By Tim Gavrich
The trouble started 13 years and five days earlier. On the eve of the Sunday singles round—the final one—of the 1999 Ryder Cup, U.S. Captain Ben Crenshaw’s smile, the epitome of wryness, curled into a cool, slanted grin as he said, “I’m a big believer in fate…I have a good feeling about this.”
In the moments after Martin Kaymer’s Cup-sealing five footer sank Steve Stricker and the United States team on the 18th green at Medinah Country Club’s No. 3 course, no American player or fan felt anything remotely “good.”
Golfers love to talk about the “golf gods.” Twenty-four hours after Crenshaw’s emotional declaration, it appeared the two-time Masters champion had appealed successfully to them. Another 13 years later, it seems instead that that night, he made a deal with devils. He traded an immediate triumph for an equally cruel turn of the golf gods’ fancies that would strike on September’s final day, 2012.
Of course, five Ryder Cups came and went between Brookline and Medinah. And in four of them, the United States lost—twice by an embarrassing margin. Perhaps Crenshaw purchased his team’s improbable comeback at the expense of those defeats.
No. The golf gods made this one the one that really hurt. There are simply too many arcs back to that 1999 event to ignore.
In 1999, Europe led 10-6 going into Sunday. So, too, did the Americans in 2012.
In 1999, in order to try to affect the crowd in his team’s favor, Ben Crenshaw loaded up the front of his lineup with his more battle-tested and dynamic players. The Americans won the first six matches on the course that day. In 2012, European Captain José María Olazábal sent stars Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose out first. They and fifth-off Paul Lawrie won their matches.
Lawrie, by the way, played in his first Ryder Cup since 1999. His was a rare European victory on that day.
In 1999, both men who would oppose one another as Captains in 2012 took to the golf course. Davis Love III did his part by drubbing Frenchman Jean Van de Velde. Later that afternoon, Olazábal would be on the receiving end of the shot that came to define that Ryder Cup: Justin Leonard’s long putt on the 17th green at The Country Club, Brookline that assured the United States a victory.
Fittingly, the singular defining shot of the 2012 Ryder Cup took place on the 17th green as well. This time, though, it was a miss, those cruel golf gods exacting their payment from the American side via Steve Stricker. All-square with German Martin Kaymer, who has arguably had the most mediocre year before playing in a Ryder Cup than any player in recent memory, Stricker had a simple downhill chip shot from the rough behind the green of the par three. After blowing it six feet past the hole, he—historically one of the best putters in golf, which is greatly why Davis Love III made him a Captain’s Pick—hit a woeful putt, giving Kaymer the hole.
Kaymer’s par putt on the closing hole was the final gut-check, yes, but the culmination of Stricker’s 0-4 record tipped the momentum to the Europeans for good.
As the Europeans embraced, tears coating their captain’s cheeks, it seemed that the debt Crenshaw unwittingly took on in 1999 was finally repaid.
At the end of a gorgeous early-fall day in 1999, a generation of young American golfers sat in awe of the comeback they had just witnessed. Some of those youngsters went on to build careers that saw them compete on this year’s team—Brandt Snedeker, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley were all teenagers when their American golf idols showed them the overwhelming thrill of a historic Ryder Cup comeback.
Unfortunately for those young American players, the axiom that one learns more from defeat than victory holds true in golf. For this year’s European team included sixplayers who, as teenagers, felt the way American golf fans of all ages are now feeling. Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, Nicolas Colsaerts, Francesco Molinari and Justin Rose would have seen and felt the letdown from their own idols and Sergio Garcia, still 19 in 1999, lived it.
Perhaps some of the generation of young American golfers that bore witness to this year’s stunning defeat will take enough of their heartache forward in their own careers so that in another dozen years or so, they will carry an American Ryder Cup team to a stunning victory over Europe.
If and when that happens, we will all be watching, as transfixed and affected by that event as we were by this one, for better and for worse. And those golf gods who Ben Crenshaw bargained with will still have us millions of golfers to toy with. It is only right.
Fantasy Preview: 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play
The second World Golf Championship of the year begins this week for what will be the final stop before The Masters for the majority of players in the field. As always with WGC events, the field is stacked — only Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose are missing from the world’s top-10. With an earlier start than usual, 16 groups of four will battle it out in a round-robin format starting Wednesday. The winner of each group will advance to the last 16, which will complete in a straight knockout format from there on in.
Austin Country Club has held the event since 2016, and it’s been a course that has offered up lots of excitement so far. Expect more of the same this week, with four reachable Par 5s on offer as well as a drivable Par-4. The Par-71 course is a modest 7,043 yards with plenty of elevation changes and a mix of tight, tree-lined fairways on the opening nine. The fairways on the back 9 are more generous. Some of the key stats that I’m focusing on this week include Par-5 Scoring, Proximity to the Hole Inside 125 yards and Birdie or Better Percentage, which is always important in match play. Last year, a red-hot Dustin Johnson beat Jon Rahm in the final 1 up, which was his third-consecutive victory at the time.
Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)
- Rory McIlroy 7/1
- Dustin Johnson 8/1
- Justin Thomas 10/1
- Jon Rahm 12/1
- Jason Day 14/1
- Jordan Spieth 20/1
- Phil Mickelson 20/1
For me, this is the most difficult event on the calendar to predict. Over 18 holes, any player in the field is capable of beating anyone else. We saw just that last year when Hideto Tanihara defeated Jordan Spieth 4&2 and Soren Kjeldsen took down Rory Mcilroy 2&1. For that reason, it’s certainly an event that I’d advise to play conservatively, especially before we reach the knockout phase. Despite the unpredictability of some of the results, however, recently it’s been an event that has been won by the world’s elite. Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day (twice) have claimed the title in the past four years.
From the top of the board, it’s multiple champion Jason Day (14/1, DK Price $9,200) who gets my vote. The Australian has played a limited schedule so far this year, and he seems to be flying under the radar for the year’s first major. I find the lack of attention surprising. He has a win and a second-place finish to his name already in only three starts this year. Last week at Bay Hill he finished T22, where he appeared a little rusty on the opening couple of days before shaking it off and shooting an impressive 67 on Saturday.
Austin Country Club is a course that undoubtedly suits Day. He dominated the event in 2016 when he was playing his absolute best golf, and he was very unfortunate that he was unable to defend last year on account of his mother’s health. It was an issue that appeared to effect his entire season, but there is no doubt that the signs are very good for Day in regards to 2018. Mainly, because he has the magic touch back with the putter. In 2016, he had one of the greatest putting years of recent times, and albeit early on in the season, he is currently on course to match it. Day leads the field in putting for the season by a decent margin, and on the slick bermuda greens of Austin Country Clubs, where he has memories of holing just about everything two years ago, it could play a huge factor yet again this week.
Along with the Queenslander’s fabulous form on the greens, Day is dominating the Par 5’s, where he sits second in the field over his last 12 rounds. Day loves to play aggressive golf, and it’s one of the reasons the match play format suits him so much. The odd blow-up hole is not the disaster that it would be in stroke play, and he has the ability to rack up birdies fast. So far this season, Day is third in this field for birdie or better percentage.
Day will be the favorite to advance from Group 8, which contains James Hahn, Louis Oosthuizen and Jason Dufner, but the unpredictability of the match play format means it will be far from easy. Should he do so, however, he may be an extremely difficult man to stop, and 14/1 is not a bad price on him repeating his heroics of 2016.
Patrick Reed’s (30/1, DK Price $7,700) return to form has been long overdue. With back-to-back weeks finishing in the top-10, he should be feeling confident in a format that in the past he has blown hot and cold in. Despite his colossus performances in the Ryder Cup, the WGC-Matchplay has been a frustrating event for the Texan. He has yet to make it past the Round of 16, but he seems to be rejuvenated by the return of his idol, Tiger Woods, to the PGA Tour. We’ve seen a far more aggressive Patrick Reed as of late.
With the top seed in his group being Jordan Spieth, there’s speculation that their matchup could be a fiery one. Last week, Patrick Reed was recorded saying that he guessed he needed to be Jordan Spieth to get a free drop after he was left fuming by a ruling. Personally, I don’t think there will be any hostility from either player, but perhaps the attention it has received over the last day will fire up Reed, who seems to produce his best when in the spotlight.
All facets of Reed’s game are firing at the moment. He is fourth in this field for Strokes Gained Tee to Green, Strokes Gained Around the Green and Strokes Gained Total over his last eight rounds. Not withstanding the volatility of 18-hole matchups, there is a sense that Spieth may be a little vulnerable right now. Reed will be relishing the opportunity to take him on in what could possibly be an important Game 3. At 30/1, there is a confidence about Reed at the moment that I like, and it could see him finally deliver in a format that he has adapted to so well in The Ryder Cup.
The star name in Group 7 is the current Masters Champion Sergio Garcia, but I’m willing to take him on this week with Xander Schauffele (66/1, DK Price $7,400). The 2017 Rookie of the Year has been playing well as of late with three-consecutive top-20 finishes. From that period, he scores well in the key statistics, which should bode well for him this week. The Californian is 10th for Strokes Gained on Par 5s for his last 12 rounds, and on a course where wedge play is vitally important, his short irons seem to be in excellent shape. Over the same period, Schauffele is 15th in the field for Proximity to the Hole from 100-125 yards and 16th from 75-100 yards.
He will have to overcome Garcia, as well as Shubhankar Sharma and Dylan Frittelli to advance to the next phase. Garcia has never looked comfortable at Austin Country Club, however, and I think Schauffele may be the best option to pounce on any weakness he shows. Schauffele does not rank outside 30th in this field for his last 12 rounds in any major statistic, and he is eighth overall for Strokes Gained Total.
Last but not least is Webb Simpson (100/1, DK Price $7,800), who is in Group 15 alongside Pat Perez, Gary Woodland and Si-Woo Kim. I think it’s fair to say that this looks to be one of the most unpredictable of the lot. Yet at 100/1, it was an easy enough decision to add Simpson to my stable this week, who just like Xander is performing well in the key statistics.
The former U.S. Open Champion is 17th in this field over his past 12 rounds on Par 5s, but it’s been his wedge play that really got my attention. Over the same period, Simpson ranks seventh for proximity to the hole from 100-125 yards and 15th from 75-100 yards. Some other good signs for Simplson include his putting, as he currently sits 11th for the season in Strokes Gained Putting. His scoring average for the season is also an impressive 69.5, which is seventh on the PGA Tour. At 100/1, it seems worth a small investment in what I’m expecting to be another roller coaster of an event with plenty of surprises.
- Jason Day 14/1, DK Price $9,200
- Patrick Reed 30/1, DK Price $7,700
- Xander Schauffele 66/1, DK Price $7,400
- Webb Simpson 100/1, DK Price $7,800
Paige Spiranac explains her decision to pose for the 2018 SI Swimsuit
During the PXG 0311 Gen2 iron launch event, I caught up with Paige Spiranac to talk about a variety of topics including her advice to young girls in the golf world, how her life has changed since becoming a golfing celebrity, her relationship with PXG, her decision to stop playing professional golf, and she explains why she wanted to pose for the SI Swimsuit issue.
Enjoy my interview above!
Bag Chatter: An Interview With 36 Golf Co.
Bag Chatter is a series of interviews that spotlights brands around the golf industry and the people behind them. We’re looking to make this a regular thing, so please comment and share through your medium of choice. If you have a brand and are interested in participating in these interviews, you can email email@example.com for consideration. This interview is with Jay Vogler of 36 Golf Co (Pictured above caddying for business partner Chevy Mayne).
Talk to me about 36 Golf Co. What are you guys all about?
We’re all about getting people out to the course, having fun and not taking golf too seriously. We’re trying to create a brand for people who love the game, but aren’t necessarily trying to turn pro. The whole idea started when I was walking through a hockey shop and saw all these hockey lifestyle brands and I was like, “Why doesn’t this exist in golf?” We’re mainly targeting the 18-35 crowd; folks that kind of have a laid-back approach. We think it doesn’t matter if you wear cargo shorts and a T-shirt as long as you’re respecting the game and taking care of the course. It’s more important to replace your divots, repair your ball marks and keep up with the pace of play than it is to wear a collared shirt.
There are a lot of people launching brands in the soft goods world these days (clothing, towels, head covers, etc.). As a result, that world can be a little crowded. What makes 36 Golf Co. different from everyone else out there?
Our corner of the market, if you will, is trying to create a community of people who see the game the same way we do. We want to see the game grow, especially among the millennial age group. We think participation is lacking in that demographic, and we want to play a part in making the game a little more accessible for them. We want people to connect over our attitude toward golf. If you see a guy walking down the street wearing a 36 hat, we want you to think he’s approachable and he’s down to hang out and talk about golf and life without being pretentious. We’re out there to lower some of the barriers to entering the game.
Since I know you’re all about growing the game, what do you think it needs? What do you think is the biggest “problem” with golf that’s keeping people away from playing it or trying it?
I think perception is probably the biggest thing honestly. I picked up the game five years ago when I was 22 and I came from skateboarding and snowboarding. When I got into the game, a lot of people make a weird face and were like, “You play golf?!” It’s totally a perception thing, but once you get past that, it’s just such a fun game. From the first time I flushed a 7-iron at a driving range, I was hooked, but a lot of people don’t even get that far. We’re just trying to lower the barriers to the game and put a community out there.
If you could change one thing about the game of golf, what would you change? It doesn’t have to be something in the USGA rule book necessarily.
Obviously, I would get rid of dress codes. That’s my big bugaboo with the game. If I was just going about my daily life, I wouldn’t be wearing pants and a collared shirt and I think a lot of people would be in that same boat. If we let people come as they are, I bet participation would go way up. Appearance, respectfully, only matters so much. You can wear a collared shirt and still be a jerk and not repair your ball marks.
When you got the idea to start this company, how did you actually go about making that happen? Did you just google shirt suppliers or something? What was that process like?
Yeah, I pretty much spent the first month on Google looking for suppliers. I have a design background, so we did the design and the website ourselves, so that was good. Finding the right suppliers who were willing to work with us and had quality stuff was difficult.
What’s the biggest road block you’ve experienced with 36 Golf Co.? Launching it, marketing it, logistics, billing, whatever…
Starting a business in general was just…so much to take in. It’s overwhelming. Accounting, problems with suppliers… but if you don’t just start it then you’ll never know. I know it’s a cliché, but you gotta start somewhere. It’s not that any one thing was so difficult. It was just the amount of things that come your way.
What are you most optimistic about with 36 Golf Co? What’s got you excited these days?
We just went to a show this past weekend in Toronto, and we just met a lot of people who really seemed to get what we were about and were excited to be a part of it themselves. That’s what gets you excited; when people really understand your vibe and want to be a part of that community and rep your brand for no other reason than it resonates with them. That’s what it’s all about.
Let’s play a game. Imagine golf was like baseball and you got to pick a “walk-up song” when you got to the first tee. What song are you going with?
Haha. I’ve been listening to a lot of Jurassic 5 lately, so we’ll go with “What’s Golden.” I feel like that’d be a pretty good hype song.
If you could only play one course for the rest of your life, which one would it be? It has to be a course you have played before or have access to, though. Don’t just say Augusta.
There’s a little course called Bathurst Glen just north of Toronto. I used to work there, but it kicks my butt every time I go. It’s a friendly spot, which I enjoy. I struggle playing really nice golf courses. They kind of stress me out.
It’s kind of old news, but I’ll ask the following since it’s right up your alley. What was your take on the LPGA dress code announcement last year?
Oh man. I was like, “What the hell are you thinking?” You know, when they said that I was showing it to my girlfriend who’s a non-golfer and she was like, “I don’t understand what the problem is.” It’s not like they’re wearing thongs or something. Obviously, I think that golf needs to be tailored to welcome people into the game, and I think that sent the wrong message.
Lastly, what do you guys have in the works? Let us know what’s coming from 36 Golf Co.
We have limited resourced with just two people, but we have tons of plans. Our main products right now are our hats, which are mainly modern styles. You know, snapbacks and flat brims. We also have T-shirts and quarter zips available. All of that is on our website at www.36golfco.com. We will be getting some golf shirts in soon, which we are calling our “collared T-shirt” this spring, so that’s going to be the most exciting launch for us in the near future. Follow us on Instagram @thirty6ix_golf_co and on twitter @Thirty6ix_golf to keep up with our brand and join our community.
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