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Throwback Thursday: Tom Watson wasn't the first captain to be thrown under the bus by his players

The history of players publicly trashing their own Ryder Cup captain -- which Phil Mickelson and "anonymous team sources" did with such aplomb last month in Scotland to U.S. captain Tom Watson -- is a relatively short one.

In the years when the Americans had their way in the competition, it was difficult for U.S. players to pick any nits. And as for their foes from across the Atlantic, well having become accustomed to losing, generally they gave their captains free passes.

Even as the Europeans gained the upper hand in the late 1980s, the public griping by players has been barely a whisper. Criticism of U.S. captains as too rough and old school (Raymond Floyd before Watson), unclear (Tom Kite), too nice (Tom Lehman), undecisive (Davis Love III), too bulldog (Corey Pavin), outwitted (Curtis Strange), a poor strategist (Hal Sutton) and just plain unfortunate (Lanny Wadkins) instead were largely leveled by the media. It was really only after this year's loss that American bitchiness was let loose in a furor.

To find the most treacherous example of insubordination toward a captain prior to Watson, you have to look not at any American squad and not even at a team that played in the Ryder Cup.

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The inaugural Presidents Cup was in 1994, with David Graham (shown, left) heading the International team in its 20-12 loss, which was a bit closer than the score suggests. The Australian helped get the event started, so after the loss he was asked to give it another go in 1996. But Graham -- a two-time major winner whose playing career was rewarded when he was elected this week into the World Golf Hall of Fame -- had a reputation for being tough, precise and hard-edged, and players started developing feelings against him based on slights they felt he committed against them. Some of the presumed injured parties were fellow Aussies Greg Norman and Steve Elkington, and Ernie Els.

The tension between captain and players became so great that, in what amounted to a mutiny, Graham was forced to resign -- against his desire -- just eight weeks before the 1996 event. The sordid business had many moving parts in the background, but a meeting that summer of potential International team members ended in a unanimous vote that Graham be replaced.

As was complained about Watson in 2014, players were said to want better communication and more input in the entire process. When Tim Finchem, commissioner of the PGA Tour and an organizer of the Cup, told Graham he was "over a barrel" about what was amounting to a potential boycott of the event by International players, Graham resigned, despite having done lots of work in preparation for the second event. Aussie legend Peter Thomson was asked to be captain, which he did for the next three matches, and Graham was on the sideline, disgraced and embarrassed, telling Golf Digest, "I treasured this from the moment I was appointed. There was an enormous amount of work involved. Now, I wish I'd never heard of the damn thing."

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Throwback Thursday

Euros have been perfecting their party habits for 30 years

The champagne-spraying, back-slapping and ole-serenading Europeans who were doing their fun thing Sunday after another Ryder Cup victory over the United States only seem like they’ve been having fun like this for the entire çup history. That’s how comfortable they look in their glory while the Americans bumble in their post-match commentary. 

The party-hearty Euros actually got their celebration style started in 1985 when they won at The Belfry to break U.S. dominance and start their own overwhelming record. Back then, Europe won by the same score it did Sunday, 16 1/2—11 1/2, and they beat a U.S. captain, Lee Trevino, who like Tom Watson was a beloved Open champion. 

In the nearly 30 years and 10 cup wins from the 1985 triumph, the Europeans have perfected the celebration style that consists of assembling on rooftops or balconies, champagne bottles in hand, and whipping up plenty of fan involvement. These photos show it was a modest genesis to the 2014 celebration. 

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Ian Woosnam appears to be trying to poor some bubbly into the hands of fans celebrating the 1985 Euro victory in the Ryder Cup. 

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Ian Woosnam directs the crowd in its serenade of the Euro winners; Seve Ballesteros, Sam Torrance and Paul Way hoist captain Tony Jacklin.

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The drinking and spraying of champagne from lofty settings after European victories in the Ryder Cup was in its infancy in 1985. 

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Tony Jacklin raised the Ryder Cup in victory after the European victory in 1985. 
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Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday: Cool retro images from the last time the Ryder Cup was in Scotland

Forty-one years ago, the United States Ryder Cup team met Great Britain & Ireland at Muirfield, in Scotland. Surprisingly, the matches haven't been back to the home of golf until this week ... way too long a gap.

We took a look at some images from that Ryder Cup, won by the U.S. over the then Great Britain & Ireland squad, 19-13. 

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This year's decidedly underdog American team could use imposing figures such as Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. In 1973, Arnie and Jack played two matches together, finishing with a 1-1 record. 

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There might not be a more dreadful example of a Ryder Cup clothing mistake than what the 1973 Great Britain & Ireland team wore. At least the players fit the times, looking a lot like most guys did in the 1970s, especially those going to a senior prom: white suits with wide lapels. And if you think the guy in the front row, fourth from the left, looks like Miguel Angel Jimenez (aka The Most Interesting Golfer in the World), you would be partially right. He does look like the Spaniard, but this was Bernard Hunt, an Englishman and a non-playing captain.
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Throwback Thursday

Throwback: When Tiger and Phil played in the Tour Championship -- and shared the stage

On Wednesday, Rory McIlroy's answer to a question about Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson not being at this week's Tour Championship was completely overblown. "They're just getting older," seemed to be his central point, something that literally can't be argued.

Related: Tiger's on-course 'bromances' through the years

But the absence of golf's two biggest stars -- McIlroy is No. 1 in the World Ranking, but at best, No. 3 for now in terms of being a draw -- from the festivities in Atlanta is odd. Especially since just last year Woods won the PGA Tour's Player of the Year, Mickelson won a fifth major, and the duo was ranked 1-2 for much of the season.

And of course, five years ago, they authored perhaps the most memorable FedEx Cup Playoff finale ever. Woods entered that week No. 1 in the standings and looked like he might end any drama when he played in the final group on Sunday, but his final-round 70 left the door open.

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Enter Lefty.

Phil fired a 65 to pass Tiger for the tournament, but with Woods holding on for a second-place finish, he held off Mickelson to win his second FedEx Cup and the $10 million bonus.

"I like the way today went," Mickelson said. "I was two back of him, I beat him by three. He gets the $10 million check, and I get $1 million. I've got no problem with that. I just love holding this finally."

Perhaps, Mickelson didn't fully understand how the FedEx Cup bonuses worked yet. He also took home a $3 million check for finishing second in points, although he remains the last player to win the Tour Championship and not claim the FedEx Cup also.

Woods, on the other hand, didn't seem totally comfortable celebrating a runner-up finish even though it came with a victory in sport's largest side pot.

Related: 7 things you need to know for the Tour Championship

"I'm sure I would probably be more happy tomorrow than I am right now, because you're in the moment trying to win this event," Woods said. "Winning takes care of everything. But when you're in the moment out there, I'm trying to win a golf tournament. I'm trying to beat Phil, he's trying to beat me . . . we're all there, and it was just a great leader board."

It certainly was. As McIlroy said, Tiger and Phil are getting older, but hopefully, we're still in for a few more finishes like that.

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Throwback Thursday

Recalling that time Gary McCord was banned from the Masters (Oh, and Tiger Woods won his first of three straight U.S. Amateurs)

Twenty years ago, two noteworthy golf-related events overlapped. CBS announcer Gary McCord was banned from covering the Masters and Tiger Woods won his first of three straight U.S. Amateurs. The two shared the spotlight (sort of) on the September 2, 1994 cover of Golf World:

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Both were important for different reasons. We'll start with Woods, who made a lot of history that week at TPC Sawgrass. The 18-year-old Californian became the youngest winner of the U.S. Amateur as well as the first golfer to win the tournament in addition to winning the U.S. Junior.

Related: Augusta National's unwritten rules

Woods also made the biggest comeback in the history of the event, rallying from six down in the final match to Trip Kuehne. In the cover photo, Woods reacts to making a 14-foot birdie putt on TPC Sawgrass' famed 17th hole -- the 35th hole of the match -- to take his first lead of the day. 

The thrilling victory gave Woods his first of three straight U.S. Amateurs (he won three straight U.S. Juniors from 1991-1993), an accomplishment that might trump anything he's done as a pro. But Woods nearly didn't have a chance to make that putt when his tee shot on the island green landed about a foot from the water, but spun back to stay dry. 

"That was divine intervention," said Ernie Kuene, Trip's dad and caddie, in Brett Avery's story for the magazine. "And (Tiger's) had it for three years."

Related: Tiger and Sean consciously uncouple and Win McMurry's ice bucket fail

Whatever you want to call it, it's fair to say Woods had a better week than McCord. In that same issue, Golf World reported CBS confirmed the broadcaster would not be allowed to participate in the following year's Masters telecast. No one at Augusta National commented in the story, but Susan Kerr, then CBS director of programming, said the network's decision was made because Masters officials "were not comfortable with his style." 

The reported quotes that got McCord in trouble? Saying "there are some body bags down there if that keeps going," when a ball was rolling toward a water hazard, and joking that "bikini wax" is used to make Augusta National's greens so slick. The incident seems minor, but it was another example of the immense power the club wields. Two decades later, CBS still televises the Masters, but McCord, still an otherwise vital part of the network's golf broadcasts, remains banned from being part of the coverage.

Related: 15 signs you watch too much golf on TV

"There's no going back in time. That's who I am. That's what I did," McCord said in an interview with USA Today last year.

There's no going back in time for Tiger, either -- but it's fun to look back. Draining a clutch putt to win a huge tournament? That's who he was. That's what he did. Twenty years later, it's just as impressive.

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News & Tours

Throwback Thursday: That time Ben Hogan helped start what is now the Web.com Tour

By Alex Myers

This week marks the 25th time the Web.com Tour has stopped in Wichita -- one of four sites that will celebrate its silver anniversary on the PGA Tour's developmental tour this season. Of course, it wasn't known as the Web.com Tour in 1990.

Before the website design company acquired naming rights in June 2012, there was the Nationwide Tour, which followed the Buy.com Tour, which came after the Nike Tour. But it all started with Ben Hogan.

Related: Ben Hogan's timeless tips

The golf legend and his equipment company partnered with the PGA Tour to create a satellite tour in 1990. Here's a photo of Hogan and then PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman at a Jan. 4, 1990, press conference in Fort Worth, Tex., announcing the new tour's creation and a 30-event schedule for that year.

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And here's a video put together by the Web.com Tour of early footage, including that press conference, wins in 1990 by Tom Lehman and Jeff Maggert, and Beman hitting the ceremonial tee shot at the tour's first event in Bakersfield, Calif.

"I want to play a big part in it. And I'll be going to some of these tournaments myself, not playing of course, but just to be there," a 77-year-old Hogan said.

In addition to being a business venture for Hogan, the new tour also meant a lot to a man who struggled for years as a professional golfer before making it big. The schedule was devised in a way that pros could drive from tournament to tournament, a throwback to the way Hogan and his contemporaries traveled.

This May 7, 1990 article in Sports Illustrated by Steve Rushin dives into the nomadic lifestyle of players on the Ben Hogan Tour during its first season. "The idea is to move up or move out," a 25-year-old John Kernohan told Rushin.

Related: The best Web.com Tour grads of all time

Nearly 25 years later, the goal of a Web.com Tour player is the same: Earn a PGA Tour card. And the tour's role in doing that has increased with the top 25 money earners getting full status on golf's biggest stage for the following season -- up from only five during the Ben Hogan Tour days.

Rewarding more people for toiling an entire year in relative obscurity? Something tells us the man who helped start it all and spent countless hours "digging his swing out of the dirt" would approve.

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News & Tours

That time I made a complete ass of myself to Loren Roberts at Colonial

By Sam Weinman

Do you remember that Kenny Perry won the 2003 Colonial? I didn't until I looked it up this morning. I was at that tournament, and in hindsight, I vaguely recall Perry winning in what was a resurgent season for the veteran. But 11 years later, I think we all more likely recall that year's Colonial for Annika Sorenstam's historic two rounds playing on the PGA Tour

The concept of a player other than the event winner hijacking a tournament storyline isn't uncommon in golf. We remember that tournament where Michelle Wie made her professional debut and got DQed because of a bad drop, but we don't remember that (fittingly) Sorenstam was the winner. We remember the time Jean Van de Velde coughed up the Open Championship, but you might need a moment to recall that Paul Lawrie was the benefactor.

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But back to that year's Colonial. There was no bigger story in golf in 2003 than Sorenstam, the unequivocal star of the LPGA, testing herself against the men. And as reporters on the scene, our job that week was to try to put it all in its proper perspective.

So there I was, and there was then 47-year-old Loren Roberts. Nice guy, thoughtful quote. Great putter. Roberts was one of more than a dozen players I interviewed that week about Sorenstam, how she might fare and the historical implications of her appearance.

We were standing by the practice green and at some point I introduced the premise (a prescient one, it turns out) that years from now, all we'd remember about this tournament is Sorenstam playing in it. Then to underscore my point, I continued.

"It's really like when Tiger made his pro debut at the Greater Milwaukee Open in '96," I said.

Roberts nodded.

"I mean, everyone remembers Tiger that week. But does anyone even remember who won?" I said. "Do YOU?"

"Yes," Roberts said. Then he smiled. "I did."

"Oh," I said, blood rushing to my face. "Right."

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Celebrity

Throwback Thursday: When you shoot 66 on the 17th at Sawgrass, you don't mind seeing the pros find the water

By Ryan Herrington

loop-angelo-spagnolo-headshot.jpgIn 1985, Pittsburgh-area grocer Angelo Spagnolo earned the distinction from Golf Digest of being named America's Worst Avid Golfer after shooting a 257 on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, including carding a 66 on island-green 17th, in a competition with three other similarly high-handicappers. Spagnolo, 60, and now retired, turned the experience into a cottage industry of sorts, and wrote an autobiography about his golf career. He discussed the infamous round and its aftermath in a Q&A for Golf Digestix.


In your prime you had the equivalent of a 52-handicap and played 30 rounds a year. How much golf are you playing now?
When I hit 50, I started to have a lot of injuries, rotator cuff surgeries, carpel tunnel, a cervical fusion. Unfortunately, I think swinging a golf club 18,000 times or so caused them. If I get in a dozen rounds this year, I'll be fortunate.


Will you watch the Players this week or are the memories too painful?
I love to watch it. Although when I get to No. 17, I guess I don't feel bad when I see an occasional ball go in the water there. That hole really had it out for me to say the least.


loop-angelo-spagnolo-17hole-300.jpgOn the 17th, you hit several shots in the water and eventually putted your way on to the green, even hitting on in the water that way. Did you ever think you might not finish the hole?
You know, I think I was in like a coma. I lost all contact with reality. I was looking across the water and it seemed like the English Channel to me. (The photo is Spagnolo trying to hit the green after taking one of his several drops). At one point my caddie mentioned putting, and I said, 'What are you crazy? I want to get on the way you're supposed to get on.' I finally gave in, but it was the most humiliating thing I've ever done.


Given your struggles playing the game, why did you stick with it?
My job was stressful. So when I went I went out to play golf, I just relished the time I was out on the golf course. And even though I was playing bad, because a lot of times I didn't have the time to work on my game or practice, just being out there with my friends in a golf league was exactly what I needed. There was nothing greater than that for me. And no matter how bad I was playing nobody was going to tell me not to golf any more because I loved it too much.


Ever have any instructors volunteer to help you out to get better?
After I became the Worst Avid Golfer, Golf Digest sent all four finalists to its golf school. I had a chance to work for a week with Peter Kostis, Dick Altman, Jack Lumpkin, all these luminaries in golf instruction. I'll never forget the first day I was there, Davis Love II asked me to hit a couple balls. I take a couple typical swings and he says to me, really nice and gentlemanly, he says "How committed to that grip are you?" And I was like, "Whatever you want to change. What I've been doing obviously isn't helping." Obviously I had developed such bad habits over the year it took a long time.


Did you mind the Worst Avid Golfer label?
After the whole thing happened, and I got worldwide attention, I had a chance to play in a lot of events and meet a lot of people I just wouldn't have met before. Being philosophical about it, it was like the game of golf rewarded me for sticking with it even though you could have argued you didn't belong on a golf course you were terrible. And through various charity events, I've been a part of raising about $1 million. That's pretty rewarding. I had a lady come up to me one day in my store, and her husband said, "You know I can't believe you're that bad. Nobody could be playing golf that bad." And his wife elbows him in the stomach and she says, "Don't you get it, he was given a bunch of lemons and made lemonade into it." I never forgot that. It was a good saying because that's really what we did.

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News & Tours

Throwback Thursday: That time Arnold Palmer won on Jack Nicklaus' cozy new course

By Sam Weinman

Imagine if a new Tiger Woods-designed golf course opened in time to host a PGA Tour event, which was then won by Phil Mickelson.

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That was roughly the dynamic in 1969, when Harbour Town Golf Links hosted its first Heritage Classic. While it was primarily a Pete Dye project, the South Carolina course on Hilton Head Island was hailed for the involvement of Jack Nicklaus. The Golden Bear was touted as Dye's "design consultant" when the first Heritage was played over Thanksgiving weekend in 1969.

Best of all, the winner of that first Heritage was a 40-year-old Arnold Palmer, who hadn't won a PGA Tour event in more than a year, but who was energized by the challenge of playing his rival's new course.


Since late August (Palmer) has been doing 50 sit-ups every morning and 50 sit-ups every evening for the old hip hurt, and he was in a very pleasant frame of mind about his golf -- almost as if he had reconciled himself to the fact it would all come back sooner or later if he only stopped pressing so hard and worrying about it.

Finally, however, he was fired up about playing on Jack's course, and on a course that he wasn't supposed to be able to play well.

That was the other thing about Harbour Town. As much as we think of it today as this charming, throwback venue, it actually had the same reputation when it opened. Even by 1969 standards, Harbour Town at 6,700 yards was confining for PGA Tour players, cozy enough to negate the power advantage held by the likes of Palmer and Nicklaus.

Although Nicklaus downplayed his involvement in the course's design -- he said he contributed "1 percent" -- he was adamant about it suiting a wider base of players. 

"If there is one thing I didn't want this course to be," Nicklaus told Charles Price in the November 25, 1969 issue of Golf World, "it was a course that appeared to have been designed for my game. For every long par-4 hole, there is a short one to offset it."

Maybe Nicklaus was being magnanimous, or perhaps he had a more selfish goal in mind. As Jenkins wrote, "Nicklaus was accused of having designed a course that is thoroughly un-suited to his own game, Jack being a big hitter who likes some room. 'You've built a course for you to practice the talent shots on,' someone told him."

The practice eventually paid off. Six years later, Nicklaus claimed his sole win at "his" cozy, little course.


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News & Tours

When a "walk-off" performance meant something else for Tiger Woods

By Alex Myers

A bad back has dominated any Tiger Woods talk of late, but a "walk-off" performance used to refer to something much different than a WD for TW. Woods' clutch play throughout his career has produced numerous "walk-off" winning putts on the final hole, and nowhere has he pulled that off more than at Bay Hill.

Related: Does Tiger WD at an unusually high rate?

Woods pulled out of this year's Arnold Palmer Invitational, but those memories remain. Let's take a look, um, back.

In 2001, Woods arrived at Bay Hill in a bit of a "slump" despite having won the final three majors the previous season. He was (gasp!) winless in his first five events before arriving at Bay Hill (remember the days he used to play five events before Bay Hill?), but got on a roll that included him capping the Tiger Slam at the Masters a month later.

At Bay Hill, Woods found himself in a tie with Phil Mickelson -- they were the top two players in the world rankings at the time -- on the final hole of regulation and after a wild drive left, he hit an incredible approach shot to about 10 feet. He converted the birdie putt (:43 mark of the video) for a dramatic win, gave a huge fist pump, and celebrated with then caddie Steve Williams. Note: This will be a recurring scenario.

Fans had to wait all of seven years to see a similar finish. Woods won this event two other times in between, but he did so by a combined 15 shots. In 2008, the difference was Woods was in search of a fifth straight win. Oh, and this time it was a 25-footer and he was battling journeyman Bart Bryant instead of the No. 2 golfer in the world. Woods doesn't discriminate when it comes to his on-course victims.

"Only perfect. That's all that putt was," NBC analyst Johnny Miller said. Of course, Woods would win that year's U.S. Open and then miss the rest of the season after having surgery on his left knee. We don't think the injury stemmed from his violent cap throw celebration.

Related: Our favorite go-to sayings for Tiger Woods

When Woods returned to Arnie's event the following year, he was still looking for proof that he could return to the player he was before the surgery. With Woods tied with Sean O'Hair on the final hole, Miller and Dan Hicks set the stage as if they knew what was going to happen next.

"He's got that beautiful cut shot, that he can aim it at the stands there and work it to the hole. And we know he can make that putt," Miller said. Good call:

"Again! At Bay Hill! On the 72nd hole!" Hicks exlaimed. "That's the way to get back into the winner's circle, isn't it?"

Related: A collection of our favorite Johnny Millerisms

"The guy is absolutely out of this world," Miller added.

This year, Woods is just out of another tournament. He won't be around to author another "walk-off" putt this weekend, but you can bet that won't stop NBC from taking a stroll down memory lane.

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