Golf Tidbits: Timely win for Mahan

 

The Sports Network

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Next week, United States Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson will announce what three players he will add to his squad for the biennial event, which will be at Gleneagles this year.

As with most captains, you would assume Watson is looking at who is playing best in the weeks leading up to selecting his picks.

Hunter Mahan, who may have already been among the group Watson was watching, had to have caught the captains' eye on Sunday. Mahan rallied with a 65 to win The Barclays.

The victory was significant for a pair of reasons. The first being that Mahan extended Jim Furyk's run of losing 54-hole leads to eight in a row. Furyk, who is winless since the 2010 season, has already locked up his spot on the Ryder Cup team, so he didn't have that added pressure entering the final round at Ridgewood.

The other reason is that, if Mahan is selected by Watson, that win would mark the first by a U.S. team member since April. Five of the nine players that qualified for the U.S. team have won this year, but none of those wins were in the last four months.

Those wins in order were - Zach Johnson (Tournament of Champions), Jimmy Walker (Pebble Beach Pro-Am), Patrick Reed (WGC-Cadillac Championship), Bubba Watson (Masters) and Matt Kuchar (Heritage). Walker had won two times earlier in the season, which started in October 2013.

The other four members are on year-long or years-long winless droughts.

Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickelson won in consecutive weeks last year at the John Deere and Open Championship respectively. Rickie Fowler's lone tour win was at the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship and Furyk hasn't won since the 2010 Tour Championship.

None of those nine are very hot right now. What will make Tom Watson's job even harder is that of the three previous American winners on the PGA Tour - Ben Crane (St. Jude Classic), Kevin Streelman (Travelers Championship) and Brian Harman (John Deere Classic) - none were in the top 20 on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, when the points locked in after the PGA Championship.

If Watson is looking for hot players, he'll have to search far and wide for three players to meet that criteria.

By winning last weekend, Mahan might have made Watson's job a little easier. After making two straight Ryder Cup teams, Mahan missed the 2012 event. At the 2010 Ryder Cup, Mahan trailed in the last match with the cup on the line.

Facing a 2-down deficit on the 17th hole that week, a win there would have pushed the last match to the final hole. A halve against Graeme McDowell and the matches are halved, and the U.S. retains the cup.

That was the daunting task facing Mahan, who left his tee shot short on the par-3. He duffed his chip shot, and after missing his par putt, Mahan conceded the match to McDowell. And the Ryder Cup was back in Europe's hands.

Mahan went winless in 2011, but still earned enough points to make the Presidents Cup that year. He got back into the winner's circle early in the 2012 campaign at the WGC-Accenture Match Play.

He was ninth on the points list that year, but Davis Love III overlooked him in favor of Furyk, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker.

Prior to his win last weekend, Mahan had five top-10 finishes, including a tie for seventh at the PGA Championship. After missing three cuts in a 5-event span, Mahan has finished inside the top 15 in his last three starts.

Mahan is making his case to be one of Watson's captains picks. If he didn't wrap up one of those three spots with his win last week, another strong showing this week would certainly do wonders for his chances of making the team.

No pressure though Hunter.

DID WOODS HEAR HIS CRITICS?

Several television talking heads have been critical of Tiger Woods' swing over the last few years. They wondered aloud what Woods and his swing coach, Sean Foley, were trying to accomplish.

Woods would look great during his warm-up sessions on the driving range, then suddenly lose that grooved swing when he walked to the first tee.

Whether it was the swing that Foley helped Woods create, or the bad back that Woods has been fighting for over a year now, the swing had lost its consistency.

Whatever the semantics were, it led to Woods breaking off his working relationship with Foley as player and swing coach on Monday.

Within hours, there were odds as to who Woods' next coach may be. Paul Azinger, for one, thinks Woods is not far off and does not need a complete overhaul to his swing.

Azinger pointed out that great players are able to eliminate one side of a golf course, but Woods, with his current swing, has a two-way miss.

That is a solid description of where Woods is right now with his swing.

In reality, Woods is nowhere with his swing right now as he takes time off to recover from back surgery earlier this year, and a bout of back spasms that followed his return.

Woods has stated he will not play until his World Challenge in early December. If Woods does hire another swing coach, you would assume that would happen within the next month or so.

Worst case scenario, Woods has the entire month of November to work on whatever his new guru wants him to work on. After his World Challenge, Woods' most likely next event would be at Torrey Pines, the first week of February.

Woods would have three full months to work on any changes or refinements his new coach wants him to make.

Who that person will be is a mystery at this point. He may not hire anyone for the time being and just work on his swing by himself.

We'll never know if Woods agreed with or heard what his detractors were saying. The one thing we do know is that we will only see Woods playing in an event once, or twice if we're lucky, in the next five months.

In the meantime, that should be plenty of time for his back to heal, and for Woods to put in plenty of time grooving any adjustments to his swing.

MINI-TIDBITS

- Tough to blame any of the four players that are skipping this week's Deutsche Bank Championship to do so. Graeme McDowell had his first child on Monday, while Paul Casey was awaiting his first any day and Justin Rose took time off to be with his family. Finally, Sergio Garcia, who played four of the last six weeks, and would have played eight events in 11 weeks had he played this week, is also skipping the TPC Boston. That doesn't sound tough to some, but that stretch would have included two majors, four FedExCup playoff events and the Ryder Cup. That is a tough mental grind for any player.

- Carlos Ortiz continued his stellar season on the Web.com Tour last weekend. He won for the third time to earn an automatic promotion to the PGA Tour, but that won't start until the 2014-15 season commences in October. He has posted six top-10 finishes in 16 starts and he tops the money list by nearly $200,000.

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