Lots of stuff happening with the week that was, so let’s get things rolling….
Presidents’ Cup Half Empty?
So riddle me this: How does a guy who has won twice on tour, one of which was a major championship, who is sure to be honored with both the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year and PGA Tour Player of the Year honors, NOT get picked to represent his country in the upcoming Presidents Cup? While the drama and excitement of the Tour Championship finish was indeed edge-of-our-seats good, we can’t forget three very important facts: (1) The Tour Championship was not a major tournament. (2) The Tour Championship didn’t include the top players in the world. (3) Billy Haas blew a 2-shot lead by bogeying 2 of his final 3 holes in regulation before finally prevailing in the playoff. Now let’s compare that to Keegan Bradley’s situation with 3 holes remaining in the tournament on Sunday at the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club: (1) This was a major championship with the world’s top players in the field. (2) Keegan Bradley trailed the leader by 3 shots with 3 holes remaining. (3) Keegan Bradley birdied 2 of the final 3 holes to force a playoff and went on to win his first major championship.
It’s not that Billy Haas doesn’t belong on the team. Haas has had a great season by anyone’s standards, with 7 top-10 finishes that include a win and two runner-up finishes. But when Captain Fred Couples made the early call with picking Tiger Woods as one of his choices – he set himself up to have no other choice but to leave a deserving player off the team. In the grand scheme of things – who really had the more impressive season? A rookie who showed the grit and determination to battle back from a dastardly triple bogey on the 69th hole of a major championship to win his 2nd tournament of the year? Or the offspring of one of the assistant captains who squandered a 2-shot lead in a non-major tournament and eked out a lone win this season in the playoff? If the Presidents Cup came down to a player needing to come up clutch by birdieing the last two holes against his opponent to win the Cup, would it be Haas or Bradley? My money is on Bradley. But I would also take Haas over Woods, for whatever that’s worth….
Not So Rosie: Solheim Cup Bickering
Lots of finger pointing took place on Sunday after the European ladies battled back late in the day to overtake the American ladies for the Solheim Cup, and it all seemed to revolve around Cristie Kerr’s injury that led to a concession in her final singles match. It took very little time for the critics to pounce on American Captain Rosie Jones Sunday evening by questioning her decision to play Kerr in the Saturday matches instead of giving her some time to rest her injured wrist. To put this issue to rest – Kerr was adamant about playing every single match and informed Jones prior to each match that her wrist was fine. As is the case most commonly with tendonitis – it’s very difficult to know when the inflammation is going to flare up and the only thing that Jones had to go by was her player’s word. Unfortunately things didn’t go as planned on Sunday and Kerr’s injury ended up being a major setback to the American team. But despite that – there were 11 other players who were given the opportunity to step up to the plate and respond. Only 6 of those 11 players did.
The conditions on Sunday were brutal, with several stoppages of play because of puddled water on the greens. The wind was overbearing at times, with rain pelting the players as it was coming down sideways. It was a difficult day that was made even more difficult with the team’s strongest player essentially reduced to playing cheerleader on the sidelines. But the bottom line is that the European ladies played some phenomenal golf Sunday despite those conditions, and any attempt to make excuses for the American team’s loss does a great disservice to the quality of golf that the European players exhibited Sunday afternoon. I think it’s time to lay off of Rosie Jones. Captains in team events like these always get the blame when their team loses and get little of the credit when their team wins, and Rosie Jones knew that going in. But sometimes bad things happen and no one is to blame, and this just happened to be one of those times.
So what is the protocol for wanting to hire someone else’s caddie?
A couple of months ago he fired his former caddie and best friend via his website. Prior to that he and his instructor parted ways via text messaging. So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to Dustin Johnson on Sunday that his caddie, Joe LaCava, was the guy himself who broke the news to him that he’d accepted an offer to go loop for Tiger Woods. While there is no particular handbook or policy that defines certain protocols for tour players to solicit employment from currently-employed caddies for other players, there is an unwritten-yet-respected code for how such a process unfolds. And it usually starts with either a phone call or face-to-face meeting with the other player to get approval to approach his caddie and present him with the opportunity. In most circles it’s called common courtesy.
Now in all fairness – maybe LaCava arranged this situation with Woods ahead of time that he would be the one breaking the news to DJ himself, but it’s still outside the parameters of the code. If Woods and LaCava had been discussing things earlier, Woods should’ve informed LaCava that he (Woods) still needed to be the one to inquire with Johnson about offering LaCava the job, if for no other reason than to respect the common courtesy. The word going around is that Woods didn’t talk with Johnson until the news had already been broken earlier by none other than Butch Harmon, Johnson’s swing coach. And if this is indeed the case – that makes Harmon no different than Woods in that regard. But most of us already knew that.
Lexi Thompson’s win 2 weeks ago at the Navistar LPGA Classic should be seen as a godsend for a tour that is severely lacking domestic interest. But her win has also put tour commissioner Michael Whan in a compromising situation, as 2 years ago he declined her petition for exemption to the age requirement (18) to become an LPGA Tour member. Coming into the Navistar LPGA Classic 2 weeks ago, 17-yr-old Thompson had already advanced to the 2nd stage of the LPGA Tour’s qualifying school. After winning the event, however, Thompson wasted little time withdrawing from Q-school and petitioning the LPGA Tour for full exemption status, essentially forcing Whan to reconsider his stance on the issue.
Of course – Whan could once again decline Thompson’s petition for tour membership, but in doing so he would be turning away a great opportunity to inject some much-needed excitement into a product that has grown miserably stale. Commissioner Whan – swallow your pride and do the right thing. Thompson will meet the age requirement next season and there’s no point in making a statement for the sake of making a statement. The statement you should consider making is that your tour welcomes an exciting young player who has more than proven both her level of maturity and competitiveness on the golf course, and that you’re looking forward to improving the image of your brand to sponsors who need to be associated with your product.