately success or failure is determined by their performance. Mickelson and Watson exhibited none of the characteristics of true leadership during that Ryder Cup press conference. It wasn’t Tom Watson’s fault that the U.S. teams three top ranked players Jim Furyk, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar combined for a total of two points during the competition. Conversely, his captain’s picks underperformed and his lineup decisions were curious at best. The blame needs to be shouldered by somebody and that usually means the captain and star player yet both Watson and Mickelson reluctant to accept that responsibility.

The concern is that the pool of future American players and captains doesn’t get it either which means that Sunday will not be the last time we watch a star player and a coach pointing the finger at one another. To bring it full circle, if Phil Mickelson were to accept the challenge of being the next U.S. team Ryder Cup captain/player at Hazeltine in 2016 then win, lose or draw he’ll have no one to blame except himself. Which is the way it should be.

Roger Goodell At The Ryder Cup

Sir Alex Ferguson, the retired legendary manager of Manchester United, will address Team Europe at the Ryder Cup Tuesday evening. So far U.S. team captain Tom Watson has been tight lipped about who, if any, guest speakers he has lined up for the Americans this week in Scotland. But if flight logs out of Teterboro Airport are any indication then a certain beleaguered commissioner of the NFL might very well be en route to Gleneagles at this very moment. And, as fortune would have it, we have obtained an advanced copy of Roger Goodell’s address to Team USA at the 2014 Ryder Cup.

Thank you all for coming today. I’d like to make a few points and then I will be happy to evasively answer any of your questions pertaining to things that I am now comfortable discussing. First, as I’ve said before, I made a mistake in the handling of the Ray Rice situation but even though as commissioner of the NFL I am the one responsible for the decisions being made I have not once considered stepping down from this exalted position and continue to maintain the support of the owners for whom I have helped make lots and lots of money. Phil, if things hadn’t fallen apart between you and the Chargers ownership group then you too would have come to understand where my true loyalties lie.

But back to my original point which is that as the person in charge of the most powerful, influential sports league in our country I take full responsibility for mishandling the Ray Rice situation so far but promise to make changes in the future to ensure that the next time there is an incident involving domestic violence that the facts and timeline of events are presented somewhat clearly and that the new special governing body charged with handling these investigations includes at least a few women who will ultimately be the ones I would like to see shouldering the blame should another coverup ever be exposed. [Read more…]

A Ryder Cup Referendum

Oh Ryder Cup, how golf fans have missed you. Two years is too long between visits. When we last saw one another on the outskirts of Chicago the Europeans had just completed one of the most remarkable and improbable comebacks in the history of sports thanks to the inspirational leadership of captain Jose Maria Olazabal who effectively channeled the spirit and charisma of fellow Spaniard the late great Seve Ballesteros. Of course we can’t forget about Ian Poulter either whose standing as the greatest match play golfer of his era was only enhanced after his exploits at Medina. Watching Europe celebrate their come from behind victory on American soil was a disheartening experience for team U.S.A who have waited quietly and patiently for a chance at redemption.

So much has changed since 2012 however that many of the names and faces traipsing about the hallowed grounds of Gleneagles might strike the average sports fan as unrecognizable. After all, the Era of Tiger has been eclipsed by the Reign of Rory and while an injured Woods convalesces on his Jupiter estate, the responsibility of bearing the Stars and Stripes through the Scottish countryside falls on the worldly shoulders of guys with the last names Walker, Reed and Spieth. Team U.S.A is not completely void of veterans as seasoned patriots like Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson continue to wear the red, white and blue with great pride and distinction even if, in the case of Mickelson, the season to date has been a major disappointment.

And before the Europeans run about the local distilleries screaming that the 2014 Ryder Cup is theirs to lose, match play as you know has never been decided on paper and captain Paul McGinley will be rolling out just as many rookies as the Americans. Even if the top of their roster remains a veritable who’s who of the games elite: McIlroy, Garcia, Rose, Stenson, Kaymer, pressure is a tangible thing at the Ryder Cup and expectations can weigh down even the best in the world. The United States has embraced the role of underdogs before and captain Tom Watson would be wise to instill in his team this year a healthy commitment to the mantra ’Us Against the World’.

Now that the people of Scotland have let their voices be heard it’s time for golf fans to choose sides and while rooting interests may vary, what remains consistent regardless of the referendum is a love for match play and the Ryder Cup. Whatever happens at Gleneagles, however these three days in late September play out, memories will be made and passions will be stoked. Because two years is too long.