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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May 14, 2014

Every Monday morning I anxiously await the latest Ryder Cup standings which are distributed by the PGA of America. Captain Tom Watson and I receive this each week. He probably will spend more time looking at the numbers with each passing week leading up to Sunday, August 10 which is the final round of the PGA Championship when the nine automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team will be determined.

On Tuesday, September 2, Watson will be situated somewhere in the Northeast and he will announce three Captain's picks rounding out his squad. No doubt he will spend Labor Day with Andy North and Raymond Floyd watching the final round of the Deutsche Bank Classic and collaborating on who the last three players should be.

Ryder Cup points are based on prize money earned. One point is awarded for every $1,000 earned in the 2013 major championships and all 2014 PGA Tour events beginning with the Fall Season last October. In 2014 the major championships receive two points for every $1,000 earned. Also, this year there are a couple of Tour events opposite the major championships and they earn 1/2 point for every $1,000 earned. It's actually a lot simpler than it sounds.

As of last week's Players Championship here are the top nine U.S. Ryder Cup players and their points earned.

1. Bubba Watson  6,283
2. Jimmy Walker  4,772
3. Matt Kuchar  4,060
4. Jordan Spieth 3,988
5. Jim Furyk  3,909
6. Dustin Johnson 3,781
7. Patrick Reed 3,038
8. Phil Mickelson 2,821
9. Zach Johnson 2,787

Based on the past couple of Ryder Cup teams the projected total needed to make the top nine would be approximately 4,500 points. Watson and Walker have secured spots while Kuchar, Spieth and Furyk are knocking on the door. Dustin Johnson is not far behind which means there will be a lot of scrambling for the last three guaranteed slots on Tom Watson's team.

Rounding out the current top 20 in the Ryder Cup standings are:

10. Jason Dufner  2,692
11. Harris English  2,680
12. Chris Kirk  2,526
13. Ryan Moore  2,334
14. Webb Simpson  2,243
15. Kevin Stadler  2,165
16. Rickie Fowler  2,150
17. Matt Every  2,102
18. Gary Woodland  1,902
19. J.B. Holmes  1,865
20. Keegan Bradley  1,847

Notably missing from the top 20 are Hunter Mahan (25th); Brandt Snedeker (33rd); Steve. Stricker (48th) and Tiger Woods (57th).

It is safe to say at this point that 2014 could be a transitional year for the Ryder Cup when the competition takes place at Gleneagles in Scotland, Sept. 23-28. Currently, there are six Ryder Cup rookies in the top thirteen on the American points list. Europe's team is still unfolding and it looks like there could be 3-4 rookies there, too.

Both Watson and Paul McGinley, the European Captain, could have some tough choices come September. If both teams have a high percentage of rookies making their top nine, will the captains look for experience to round out their teams?

In 1993 at The Belfry, Watson captained the last U.S. Ryder Cup team to win on foreign soil. He had two captain's picks and he used them on Raymond Floyd and Lanny Wadkins who were ranked 22nd and 32nd on points. For sure, Stricker and Woods will be down the 2014 points list based on Stricker's limited playing schedule and Woods' injury. It could be tough choices for Watson.

As I said, the majors count double and three of those remain. Lots of things could change and most likely will. The PGA Championship raised its purse to $10 million dollars with the winner receiving $1.8 and 3,600 Ryder Cup points. That means the PGA Champion could jump from somewhere around 50th to 9th and be an automatic pick. Currently, that brings into play names like Erik Compton, Chesson Hadley, Martin Flores and Indiana's Jeff Overton.

You can follow the standings each week on RyderCup.com. It will be an interesting three months leading up to the PGA. Bubba Watson proved the value of winning a major and three more Americans could do the same and make moves. But, in the past month or so, the Europeans have been in better form and they are winning some tournaments as evidenced by Germany's Martin Kaymer last week.

Stay tuned. The Ryder Cup drama is just beginning.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Players Championship

This week is The Players Championship from Ponte Vedra, Florida. The TPC at
Sawgrass is most noted for its Stadium Course and the Seventeenth Hole, an
island green that was famously designed by Hoosier Pete Dye. The Players has a
purse of $10 million and equals the PGA Championship as the richest tournament
in professional golf. The winner's share is $1.8 million and will be awarded on
Mother's Day. Somebody's mom will be happy late Sunday afternoon.

In a spring when many golf courses suffered turf losses from severe winter
weather TPC at Sawgrass has five greens that are suffering from the application
of a growth retarder. Early in the week these greens were closed in practice
rounds and no doubt they will be a topic of conversation all week here at The
Players. It just shows that even with the best of management and healthy
budgets, things can still go wrong.

Across the country many courses in the North have experienced severe cases of
winter kill. A story last week out of Chicago indicated that 65 percent of
greens in the Chicagoland area had been effected and 80 percent of tees and
fairways were hit with winter kill. Some courses in Northern Indiana have
suffered the same fate, but to date I have not heard of any significant damage
in Central Indiana.

Two of the most devastating cases of winter kill that I am aware of involved PGA
Vice President Derek Sprague from Malone, NY and Jim Remy, former PGA President
at the Okemo Valley Golf and Ski Resort in Ludlow, VT. Sprague had to reseed all
40 of his putting greens and hopes to open in early June. Losses are estimated
at near $300,000. Remy had to reseed 15 of his 18 championship course greens.

One of the biggest problems with the massive winter kill will be a seed
shortage. This speaks to the magnitude of how wide spread and torturous the
winter kill has been. We have seen some effects of this at The Legends in terms
of a shortage of ryegrass seed that we would use for fairway divot mix. Imagine
a golf course who had its turf wiped out and now you can't buy grass seed to
restore your course. These are very tough circumstances, so appreciate the good
quality turf at your local course.

On a positive note, if you are looking for a way to get your kids or grand kids
involved in golf look no farther than the PGA Junior League which is being
offered locally at Dye's Walk CC, Hillview CC,  Gongaware Golf Academy and The
Legends Golf Club. This program is for boys and girls ages 7-13. The season will
involve six round robin matches at the four facilities mentioned.

The format is 9-holes and the matches are played as a Scramble in three-hole
segments. Players can be substituted in and out. There is a weekly practice
between matches and a social component that makes this a great interaction for
parents and family. If you are looking for some competition, golf instruction,
fun and a very welcoming environment the PGA Junior League is it.

The cost of the program is between $75-$150 per player depending on the
facility. Each kid gets a golf shirt with a number on the back and some other
goodies besides golf lessons and competition. Last year the PGA Junior League
had almost 10,000 kids participate nationwide. To the credit of PGA pros in
Indiana, we led the nation with 60 teams and it looks like that number will
double in 2014.

Don't let the fact that your favorite kid hasn't played golf or is
inexperienced. In the case of The Legends and Gongaware we have enough kids for
two teams and will be setting up a "JV" schedule for those that fit the mold. I
encourage you to reach out to these Johnson County courses and be part of the
PGA Junior League.

Finally, thanks to all of the moms out there. Most area courses are running some
kind of promotion for Mothers Day. The weather looks good and what better way to
top the day off than playing 9-holes with your family!