Tuesday's roundup: Woods, Mickelson on Ryder task force

Associated Press

After two decades of European dominance in the Ryder Cup, the Americans have created a task force to figure out why they keep losing.

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were among 11 players, captains and PGA of America officials appointed to the "Ryder Cup Task Force" that will look at everything from qualifications to captain's picks and practice schedules during the matches.

Europe has won eight of the last 10 Ryder Cups, including a comfortable victory last month at Gleneagles that was remembered as much for Mickelson indirectly criticizing U.S. captain Tom Watson's leadership style in the closing news conference.

"This is a great step by the PGA to accomplish what we all want — to win the Ryder Cup," Woods said in a statement.

Woods has played on one winning team in seven Ryder Cup appearances. Mickelson (10 appearances) and Jim Furyk (nine) have played on two winning teams. The other players are Steve Stricker, an assistant captain at Gleneagles, and Rickie Fowler, who has yet to win a match in his two Ryder Cups.

The former captains are Davis Love III (2012), Tom Lehman (2006) and Raymond Floyd (1989). None won the Cup.

The previous two Ryder Cups were decided by one point, including Medinah in 2012 when Europe rallied from a 10-6 deficit behind impeccable putting. Justin Rose sank a 45-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole in singles and Ian Poulter made five straight birdies in a momentum-turning fourballs match.

PGA president Ted Bishop, saying he was tired of losing, picked Watson to be captain for Gleneagles. Watson had not been to a Ryder Cup since he was captain of the last U.S. team that won in Europe in 1993, and at 65 was the oldest captain in Ryder Cup history.

The move backfired.

Watson appeared to be out of touch. The Ryder Cup ended with an awkward news conference in which Mickelson — beside Watson — praised the success of Paul Azinger in 2008 in the most recent U.S. victory and suggested Watson didn't embrace that winning formula.

In the aftermath of the loss, various reports painted a picture of a heavy-handed leadership style that brought more attention to the loss.

The task force does not include Azinger, who said Monday it was too soon after the Ryder Cup. Azinger said he has a private meeting scheduled with the PGA of America next month.

The co-chairs are PGA chief executive Pete Bevacqua and Derek Sprague, next in line to be PGA president. Paul Levy, the PGA secretary, was the third official appointed to the task force.

Sprague said the task force has people who represent all but two Ryder Cup teams from 1975.

"Back in those days, we were winning," he said. "The last 20 years have been a challenge."

Sprague said the task force would cover the way the captain is selected, how players qualify, how many captain's picks, when they should be picked, even details like when the team arrives and the schedule leading to it.

Watson asked the PGA Tour for a week off before Gleneagles. That led to four consecutive FedEx Cup playoff events.

"We heard feedback that wasn't such a good idea," Sprague said.

Overlooked in the reaction to the latest American loss was the strength of the European team, which had four of the top five players in the world when the teams were set. Europe had three of the four major champions in Rory McIlroy (British Open, PGA Championship) and Martin Kaymer (U.S. Open).

"I see the negative connotations to it taking away from our victory, but I see the positive side that they'll have to really have an in-depth look to what they are doing wrong, and try to bring together a recipe that connects," Graeme McDowell said from the Volvo World Match Play Championship in England.

Grand Slam of Golf

Kaymer seized control with a tap-in birdie followed by an eagle en route to a 6-under 65 and a two-shot lead over Bubba Watson in the PGA Grand Slam of Golf exhibition at Southampton, Bermuda.

McIlroy had a 69. Furyk, the alternate in the 36-hole event for the year's major champions, was seven shots behind after a 73.

Kaymer was about as flawless as when he won at Pinehurst No. 2. His lone mistake was a three-putt bogey on the par-3 13th, though that hardly got in the way of his five birdies and eagle.

The final round is today.

World Match Play

With his fist-pumping, spiky exchanges with spectators and brilliant play on the course, Patrick Reed was the standout American in every sense in the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

Two weeks later, Reed is back on British soil and ready to let his emotions fly again in the 16-man World Match Play Championship, which begins today at The London Golf Club in Ash, England.

"Am I going to get as rowdy as I did at the Cup? Probably not," Reed said. "But playing great golf always gets me excited."