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Has Team Europe learned from its mistakes at Hazeltine?

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With just a few days to go until the big event, excitement is building on this side of the pond. TV, any golfing websites you care to visit, and podcasts are previewing the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National.

For the European squad, Captain Bjorn has selected Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, and Garcia to supplement the eight qualifiers; World No. 1 Justin Rose, Open Champion Francesco Molinari, four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, and the five Ryder Cup rookies–Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton, Alex Noren, and Thorbjorn Olesen.

Not a bad side for an underdog, but one question still lingers: Has Thomas Bjorn learned from previous European mistakes?

First, congratulations to the eight qualifiers — they’ve done their jobs, took their chances, and played their way onto the team. The fact that five of those are rookies will undoubtedly have played on Bjorn’s mind. The 2016 team were heavily criticized for having too many rookies, with five of the (then nine) qualifiers being debutants. Captain Darren Clarke also selected Thomas Pieters, meaning half the team were new to the unique environment of the Ryder Cup.

The knee-jerk reaction by the European Team following defeat in Hazeltine was to increase the captain’s picks to four, matching that of Team USA, thus effectively giving the captain the opportunity to select experienced players if the same situation arose.

Fast forward two years, and yes, five of the qualifiers are indeed rookies–and they make up a larger proportion of the team than those who qualified last time out. So in some regard, Bjorn’s decision on the experienced four picks seems to be justified. But with the greatest of respect to Chris Wood, Andy Sullivan, and Matt Fitzpatrick, this year’s rookies Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, and Tyrrell Hatton are at a level above and are constantly in and around the top of the world rankings. The other new boys in 2016 included Masters Champion Danny Willett, who had no form coming into the match, Rafa Cabrera Bello, who contributed 2.5 points, and Thomas Pieters, who top scored in the event with four points.

This year, World No. 15 Alex Noren is hardly an unknown quantity–he has played consistently good golf for the past two years on both sides of the Atlantic. The only “anomaly” on the team is Thorbjorn “the Thunderbear” Olesen. Currently World No. 44, he’s already been touted as the weak link in the European side by the U.S. media — a dangerous prediction given his recent form.

But even then, the five qualifiers this year mean that this team is different to that of two years ago. And for that reason, Thomas Bjorn did not need to load the team with experience, something that Darren Clarke got badly wrong last time out. Of course, with the benefit of hindsight it’s easy to point the finger at the out-of-form veterans Westwood and Kaymer–had they come to the fore it would have been seen as a stroke of genius. But they didn’t and were shown to be just that: out-of-form veterans.

So in that regard, it’s very surprising that Bjorn has gone the same way. Particularly given his own comments on Ian Woosnam’s team in the 2006 edition, when Clarke and Lee Westwood were selected.

He criticized Woosnam, stating:

“I haven’t heard a word off him for half a year, and I’ve spoken to several players who are on the team, and have been for a long time, and they haven’t either. What sort of captaincy is that? I have lost all respect for him.”

“My relationship with him is completely dead and will remain so. This will be the first time I don’t even watch the Ryder Cup on television, and you don’t know how sad that is, given how much I care for that tournament I desperately want the 12 players to be a success, but I want them to do it in spite of the captain.”

“If the decision was based on competitive results, then I could go along with it. But it seems there’s other reasons. He’s based his decision on results which happened five years ago.”

Bjorn went on to apologize the next day, but his feelings were made crystal clear by his outburst, particularly that last sentence. Parallels are certainly evident with his own selections of Paul Casey, and more so Sergio Garcia–deemed lucky by many to selected by the captain. Henrik Stenson caused a little concern with his injury; it’s contributed to his lack of points, and he’d have almost certainly qualified on merit if fit.

Ian Poulter was always going to be on the team–there can’t be an argument for his inclusion–and he only narrowly missed out on outright qualifying, losing out to Olesen, who would almost certainly not have been picked by his fellow Dane had he not accrued the required points. That undoubtedly put a bit of a wrench in the works, but to pick Casey, who’s not shown the form of late 2017/early 2018, and Garcia, who’s shown very little since his 2017 Masters win, are the ones to have caused controversy.

It has been suggested in certain circles that Casey was given assurances of a pick should he not qualify and this was instrumental in his decision to re-apply to the European Tour. Sergio however, was not the best pick. Everyone knows a firing Sergio is the first name on the team sheet, and Bjorn has since called him the heartbeat of the side. It seems he’s been picked for his role off the course more than that on the course, and this has left many feeling uneasy. By all means, have him as part of the side in some capacity, but one wonders how the likes of Rafa Cabrera Bello, three-time winner in 2018 Matt Wallace, or even 2016 hero Thomas Pieters are feeling after being overlooked.

Of course, all of these picks have the opportunity to prove their captain right in France this week. Should the Ryder Cup remain on these shores at the close of play on Sunday, Bjorn will be vindicated and hailed as a Ryder Cup legend. And such is the way of it: a losing captain will be labelled a flop, with every decision ridiculed.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. jack04553

    Sep 26, 2018 at 11:28 pm

    Great point! I will keep this in mind the next time. Thanks

  2. Jim

    Sep 26, 2018 at 3:49 pm

    Rory has 4 majors.

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Opinion & Analysis

A different perspective

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A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to play a round with two of the greens keepers at a local golf course and it was a fascinating experience. It gave me a chance to get a behind-the-scenes view of what it takes to make a golf course great.

Many of us play at public courses, and sometimes its luck of the draw if the course we are at is in good condition. In my case, if I find a course that is well maintained and taken care of, I make it a regular stop. In this case, I was at Ridgeview Ranch in Plano Texas and it is a great public course and I play here at least once a month.

The two guys I played with were Tony Arellano and Jose Marguez. Both were great guys to share a round with. Tony shared what it’s like to make sure that all the greens are maintained properly and watered correctly. He showed me where there were some issues with one of the greens that I would never have noticed. We talked about how the invasion of Poa annua grass forces his guys to pull it out by hand with a tool that is smaller than a divot repair tool. It became clear to me that as a golf community, we need to lift up the people that do this labor-intensive work and thank them for all they do. Ridgeview Ranch is without a doubt one of the better public courses in my area, and it is because of the hard work these men do that keeps it this way.

As we watched the Masters tournament a few weeks ago we were awestruck by the awesome beauty of Augusta National and in my case I believe that is what heaven looks like. I think we take that kind of beauty for granted and forget the massive amount of time and hard work that go into making a golf course look good. These people have to deal with all of the different factors that Mother Nature throws at them and be prepared for anything. In addition to that, they also have to make sure the watering system is maintained as well as all of their equipment.

I have played at other courses in the DFW area that have a terrible staff and a superintendent that either don’t care about the course or don’t know how to stop it from falling apart. The course won’t spend the money to go get the right people that will take pride in their work. Some of these places will charge you more than $80 per round, and when you get to the first green that has dry spots that are without any grass you feel like you have been ripped off.

We all love this game not because it’s easy but because it’s a challenge and being good at it takes a ton of effort. We also love it because it gives us a chance to hang out with friends and family and enjoy time outside in the sun– hopefully without cell phone interruptions and other distractions of our modern day. We spend a ton of money on green fees, equipment and sometimes travel. We want to get what we pay for and we want to have a great course to spend the day at.

I wanted to write this article to thank all of those men and women that start work in the early hours of the day and work through the hottest stretches of the summer to keep our golf courses in great shape. They are people that never get the credit they deserve and we should always thank them whenever possible. Tony and Jose are just two examples of the people who work so hard for all of us. Ridgeview Ranch is lucky to have these two men who not only work hard but were fantastic representatives of their course. So next time you are out there and you see these people working hard, maybe stop and say thank you let them know what they do really makes a difference.

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Opinion & Analysis

5 most common golf injuries (and how to deal with them)

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You might not think about golf as a physically intensive game, but that doesn’t change the fact it is still a sport. And as with every sport, there’s a possibility you’ll sustain an injury while playing golf. Here’s a list of the five most common injuries you might sustain when playing the game, along with tips on how to deal with them in the best way possible so you heal quickly.

Sunburn

While not directly an injury, it’s paramount to talk about sunburns when talking about golf. A typical golf game is played outside in the open field, and it lasts for around four hours. This makes it extremely likely you’ll get sunburnt, especially if your skin is susceptible to it.

That’s why you should be quite careful when you play golf

Apply sunscreen every hour – since you’re moving around quite a lot on a golf course, sunscreen won’t last as long as it normally does.

Wear a golf hat – aside from making you look like a professional, the hat will provide additional protection for your face.

If you’re extra sensitive to the sun, you should check the weather and plan games when the weather is overcast.

Rotator Cuff Injury

A rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that surround the shoulder joint. This group are the main muscles responsible for swing movements in your arms. It’s no surprise then that in golf, where the main activity consists of swinging your arms, there’s a real chance this muscle group might sustain an injury.

To avoid injuries to this group, it’s imperative you practice the correct form of swinging the club. Before playing, you should also consider some stretching.

If you get an injury, however, you can recover faster by following RICE:

Rest: resting is extremely important for recovery. After an injury, the muscles are extremely vulnerable to further injury, and that’s why you should immediately stop playing and try to get some rest.

Ice: applying ice to the injured area during the first day or two can help. It reduces inflammation and relaxes the muscles.

Compress: bandage the rotator cuff group muscle and compress the muscles. This speeds up the muscle healing process.

Elevate: elevate the muscles above your heart to help achieve better circulation of blood and minimize fluids from gathering.

Wrist Injuries

Wrist tendons can sustain injuries when playing golf. Especially if you enjoy playing with a heavy club, it can put some strain on the wrist and cause wrist tendonitis, which is characterized by inflammation and irritation.

You should start by putting your wrist in a splint or a cast – it is necessary to immobilize your wrist to facilitate healing.

Anti-inflammatory medicine can relieve some of the pain and swelling you’ll have to deal with during the healing process. While it might not help your wrist heal much quicker, it’ll increase your comfort.

A professional hand therapist knows about the complexities of the wrist and the hand and can help you heal quicker by inspecting and treating your hands.

Back Pain

A golf game is long, sometimes taking up to 6 hours. This long a period of standing upright, walking, swinging clubs, etc. can put stress on your back, especially in people who aren’t used to a lot of physical activities:

If you feel like you’re not up for it, you should take a break mid-game and then continue after a decent rest. A golf game doesn’t have any particular time constraints, so it should be simple to agree to a short break.

If you don’t, consider renting a golf cart, it makes movement much easier. If that’s not possible, you can always buy a pushcart, which you can easily store all the equipment in. Take a look at golf push cart reviews to know which of them best suits your needs.

Better posture – a good posture distributes physical strain throughout your body and not only on your back, which means a good posture will prevent back pain and help you deal with it better during a game.

Golfer’s Elbow

Medically known as medial epicondylitis, golfer’s elbow occurs due to strain on the tendons connecting the elbow and forearm. It can also occur if you overuse and over-exhaust the muscles in your forearm that allow you to grip and rotate your arm:

A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug is the way to go to alleviate the most severe symptoms of the injury at the beginning.

Lift the club properly, and if you think there’s a mismatch between your wrist and the weight of the club, you should get a lighter one.

Learn when you’ve reached your limit. Don’t overexert yourself – when you know your elbow is starting to cause you problems, take a short break!

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Podcasts

TG2: Our PGA picks were spot on…and Rob hit a school bus with a golf ball

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Rob picked Brooks to win the PGA and hit the nail on the head, while Knudson’s DJ pick was pretty close. Rob hit a school bus with a golf ball and we talk about some new clubs that are going to be tested in the next couple days.

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

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