Earl's Recent Past Golf Blog's

January 1, 2020

2020 New Year's Wishes and Predictions

Wishing all of you a healthy and prosperous New Year that is filled with plenty of golf and many birdies!

2020 stacks up to be a very interesting and exciting year. Tiger Woods appears to be healthy and eager to regain his spot on top of the golfing mountain. Brooks Koepka is the present number one, but injury might prevent him from keeping that position. Rory McIlroy at times last year was outstanding. If motivated and focused, it could be his year. Here are my wishes and predictions for the world's best players for 2020 according to yearend World Ranking.

1. Brooks Koepka – (Wish) A clean bill of health and a stronger desire to compete hard in every tournament. (Prediction) Will not win a major this year, but will win multiple times on the PGA Tour.

2. Rory McIlroy – (Wish) Have a year of total commitment that results in a Masters victory. (Prediction) Will win one major, but unfortunately for Rory not the Masters.

3. Jon Rahm – (Wish) A first major victory. (Prediction) I think he is one year away from superstardom. Needs to harness his emotions. He will do that, just not this coming year.

4. Justin Thomas – (Wish) Make the step-up to consistent superstar. (Prediction) These next two years will define Justin's career. Can he show consistency of greatness that defines superstar status? He has shown the greatness, but does he have the skill set to make it last?

5. Dustin Johnson – (Wish) Bring back the DJ we knew before his fall on the stairs at the Masters two years ago. (Prediction) He hasn't been the same since. I have no inside information, but something else is going on. Too much talent and will continue to be a top 10 world player.

6. Tiger Woods – (Wish) Good health and be able to play a full schedule. (Prediction) Will play selected tournaments and will win two majors. If he is going to catch Jack Nicklaus, it has to start this year.

7. Patrick Cantlay – (Wish) Ability to use 2019 as a stepping stone to greater things in 2020 (Prediction) Has all the tools for greatness. Will see if he has the mindset to move up another level.

8. Justin Rose – (Wish) Regain his top three ranking. (Prediction) He will move up to the top three in the world. Don't see a major victory, but a Players Championship or Tour Championship and FedEx win is very possible.

9. Xander Schauffele – (Wish) Continued improvement (Prediction) Outstanding solid player that is only getting better. Might not have the overall strength game to consistently compete for majors, but he will win one or two before his career is over.

10. Tommy Fleetwood – (Wish) Live up to his potential. (Prediction) A good to great player that might not be as good as his hype. Needs to win in America to be taken more seriously, which I don't think he will do.

For the rest of the top tier golfers, I have these wishes. For Patrick Reed – a conscience; Bryson DeChambeau – a science formula on fast play; Rickie Fowler – more wins for the nicest guy on the PGA Tour; Tony Finau – learn to close a tournament; Jason Day – a strong back. With a good back he's a top five player; Jordan Spieth – a grand comeback for another of the nice guys on Tour; Phil Mickelson – a drink from the fountain of youth. One more glory year!

There will be many more headlines and stories this coming year. Golf is such a fickle game that can change in a blink of an eye. Great shots can turn out to be disastrous. Bad shots can get lucky bounces and be great. Usually in the end the best player wins, but not always. It's nice to predict and prognosticate, but these are just guesses. You have to do it on the golf course. That's why we play the game.

Have a wonderful New Year. All the best, Earl

December 17, 2019

The Internationals are getting closer

The President's Cup is a poor first cousin to the Ryder Cup. It lacks the historic background and competitiveness that now surrounds the Ryder Cup. After this week's comeback win by the US squad, the matches now stand at a lopsided 11 wins, 1 loss, and 1 tie. But last week's contest was everything you wanted in a serious rivalry. Ernie Els prepared his team for this challenge for 18 months. He modeled his approach on the team building success of the European team in the Ryder Cup. His players were passionate in following his plan. In the end, however, he was one player short and the superior talent finally prevailed.

Tiger Woods blended his duties as Captain and player beautifully. Most of his players are 15 to 20 years his junior. Now they were going to be lead into competition by the greatest player in their lifetime. Only Ben Hogan, when he captained the 1967 Ryder Cup squad, would command the same utmost respect as Tiger. I think each player felt privileged to be mentored and guided into battle with Tiger as the leader. Tiger for his part took his duties seriously and had a personal relationship with each player. You knew it meant a lot to him to see him jumping for joy and bear-hugging all his players after the US clinched the winning point.

Ernie Els almost pulled off a major upset. He had his team well prepared and they bought into being committed to the team concept and his strategy. It almost worked. However when Jason Day had to withdraw because of back problems, he lost a great player and team leader. He was replaced with Haotong Li of China, who just wasn't up to the challenge in the two matches that Ernie allowed him to play. If Day had played the outcome might have been different. A pivotal turning point happened during the second day in the Foursome matches. With the International team leading 4 to 1 after the first day, the Internationals were at one point leading in all five matches playing the back nine. Two matches were runaway wins, but the others were close. Had the Americans lost the other three matches, the lead would have been too great to overcome. Fortunately they rallied and all three teams won the critical 18th hole to garner 2 ½ points. If not for the heroics on the last hole that day, the International team would have won.

Patrick Reed was a cause of distraction. The Australian fans needled him constantly. Something he probably deserved. He partnered with Webb Simpson in the first three matches and was soundly beaten in each match, much to the delight of the hometown crowd. He didn't apologize for his actions of the week before and seemed to relish the hostility. Yet his play was very substandard, which bubbled over when his caddy had had enough of the heckling and pushed a drunken spectator. The caddy was suspended for the final match. Reed overcame that and won a crucial point in the individual match the last day. Reed was part of the US team, but he was more put up with than embraced. In future team events, he better qualify on merit, because he will never again be a captain's pick.

The Australian spectators fully embraced the competition and it had the feel of a Ryder Cup event. With the International team starting fast and building a lead, the intensity and excitement built every day. The US team came back and rallied to win, but it was a hard fought battle. This one could've gone either way. The final score was 16 to 14. Turn two matches around and you have a different outcome. Think of Jason Day up against Dustin Johnson in singles match, instead of Haotong Li who was totally overmatched and really didn't put up a fight. The Internationals are closing the talent gap. With dedicated leadership like Ernie Els and improving players, the US dominance could come to an end soon. But this comeback win was sweet and well earned!



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