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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: Swing Weight Part 2 – Non-standard lengths

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This is the part of the swingweight discussion where I expect to get lots of dialog, so here goes.

The modern trend in clubfitting seems to “fit” many golfers long and upright, which I don’t necessarily agree with, but can sound off on that later. Today, we’re going to talk about this subject, and I’m going to share my theory on what does and should happen to swingweight.

The idea of fitting a golfer with longer shafts is to accommodate his or her height and posture. Let’s say my friend who’s 6’3” really likes my irons, and wants a set “just like them”, but he wants them built to his own specs of 1” overlength. So, to accommodate his larger size and assumed strength, we build him a set of irons just like mine, except that the shafts 1 inch longer than mine are. Now, that one inch in the butt of the golf club shaft only adds about 2 grams to the overall weight of the club, and does nothing to the flex profile. So his new irons are EXACTLY like mine – same shaft flex, same heads, same everything.

BUT, when we put his new irons on the swingweight scale, he goes ballistic, because they read D7-9, rather than the D2 that I play. But they are not heavier than mine: they are just like mine, only altered to accommodate his size.

However, if he insists that they should be only D2, as a clubmaker, I have my work cut out for me. First, I have to grind weight off the clubheads . . . considerable weight, as much as 5-8% of the mass . . . with greatly alters the club, right? And removing that much mass then makes the shafts play much stiffer, increasing the frequency by a half a flex or more. So, in order to “match” the swingweight, I’ve created a tremendously lighter and stiffer club – nothing like the irons I have that he liked so much.

Or I guess I could counter-weight the club significantly, which also is dramatically changing the irons that we wanted to be “just like mine.”

What I have always proposed is that we think in the concept of “swingweight equivalent”. If the club is D2 at standard length, it’s going to be D4-5 at 1/2” over, maybe D8-9 at 1” over. When we are making shaft length adjustments that are shorter, that exact same club will be C9 or so at 1/2” shorter than standard.

I really think it’s just that simple. What about all of you?

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TG2: Testing Odyssey’s Triple Track 7S putter and BGT Stability putter shafts

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I got Odyssey’s new Triple Track 7S putter out on the course to play for a couple of rounds and that Triple Track alignment system is really good. BGT (Breakthrough Golf Technology) Stability putter shafts are a big upgrade over stock steel putter shafts. I review both the Stability and Stability Tour versions. Finally, WITB for the big golf trip this weekend!

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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Opinion & Analysis

Ways to Win: Redemption for Morikawa

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How Justin Thomas Collin Morikawa stole the show

I had already written the opening paragraph in my head on how solid Justin Thomas is with three holes left in the Workday Charity Open. Three up with three to play. It was over…until it wasn’t. I began rewriting the same paragraph when Thomas knocked in a 50-foot putt on the first playoff hole. That clutch putt gained over 1.14 strokes on the typical tour player from that distance…but then Morikawa rolled in his own improbable 24-footer.

I hesitated to pick up the pen again when Thomas had just over 10 feet on the second playoff hole. Morikawa simply would not go away, and, in the end, he survived the three-hole playoff to walk away with the victory. In retrospect, he was certainly a deserving champion. Other than a nervy third round disappointment, Morikawa was solid all week. It was his time.

Tiger-like

Comparing any player to Tiger Woods is a somewhat ridiculous exercise. However, the way Morikawa gets it done and his consistency has hints of Tiger. For starters, his streak of 22 consecutive cuts made to start a PGA Tour career is second only to Tiger Woods. At this point in his career, Morikawa has won more events than he has missed cuts. There aren’t many pros that can say the same.

Morikawa’s consistency and brilliance largely come from his ability to separate from the field with ball striking and, specifically, his iron game. Tiger Woods made reliable ball-striking a staple throughout his career. Looking at Morikawa’s performance over the four-round tournament, it is obvious that approach is the most dangerous weapon in his bag. He gained 3.6 strokes on Thursday and more than six strokes on the field Sunday. His approach game kept him in the tournament despite losing strokes with the flatstick.

Morikawa is ridiculously good with his irons. Utilizing the shot distribution chart in V1 Game, we can see he rarely misses the green from close range, and he hits it, on average, inside 25 feet from every distance bucket except from 150-175 yards. In fact, 150-175 yards looks like somewhat of an anomaly for Morikawa. His proximity on average is “only” 32 feet from this distance. In fact, for all buckets over 100 yards, it is the only distance bucket in which Morikawa loses strokes to the field. Again, using V1 Game’s approach analysis we can clearly see the Proximity Trends and Strokes Gained information by bucket. Morikawa gains between a 0.1 and 0.3 strokes with his irons every time he hits a shot. That is a tremendous asset to separate from the field. He simply has more birdie putts from closer distance than the vast majority of the field.

Still Have to Close

Morikawa’s approach game aside, he still has to close. A few weeks ago he was unable to convert from short distance to extend a playoff. In a way, this week was a redemption. Morikawa putted beautifully for the majority of the week, gaining more than three strokes with the flatstick. That does not even include the clutch 24-footer he made in the playoff to extend the match.

However, there is still significant room to improve on the greens for Morikawa. Looking at his putting performance for the week, he did lose strokes from 10-20 feet with one three-putt and very few makes in that distance. Morikawa will need to improve with the putter to continue to convert his ball striking into trophies. However, his consistent iron game should continue to give him plenty of opportunities.

Much can be learned from seeing how the pros manage the course and get it done from day-to-day with different parts of their game. The big takeaway this week: hit it closer and you’ll make more putts. Hitting the green more often takes stress off of one’s putting and short game.

Download V1 Game in the App Store today and start tracking your golf performance like the pros. 

 

 

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