With recent woes, change might help U.S.
ORLANDO -- Tom Watson made a curious move Wednesday, electing to forego one of his at-large selections when the U.S. Ryder Cup team plays in Scotland next year.
Perhaps it doesn't matter a bit, and there is no perfect formula. European captain Jose Maria Olazabal had just two picks last year, and his team prevailed at Medinah. U.S. captain Davis Love III had four picks and the Americans were defeated 14 ½-13 ½.
So Watson might be on to something. Then again, don't you want every choice available to you?
"Giving our players one more opportunity to earn a spot on merit, I believe, is the right thing to do," Watson said. "I will use all possible resources in choosing these three captain's choices to complete the best possible team in order to win the Cup back for the United States."
The U.S. went to four picks under captain Paul Azinger in 2008 -- the only year the Americans have won the Cup since 1999. The past two competitions saw excruciating 14 ½-13 ½ defeats while captain's Corey Pavin and Love had four picks.
Maybe changing it up is good.
And it leads us to the "what-if" game that typically plays out in defeat. Under this format, Hunter Mahan would have made the U.S. team in 2012. Perhaps Jim Furyk or Steve Stricker would have been left off.
Mahan, who won twice in 2012, was left off the team despite finishing ninth in points. Of course, he played poorly over the final four months of the qualifying period and couldn't hold onto what was the No. 1 position heading into the Masters. Stricker was 10th and Furyk was 11th. The other captain's picks were Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker.
Stricker and Furyk, however, were clearly the lightning rods for criticism after the U.S. blew a 10-6 final-day lead. Stricker went 0-4, falling in what turned out to be the deciding match against Martin Kaymer. Furyk was 1-up with 2 holes to play, then bogeyed the final two to lose to Sergio Garcia in Sunday singles.
Had either American player just managed a half-point, then the final match that Tiger Woods more or less gave up on would have mattered. And things very well may have been different.
It's easy to say now that Mahan would have performed better, but in his 14 events after winning the Shell Houston Open, he missed three cuts and had just a single top-10. He also missed two cuts late in the selection process. There was some debate about him being left off the team, but it was hard to argue with the others chosen.
Stricker was picked for his partnership with Woods; Furyk for his experience. No question, they played poorly, but the U.S. should have won anyway. There were plenty of players who didn't get it done on that Sunday at Medinah, including U.S. major winners Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson.
Having a different selection system should not have mattered. Perhaps it will next year at Gleneagles, where Tom Watson will attempt to become the first U.S. captain to win on foreign soil since ... he did it in 1993 at the Belfry.
U.S. players will begin earning points at the Masters and will do so at all the majors this year before earnings points at all events for the 2013-14 season, when points at the majors will double. The team will be decided after the 2014 PGA Championship, with Tom Watson making his three selections several weeks later.
Gmac, restaurant owner
If Graeme McDowell is as successful at running a restaurant as he is at dealing with people, he'll do just fine for himself.
ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL
• Defending champion: Tiger Woods
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• Venue: Bay Hill Club and Lodge, par-72, 7,400 yards
• Location: Orlando, Fla.
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• Dates: Thursday-Sunday
• Payout: 132-man field with winner earning $1,116,000 of $6.2 million purse
• Format: 72-hole stroke play with a 36-hole cut to top 70 and ties
• Quick links: Money leaders | Schedule | World rankings
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Last week he opened a restaurant in his adopted hometown of Orlando called Nona Blue, located just outside the golf community known as Lake Nona where he and several other tour pros live. The restaurant will be accessible to golf carts.
"It will be a nice hobby for me," McDowell said of the venture that is in partnership with Bistro Concepts LLC. "I will enjoy it."
McDowell said he envisions himself pouring beers for customers when his schedule allows, and while it is not a golf-themed restaurant, there will be mementos from some of his triumphs, including a replica of his 2010 U.S. Open trophy.
The menu appears to be filled with numerous choices, with 24 beers on tap. And in a nod to his Irish roots, there will be an all-day breakfast with an Irish theme as well as Shepherd's pie.
McDowell vows a call to the restaurant after every victory announcing a free round of drinks.
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2. Jordan Spieth. The 19-year-old rookie pro tied for seventh in Tampa a week after a runner-up finish in Puerto Rico to achieve special temporary member status on the PGA Tour, putting him well on his way to achieving his card for 2013-14.
3. Stacy Lewis. Not only did she overcome a 2-shot penalty on Saturday, she shot a final-round 64 to win the LPGA Founders Cup and go to No. 1 in the world.
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2. Adam Scott. One shot out of the lead through 36 holes at Innisbrook and confident about his short game, Scott came up empty on the weekend and finished back in the pack in his last start before the Masters.
3. The anchored putting debate. It has now gotten to the point where the game's two rules-making bodies -- the R&A and USGA -- are in a tussle with the PGA Tour and PGA of America. This has turned into a strange deal.
There are just two more events left to get into the Masters via the top 50 world ranking criteria as of March 31 with this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational and next week's Shell Houston Open. A victory in either tournament, of course, assures an invitation, as does a win at the Valero Texas Open the week prior to the Masters. The only other way is through the top 50, and that concludes after Houston.
Geoff Ogilvy is probably the biggest name on the cusp of getting an invite without his spot secured. Ogilvy narrowly missed the top 50 invitation that went out at the end of 2012 -- he was 51st by mere percentage points -- and then dropped into the 70s after a poor West Coast swing.
Although he rebounded to get into the top 50 with a second-place finish at the Honda Classic, moving to 47th, Ogilvy has fared poorly the past two weeks at Doral and Tampa Bay, including a tie for 61st at Innisbrook. Those finishes have left him at 50th in the world. He is playing this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Charles Howell III is another player in need of a big week. A playoff loser earlier in the year at the Humana Challenge -- a victory that would have taken care of a Masters invite -- he's moved up to 57th in the world.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational again boasts a strong field, with nine of the top 15 in the world entered, led by defending champion Tiger Woods, who has won the event seven times. ... No. 4 Brandt Snedeker returns for the first time since winning at Pebble Beach in February. A rib injury caused Snedeker to miss both early-season World Golf Championship events. ... Three of the four reigning major champions are also in the field: Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els. No. 1-ranked Rory McIlroy has never played the Bay Hill event. ... Justin Leonard's tie for fourth at the Tampa Bay Championship was his first top-10 since the Reno-Tahoe Open. ... With Kevin Streelman's victory at Innisbrook, Americans have won the first 12 events of the year, the longest streak on the PGA Tour since winning 13 straight in 1989. ... Streelman's opening-round 73 was the highest start by a winner since Bill Lunde at the 2010 Turning Stone Championship. ... Steve Stricker is the last player to defend a title on the PGA Tour, doing so at the 2011 John Deere Classic. ... Six of the first 12 European Tour events have been won by South Africans, including Sunday's victory by Thomas Aiken at the Avantha Masters. ... Luke Donald heads to Malaysia this week coming off a tie for third in defense of his Tampa title. ... Sergio Garcia's tie for seventh followed a tie for third at Doral. ... Tom Watson's final-round 66 helped him to a fifth-place finish at the Champions Tour's Toshiba Classic, his best since a tie for third at the 2011 Senior British Open.
"It's a total dream come true. Ten years ago I was in a car driving to mini tours and the Hooters Tour and Gateway Tour and U.S. Pro Tour and I've been very blessed, but I've worked hard to get here, too. The game is getting harder and younger and these kids are fearless out here. I've worked diligently and I think smarter as of late and fortunately it paid off." -- Kevin Streelman, after earning his first PGA Tour victory last week