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Opinion & Analysis

The sole Team USA coach: Azinger

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In all the years that I have followed Team USA in the Presidents and Ryder Cups, I’ve seen evidence of one coach: Paul Azinger. I’ll circle around to him in a bit.

Does anyone recall that the basis for these matches is the friendly exhibition? They don’t hold the key to anyone’s fiefdom, nor does the winner earn the right to rule over the loser. Let the golfers have at each other, but consider which golfers they are.

Consider the honor of carrying your country’s (or your union’s) colors. That’s a keeper for a lifetime. I’ve been in pro shops where, decades prior, the aging pro had competed for the USA side. How honored he was to display his team bag. Kevin Na, Kevin Kisner, among others, may never have that honor. They deserve to have it, as do many others.

Consider the honor of leading your side into the matches. Why should any captain have more than one opportunity at this? Thanks to the short-sighted decisions of ruling bodies, Larry Nelson and Sandy Lyle will never captain a team. They deserved to do just that.

Let’s circle back to Azinger for a moment. Remember what word he introduced into our lexicon? Pods. He divided 12 golfers evenly among three pods, and those golfers practiced and competed with only the members of the pod. Azinger put the team, the whole, above the individual. His team won, and did so in proper fashion. It was no War by the Shore (is there a shore in Kentucky?) and the team looked for all appearances, like it was having a great time. Nick Faldo and his side were helpless.

Remember how intense Captain Seve was? I loved that guy, but that was dumb. He was a captain, and he should have acted like a captain, like a coach. Instead, there he was, inserting himself into every situation, trying to intimidate. His guys still would have played great for him; they didn’t need the over-coaching.

I have to thank Captain Tiger for selecting Gary Woodland and not Rickie Fowler. Again, I like Fowler, but he doesn’t close the deal. Woodland earned his shot with his U.S. Open win. He never would have made a squad, because he’s not part of the clique. The Reed selection mystifies me; sure, Captain America has had great moments while bathed in the R, W, and B, but he hasn’t had many moments of late. Why not Na? Why not Kisner?

Don’t get me started on Tony Finau. All right, get me started. One tour win. A miraculous defeat of Tommy Fleetwood when the Ryder Cup was already lost. This is not a guy at the top of anyone’s list, and yet, there he is, selected by Captain Tiger. Utterly ridiculous. Not on form. If Finau and Reed win four points between the two of them, you shall color me astonished.

Steve Stricker remembers what it was like to drop off the face of the earth as a touring pro. I’m certain it happened to him twice. As the captain of Team USA Ryder Cup 2020, I hope that he remembers how fortunate he was to play on Ryder and Presidents Cup sides, and that he gives a guy on the edge, an outsider, a shot at something that will honor his family for generations to come.

I remember the Dream Team, that astonishing collection of USA ball players who annihilated the world. Have you seen Team USA lately? They don’t always win gold, or even silver, but the diversity of players is sizable. Guys who will always have a team jersey, the right to say that they represented their country.

Golf is so behind the times.

It’s just a game. We will still tune in, the ruling bodies will still claim their cash, the golfers will continue to eschew hunting trips in order to play in the matches. But the captain ought to be a coach and give some other guys a chance.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Dann B

    Nov 10, 2019 at 9:12 pm

    Can’t wait for Mayakoba. Kduooooche, kduoooooche. MK is a dbag

  2. Jack

    Nov 9, 2019 at 7:40 am

    Friends don’t let friends write when they are drunk.

  3. JJM

    Nov 9, 2019 at 1:43 am

    Agree with Na, think it would have been great to have him on the team and would have picked him over Reed but wasn’t Kisner on the last President’s Cup team?!?!

  4. Alex

    Nov 9, 2019 at 12:15 am

    While this seems like an alcohol infused series of random thoughts, I do agree on Finau. Great guy, everyone loves him, but a single win in 2016 shouldn’t get you a pick over Kevin Na who’s had two wins in the last six months.

  5. Your Dealer.

    Nov 8, 2019 at 6:39 pm

    You shouldn’t write while you’re high.

    • Gerald Teigrob

      Nov 8, 2019 at 9:17 pm

      Good point! Apparently that is acceptable here though!

  6. Robert Berardy

    Nov 8, 2019 at 2:03 pm

    Thursday passed and once again i didn’t get picked by the President’s Cup captain. i didn’t even get a phone call. Rickie got a phone call. Short call apparently, but a call. If you want diversity then pick one of us amateurs. Why pick Na or Kisner? I played with Colin Montgomery at a corporate event the year he was Ryder Cup captain and afterwards informed him I was willing to switch passports if he would choose me for the European team. His reply was, “Well they did give me more picks this year so I will keep you in mind.” My 10 handicap may have scared him away, but its down to 9 now and if they let me play from the senior tees I think I could bag some points for the US.

  7. Blade Junkie

    Nov 8, 2019 at 1:21 pm

    He’s picked as wild cards the 4 highest ranked players in the OWGR who weren’t otherwise in the team ? Seems pretty obvious … not to mention fair …. Finau is rightly in there on merit, not “diversity” …

  8. pelling

    Nov 8, 2019 at 1:14 pm

    “Pods” are the greatest scam in the history of team golf! These guys live next door to each other in Florida!
    Go Tiger!

  9. Dyson Bochambeau

    Nov 8, 2019 at 1:11 pm

    dios mio Ronaldo

  10. nick

    Nov 8, 2019 at 12:32 pm

    First of all, tony Finau has many top 10’s this year and more than the other players not selected. Also Reed won recently in the Fedex Play offs and has also been top 10 of late. Same with Woodland, top 10’s

    Choices were well thought out and correct.

    • Mike

      Nov 8, 2019 at 12:38 pm

      You can tell Roland only watches the majors.

    • Gerald Teigrob

      Nov 8, 2019 at 9:21 pm

      Do writers not watch the entire golf season? Finau is a class act. And he’s well-deserving. And Tiger’s selection of Patrick Reed shows no bias either. Leaving to Rollie to take something so special and turn it into something of a political nature instead of being a realist. And if Rollie forgot by now…who has coaching experience on the Ryder Cup? Tiger. I rest my case!

  11. F

    Nov 8, 2019 at 12:23 pm

    Put Ronald the clown back in the funny farm.
    Why was Finau picked? You said it yourself you clown!: DIVERSITY.
    Duh

  12. Scooter

    Nov 8, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    Hmmm… not sure what to make of this article. It’s not about “giving a player a chance” its about putting together the best possible to team to win. It’s not a charity event, it’s a team tournament. Whatever point you were trying to make Ronny, I think you missed it on this one.

    • Gerald Teigrob

      Nov 8, 2019 at 9:28 pm

      I totally agree! Not sure what his point was, to begin with. Oh yeah, Paul Zinger. How about asking Payne Stewart to be the next captain. It makes about as much sense as this article does! Zip. Nada!

  13. Michael

    Nov 8, 2019 at 12:10 pm

    The USA will win the Pres Cup because they have better golfers but despite the team culture. The USA loses Ryder Cups because of this kind of endless navel-gazing about team events.

  14. tina

    Nov 8, 2019 at 11:41 am

    Clearly he’s choosing his Nike brethren. Should’ve chosen Na.

    • dixiedoc

      Nov 8, 2019 at 5:55 pm

      Absolutely. They ought to have a rule that Captains cannot play but vanity rules.

      • Gerald Teigrob

        Nov 8, 2019 at 9:25 pm

        If captains couldn’t play, I guess that means as an assistant Special Olympics Competitive team golf coach I am suddenly ineligible. What a wonky theory you have dixiedoc!

  15. cooljack

    Nov 8, 2019 at 11:22 am

    Wouldn’t it be cool to have an after party no matter who won and everyone just hung out in the spirit of the game instead of us against them?

  16. Ruthy Babe

    Nov 8, 2019 at 10:19 am

    Matt Azinger=Paul Kuchar
    Both Doooooouuuuuccchhheee

  17. Bernard Lang

    Nov 8, 2019 at 10:16 am

    Team USA won that Ryder Cup at Valhalla because it was at Valhalla. They could of won with Hal Sutton being their captain at that course. The team USA committee needs to focus more on where they play on their home soil, rather than trying to find someone like Paul Azinger. The Europeans do it best. They pick a venue, then select players whom would play well at that venue. Then after they see their competitors, they setup the course to hurt their competitors. It’s that simple. Here’s an example…Their are two scratch golfers
    One hits it 270 straight and is an excellent wedge player and putter, the other hits it 350 fairly straight and has a good short game. It’s going to matter which course you play on.

    • TXJM

      Nov 8, 2019 at 1:32 pm

      BL – great insight, but you’re missing-the-mark here. Tiger’s Captain’s Picks should prioritize HOT CHICKS. So Rickie Fowler should’ve received the 1st Captain’s Pick for girlfriend-now-wife Allison Stokke. Suzanne Stonebarger has that hot beach volleyball vibe… so Ricky Barnes is pick #2. The 3rd Pick is easy: Hunter Mahan – wife Kandi Harris was a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader & sweet like her name. Keegan Bradley is Pick #4 as long as Jillian Stacey (…not Auntie Pat) tags along. Word.

      • BL

        Nov 8, 2019 at 1:50 pm

        Haha… he would of picked Dufner then. Oooo, wait. He’s already slaughtered that..

  18. Cody Reeder

    Nov 8, 2019 at 10:14 am

    I am so confused by what your point is here….. What are you trying to say? Are you mad about who Tiger picked? Or are you mad about what this event represents? Or that no one really cares??

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Birdie holes and other myths

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I am an ardent observer of self-destructive things I see golfers do and hear golfers say, and one that really gets me is when I hear someone stand on the tee and proclaim, “This is a birdie hole.”
Really? How do you know when you haven’t even hit your drive yet, much less your approach? If you’re a 12 handicap, let’s say, there are really only 5-6 “par” holes out here; how can you think this one is a “birdie hole”?

This game is tough, and making birdies is the toughest achievement out there. Very few are made without hitting two better-than-average shots, or at least one remarkable one, whether the approach or the putt. Think about that for a minute. You could be a scratch golfer and never make one! Eighteen pars and a bogey or or two will get you to scratch on most courses. If you are an 8 handicap, that means you average about 82 or so, which equates to 8 pars and 10 bogeys in a round – what are you doing thinking about making a birdie at all, much less while on the tee?

My advice is that if you are a 10 handicap or higher, your singular thought on the tee should be to not make a double or higher. Chances are you don’t hit the driver 280-plus and you don’t hit even half the fairways. If you track your rounds, I’d bet you will find a high relativity of drives out of the fairway to doubles (or worse) put on the scorecard.

So let’s assume you got off the tee well, now what? When you face your approach shot, my advice is to figure out which side of the green gives you the best chance of getting up and down and the least odds of facing a short-side difficult pitch. And there’s never anything wrong with targeting the fat middle of the green, regardless of where the pin is located. On most courses, a ball in the dead center of the green will give you a half dozen or more reasonable putts, and the rest will not be overly long or difficult. The next round you play, just stand in the middle of the green after you are done and survey the putt that ball position would have given you.

Here’s another interesting and enlightening drill for you if you find yourself out for a day of learning on the golf course. On each hole, after your drive and approach, play a second ball from the “safe” side of the green, just as if you had missed your approach to this safe side. Then hit a pitch or chip and putt it out. Keep that score on along with the score you actually made and see how you come out.

I’ve been blessed to have played to a low handicap my whole life, and I am an entrepreneur…but I really do not have a gambler personality. On the golf course, I want to have fun, and I’ve learned that trying to save pars from the short side really doesn’t deliver that. If I’m tuned in to my game, I play the safe side of fairways off the tee and the safe side of the hole with my approaches. I make my share of birdies, and keep big numbers and bogeys on short holes to a minimum by taking this approach.

Of course, I find a 73 or 74 with only one or two birdies more fun than a 78 with 3 or 4. You might not.

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Opinion & Analysis

Requiem for a push cart

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I can’t believe it’s over. In the last four years, you have been with me for 3,686 holes. But I understand you are just too tired to go on. Your break is busted. Your wheels rattle. It’s time for you to retire, I understand, but it makes me sad nonetheless; Hogan, my trusted push cart.

It is hard to believe that was 4 years ago! Oh, how the time has passed! How many great memories we have! Hundreds of rounds and thousands of miles. Our amazing travels, playing with great friends, meeting new people, and of course love! I will never forget the first time you meet Mary ClickGear. The way she rolled up, four wheels, wearing that beautiful pink trimmed outfit. How your umbrella all of a sudden burst open and how embarrassed you were. HA! It was amazing, my friend, and I am so glad we got to share the moments together.

There were also the bad times: my struggles with putting yips, then chipping yips, then putting and chipping yips together. Yet through it, you stood resolute beside me.

I also remember your dark times, like when you got called “overweight” at the airport or shortly after how you tried to thrust yourself in a lake (destroying my brand new rangefinder). In these times, I tried to be a source of strength for you and show you how much our time together meant to me.

What I will remember most is your enduring love. During the past four years, many have come and gone (including the M5 irons, the Ping G500 irons, Apex irons, a Ping putter, an Odyssey putter, a long putter, belly putter, three Scotty Camerons, and another Ping putter) but through good and bad, there was one thing I could count on: you. Always steads. Quick to hold my drink or my umbrella. Never judging when I took time for ball-hawking. Always down for a walk, regardless of the weather! A true friend!

That’s why yesterday, our last round together, was so special. I know you were hurting, that right wheel barely holding on and the lingering joint pain, but you never complained. Until the end; you were there for every shot and for that I am truly grateful. I hope you noticed the tears going up 18. They were real and deserved; you were the best push cart ever, my friend!

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Mondays Off

Mondays Off: Shanks one day, shoot 77 the next? How? Should I wait to get fit?

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Shanks one day and then fire 77 the next? Steve and Knudson take on that question from a listener as well as one about fitting. New 2020 gear is coming out soon, so should you get fit now or wait until spring?

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

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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19th Hole

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