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Opinion & Analysis

A corrupt bargain: Brookline and Medinah

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By Tim Gavrich

GolfWRX Contributor

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.

Motivation

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.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum. 

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Tim grew up outside of Hartford, Conn., playing most of his formative golf at Hop Meadow Country Club in the town of Simsbury. He played golf for four years at Washington & Lee University (Division-III) and now lives in Pawleys Island, S.C., and works in nearby Myrtle Beach in advertising. He's not too bad on Bermuda greens, for a Yankee. A lifelong golf addict, he cares about all facets of the game of golf, from equipment to course architecture to PGA Tour news to his own streaky short game.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Joanne

    Oct 9, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    as Clarence responded I am amazed that any body can earn $5302 in a few weeks on the internet. did you look at this website (Click on menu Home more information) http://goo.gl/sFkNW

  2. bob

    Oct 2, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    @jc: these “less heralded” euro players have 4 of the world’s top 5, so maybe the problem is with you; the fact speak for themselves, Europe have won 7 out of the last 9 because 1. They play better as a team and 2. They have the better players. I know this must trouble you, but face reality and drop the lame excuses.

  3. G-ga

    Oct 1, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    Ryder Cup has become so ridiculous, it’s an anachronism! Lets forget about it. It’s so totally not exciting or meaningful any more. It’s become “who can embarrass the other best” fest, rather than a gentleman’s get together of class behavior. So pathetic.

  4. jc

    Oct 1, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    It all comes down to this for the last 2 decades….The US picks captains who had one big moment in their career but who are all buddies…So they pick their friends over more deserving or hotter golfers….And Curtis Strange, Lanny Wadkins, Hal Sutton, Jim Fuyrk, etal continue to lose every single match and hand it to less heralded Euro players….All it would have taken is just a stinking tie from Woods or Stricker or Fuyrk….Haven’t we lost enough to learn the lessons that these guys can’t play team golf?

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Podcasts

Gear Dive: How Tiger Woods used to adjust his clubs based on swing changes

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Ben Giunta, a former Nike Tour Rep and now owner of the TheTourVan.com, joins host Johnny Wunder and TXG’s Ian Fraser on this episode of The Gear Dive. Ben discusses working in-depth with Nike Athletes before the company stopped producing hard goods. He has some fantastic intel on TW and the setup of his sticks (around the 14-minute mark). They also discuss Ben’s new endeavor.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

The 2018 NCAA Men’s National Championship: By the Numbers

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For the 2018 NCAA Men’s Championship, 156 participants (30 teams of five, and six individuals) will collect at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Oklahoma on May 25-30 to determine the 2018 NCAA Individual Champion and the NCAA Team champion.

There will be three days of stroke play on Friday through Sunday (54 holes). From there, 15 teams and nine individuals advance to a final day of stroke play on Monday. That will determine the eight teams who will advance to match play, and the individual 72-hole stroke play champion. Match play format on Tuesday and Wednesday will then determine the national team champion.

Who will win? Well, let’s look at the numbers from the NCAA Men’s Championships in the past 9 years (when they began playing match play as part of the national title).

Average winning score for individual stroke play

  • For 3 rounds of stroke play — 832 strokes (avg. 69.3 per golfer)
  • For 4 rounds of stroke play — 1137 strokes (avg. 71.06 per golfer)

Number of No. 1 seeds to win championship: 0

Average match play seed of eventual winner: 4.5

Where the winners have come from

  • 44 percent of winners (4 out of 9) are from the SEC: Texas AM (2009), Alabama (2013, 2014) and LSU (2015)
  • 22 percent of winners (2 out of 9) are from the Big 12: Texas (2012), Oklahoma (2017)
  • 22 percent of winners (2 out of 9) are from Augusta, GA: August State (2010, 2011)
  • 11 percent of winners (1 out of 9) are from the PAC 12: Oregon (2016)
  • 11 percent of the match play field has historically come from mid-major teams

Mid-Majors that have Qualified for Match Play

  • August State (2010, 2011)
  • Kent State (2012)
  • San Diego State (2012)
  • New Mexico University (2013)
  • SMU (2014)
  • UNLV (2017)

Mid Majors with 4+ Appearances in the NCAA National Championship 

  • UCF (2009, 2012, 2013, 2017, 2018)
  • Kent State (2010, 201, 2013, 2017, 2018)
  • North Florida (2010, 2012, 2013, 2018)

So with facts in hand, let’s hear your opinion GolfWRX readers… who’s going to be your team champion for 2018?

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Fort Worth Invitational

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Under a new name, but a very familiar setting, the Fort Worth Championship gets underway this week. Colonial Country Club will host, and it’s an event that has attracted some big names to compete in the final stop of the Texas swing. The top two ranked Europeans, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose are in the field, as are Americans Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.

Colonial is a tricky course with narrow tree-lined fairways that are imperative to hit. Distance off the tee holds no real advantage this week with approach play being pivotal. Approach shots will be made more difficult this week than usual by the greens at Colonial, which are some of the smallest on the PGA Tour. Last year, Kevin Kisner held off Spieth, Rahm, and O’Hair to post 10-under par and take the title by a one-stroke margin.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Jordan Spieth 9/1
  • Jon Rahm 14/1
  • Justin Rose 18/1
  • Webb Simpson 18/1
  • Rickie Fowler 20/1
  • Jimmy Walker 28/1
  • Adam Scott 28/1

Last week, Jordan Spieth (9/1, DK Price $11,700) went off at the Byron Nelson as the prohibitive 5/1 favorite. Every man and his dog seemed to be on him, and after Spieth spoke to the media about how he felt he had a distinct advantage at a course where he is a member, it was really no surprise. Comments like this from Spieth at the Byron Nelson are not new. When the event was held at TPC Four Seasons, Spieth often made similar comments. The result? He flopped, just as he did last week at Trinity Forest. Spieth’s best finish at the Byron Nelson in his career is T-16. The reason for this, I believe, is the expectations he has put on himself at this event for years.

Switch to Colonial, and the difference is considerable. Spieth’s worst finish here is T-14. In his last three visits, he has finished second, first and second. While Spieth may believe that he should win the Byron Nelson whenever he tees it up there, the evidence suggests that his love affair is with Colonial. The statistic that truly emphasizes his prowess at Colonial, though, is his Strokes Gained-Total at the course. Since 2013, Spieth has a ridiculous Strokes Gained-Total of more than +55 on the course, almost double that of Kisner in second place.

Spieth’s long game all year has been consistently good. Over his previous 24 rounds, he ranks first in this field for Strokes Gained-Tee to Green, second for Ball Striking, and first for Strokes Gained-Total. On the other hand, his putting is awful at the moment. He had yet another dreadful performance on the greens at Trinity Forest, but he was also putting nowhere near his best coming into Colonial last year. In 2017, he had dropped strokes on the greens in his previous two events, missing the cut on both occasions, yet he finished seventh in Strokes Gained-Putting at Colonial on his way to a runner-up finish. His record is too good at this course for Spieth to be 9/1, and he can ignite his 2018 season in his home state this week.

Emiliano Grillo’s (50/1, DK Price $8,600) only missed cut in 2018 came at the team event in New Orleans, and he arrives this week at a course ideally suited to the Argentine’s game. Grillo performed well here in 2017, recording a top-25 finish. His form in 2018 leads me to believe he can improve on that this year.

As a second-shot golf course, Colonial sets up beautifully for the strengths of Grillo’s game. Over his previous 12 rounds, Grillo ranks first in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, second in Ball Striking, third in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green and eighth in Strokes Gained-Total. The Argentine also plays short golf courses excellently. Over his last 50 rounds, Grillo is ranked ninth for Strokes Gained-Total on courses measuring 7,200 yards or less. Colonial is right on that number, and Grillo looks undervalued to continue his consistent season on a course that suits him very well.

Another man enjoying a consistent 2018 is Adam Hadwin (66/1, DK Price $7,600), who has yet to miss a cut this season. The Canadian is enjoying an excellent run of form with five top-25 finishes from his last six stroke-play events. Hadwin is another man whose game is tailor made for Colonial. His accurate iron play and solid putting is a recipe for success here, and he has proven that by making the cut in all three of his starts at Colonial, finishing in the top-25 twice.

Hadwin is coming off his worst performance of 2018 at The Players Championship, but it was an anomaly you can chalk up to a rare poor week around the greens (he was seventh-to-last in Strokes Gained-Around the Green for the week). In his previous seven starts, Hadwin had a positive strokes gained total in this category each time. Over his last 24 rounds, Hadwin ranks seventh in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, 15th in Ball Striking, and ninth in Strokes Gained-Putting. He looks to have an excellent opportunity to improve on his solid record at Colonial this week.

Finally, as far as outsiders go, I like the look of Sean O’Hair (175/1, DK Price $7,100) at what is a juicy price. One of last year’s runners-up, his number is far too big this week. He has had some excellent performances so far in 2018. In fact, in his previous six starts, O’Hair has made five cuts and has notched three top-15 finishes, including his runner-up finish at the Valero Texas Open. The Texan has made three of his last four cuts at Colonial, and he looks to be an excellent pick on DraftKings at a low price.

Recommended Plays

  • Jordan Spieth 9/1, DK Price $11,700
  • Emiliano Grillo 50/1, DK Price $8.600
  • Adam Hadwin 66/1, DK Price $7,600
  • Sean O’Hair 175/1, DK Price  $7,100
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