Sep 22

Captain Watson: Make no mistake, this Ryder Cup is a redemption mission

There's been some turnover from 2012 to 2014, but seven of the players from the American team at Medinah two years ago are in Scotland for the Ryder Cup. Seven players on this Ryder Cup team lived the meltdown that saw Europe overcome a record four-point Saturday night deficit.

Captain Tom Watson didn't lead that team, but he knows the motivation for this team is self-explanatory.

“I made it very clear to them. This trip is a redemption trip," Watson said Monday. "Those players who played on that team -- [seven] of them are on this team -- it’s time to make amends. It’s a motivation.”

Ian Poulter incited the European comeback on Saturday night, birdieing the last five holes of the Saturday fourball match against Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson and earning a critical point while partner Rory McIlroy looked on astounded. The Englishman's rally incited a 8.5-point performance in the Sunday singles session, capping an unprecedented comeback.

That comeback is why, in part, Tom Watson is the captain of this team. Watson, previously captain in 1993, is the last American captain to win on the road. He leads a side with just two wins since then. While his team, minus Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson, looks weaker than the stacked European side on paper, Watson is quietly confident his team can pull through. In fact, he's already instructed the traveling American fans on how to share his optimism: shout the chant that had the nation in a frenzy around the World Cup.

“We believe that we can win,” Watson said.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Sep 22

Rickie Fowler gets ‘USA’ buzzed into hair for Ryder Cup

Rickie Fowler is juiced for the Ryder Cup, which starts Friday at Gleneagles Resort in Scotland. 

The 25-year-old got a new do to look good for his third appearance on the American team. As part of the haircut, he had the barber buzz in the letters "USA" into his shorter locks.

We'll know if the Americans really want to win if Tom Watson shows up in Scotland wearing a red, white and blue mohawk.

Related Ryder Cup video:


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Sep 20

Steve Stricker to wield wedge to win Whistling Straits tickets

Steve Stricker may be a part-time pro golfer these days, but his wedge game is still as sharp as the best in the world. He's hoping that will translate into a pair of great 2015 PGA Championship tickets for two Wisconsin football fans.

During halftime of the Oct. 11 game at Camp Randall Stadium against Illinois (curiously, Stricker's alma mater), Stricker will hit a 135-yard shot from the video-board platform to the school's midfield W. If the ball lands on the target, a fan will win a pair of Wanamaker Club tickets to next August's PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisc.

Wanamaker Club tickets run $475 for the week and come with access to "an air-conditioned, sports-bar themed pavilion with indoor seating, multiple HDTVs and upgraded food and beverage available for purchase," according to the PGA Championship website.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Sep 20

Westwood: Europe can’t rely on Poulter dramatics at Ryder Cup

Ian Poulter has been a part of four Ryder Cup teams and won 80 percent of his matches. Almost single-handedly, he inspired the 2012 comeback now known as the Miracle at Medinah. He birdied the final five holes of his Saturday fourballs match with Rory McIlroy to beat a shocked Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson. He then came through on Sunday with a singles win against Webb Simpson, leading the record charge to overcome a four-point Saturday night deficit.

However, Poulter has been off in 2014, posting just a single top-10 PGA Tour finish in the calendar year. He didn't qualify for the team on points, leaving European captain Paul McGinley no choice but to select Poulter as a courtesy to his previous record.

Fellow 2014 captain's pick Lee Westwood made clear a European victory at Gleneagles will have to be more of a team effort.

"I think it's a lot to ask of him to do the same as he did last time," Westwood said at the Wales Open on Saturday. "He turned the whole momentum of the Ryder Cup around on that Saturday night so let's not put too much pressure on him with that, but certainly he seems to be able to raise his game for a Ryder Cup."

The last two Ryder Cup matches have gone in Europe's favor by a single point, with Poulter leading the way (along with Luke Donald in 2010) in European points in both matches. However much Westwood would like to lessen the load on Poulter, it's clear he has been integral to their last two wins.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Sep 19

How Tiger Woods did the last time he coached himself

One sentence in Tiger Woods' latest blog post, published Thursday, caught enough attention to merit worldwide headlines.

"I may just do it on my own," wrote Woods concerning who might be his next swing coach. It wouldn't be the first time in Woods' career where the 14-time major winner has been teacher and student. 

When Woods and Hank Haney parted company in May 2010, Woods had just withdrawn in the final round of The Players citing an inflamed neck joint. Woods next appeared at the Memorial Tournament the next month, and the questions about Woods' future were obvious. Asked if he was "self-diagnosing," Woods confirmed he was figuring things out on his own.

"That's the great thing about technology. We can use video," Woods said. "That's what I've been doing and been working on it that way."

And so began a two-and-a-half month experiement. Woods didn't win in this stretch (he didn't win in 2010 or '11), but did finish T-4 at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and T-23 at the Open Championship at St. Andrews where Louis Oosthuizen blitzed the field for his only major title. However, Woods was left searching after he finished T-78, dead last, in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, a tournament he has won eight times.

The next week at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, Woods was seen working with Sean Foley.

However, Woods is done until his World Challenge event in December. He hasn't touched a golf club since the PGA Championship in August. For now, the focus is on getting healthy and getting right a back problem that has marred his season. It may not be until 2015 that Woods decides, if at all, to rebuild his swing yet again. If he does overhaul once more, it may not be before 2016 that Woods shows flashes of his once-dominant self.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Sep 19

Rory McIlroy ready to take on all U.S. comers at Ryder Cup

World No. 1 Rory McIlroy knows he has a target on his back at next week's Ryder Cup. A two-time major winner this season, McIlroy is the de facto leader of the European side looking for a third consecutive win. The Ulsterman said Thursday he's happy to take on any player American captain Tom Watson sends out to be his foil.

“Whoever they want to send out against me, it’s no problem to me,” McIlroy said in an appearance for sponsor Santander in London. “I want to lead from the front and by example, and I’m confident enough in the way I am playing right now to do that.”

McIlroy realizes any time he doesn't walk away from a match with a full point will be a disappointment for him and, more critically, a big moral boost to the American side.

“I know I will have a target on my back but I love that and I am going to play up to it as much as I can,” he said. “It’s a massive compliment whenever the opposition are talking about you. I know what a huge fillip it would be for them if I lose, but it is up to me to make sure it doesn’t happen.”

The 25-year-old will likely play in all five sessions over the three-day event. McIlroy said he's happy to partner with countryman Graeme McDowell, who has been a good partner with him in the last two Ryder Cups. McIlroy downplayed the impact on their relationship of an ongoing lawsuit McIlroy filed against their once-shared representation, Horizon Sports Management. McDowell announced earlier this summer he'd be tending to his own representation at year's end.

"I’d love to play with G-Mac," McIlroy said. "I think everyone can see the chemistry we have together and there’s no reason why it can’t be the same this time. We were both playing in Denver two weeks ago and went out to dinner together. There’s no problem between us."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Sep 18

Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews votes to admit female members

It only took 260 years. 

On Thursday, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews announced its membership has voted to allow female members. Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A, the governing body off-shoot of the club, said the club will fast-track membership for "a significant initial number" of women into the club.

"I am very pleased indeed to announce that the membership of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews has voted overwhelmingly in favor of welcoming women members," said Dawson, who is also the club's secretary, in a statement.

Over 75 percent of the estimated 2,400 members voted, many by a proxy ballot thought critical to secure the simple majority needed to pass this measure. Of those approximately 1,800 members that voted, over 1,500 did so in the affirmative. That means some 300 members said no with another 600 effectively saying no by not voting.

The club was founded in 1754. In 2004, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews formed the body known today as The R&A, charging it with administering the Rules of Golf, running the Open Championship and other events and serving as the game's governing body outside of the United States and Mexico.

Reaction from this side of the Atlantic has been positive, if not with a slight foot-tapping tone.

In an unattributed statement, the LPGA said, "The LPGA is happy to hear that the members of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews have voted to include female members. This decision is certainly a step in the right direction and one that better captures the current diversity and inclusiveness of our great game."

PGA of America president Ted Bishop applauded the decision, viewing the vote through the prism of a sagging golf industry.

"Women have played and will continue to play an integral role in the game of golf," Bishop said. "In fact, women represent the biggest growth market in the sport, and every step to make golf more inclusive is good for the game. The PGA of America is thrilled that the R&A is welcoming women into its organization, and loudly applauds its decision."

While the Royal & Ancient will now have male and female members, there are still three clubs in the Open Championship rota that are single-sex: Muirfield, which hosted the '13 Open; Royal Troon, which hosts in 2016; and Royal St. Georges Golf Club. 

For its part, Troon, which has a 370-member ladies club that shares the property with the male-only club, reiterated it has no plans to integrate the two organizations.

"At present, membership of Royal Troon is open only to those of the male gender and we have no plans to change our constitution at this time, although I must point out that we are quite different from many of the other single-gender clubs in that we share our facilities with an active ladies’ club," said club secretary David Brown in a statement.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.