A Tale of Two Cup Matches

By Adam BarrSeptember 20, 2002, 4:00 pm
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It was the age of sports heroes; it was the epoch of inequality. It was the top of golf; it was good competition given short shrift.
Apologies to Dickens, who was surely not thinking of golf when he cataloged the contradictions of late 18th century Europe in the opening of A Tale of Two Cities. But the great novelist would probably see such stark distinctions between professional golfs two greatest cup matches, played in the same year for the first time.
Its funny, in a way, that both the Ryder Cup and the Solheim Cup were the brainchildren of successful businessmen.
Samuel Ryder, an English seed merchant, also happened to be nuts about golf. He endowed a trophy for a set of international matches between pros from the United States and Great Britain at the suggestion of George Duncan, who was on the British team for an informal precursor of the Ryder Cup played before the 1926 Open Championship. The matches have been played in odd-numbered years ever since, except for 1939 through 1945, when World War II intervened, and last year, when the September 11 attacks caused the latest postponement.
The late Karsten Solheim revolutionized golf equipment with his perimeter-weighted putters and irons. He always had a special place in his heart for the womens game. He and his wife, Louise, dreamed of a worthy, international competition between the best women players from the United States and Europe. In 1990, they made it happen, and agreed to put up enough money to assure that there would be at least ten biennial matches. (It is likely that Ping, the company Solheim founded, will continue to have an interest in the Solheim Cup past that initial commitment.)
The Ryder Cup has become an immense pressure cooker, especially since the War by the Shore in 1991 at Kiawah Island, when it all came down to a missed putt by Bernhard Langer on the last hole. The focus has been on intense competition, on the new angles a team approach adds to an individual game, and on increased crowd involvement. But until recently, it never had to do with money, at least not where the grass grew.
That all changed before the 1999 event, when enterprising journalists brought to light the healthy profit the PGA of America makes from the event. Between television rights, merchandising, and other revenue streams, the PGA is said to make a net profit of at least $16 million from Ryder Cups played on U.S. soil, which bring in gross receipts of more than $60 million.
It was that, more than the greed of which they were unfairly accused, that made some U.S. Ryder Cup players insist that they be given some control over the proceeds their work helps to generate. For the 1999 event, a plan was set up that directed some of the money to charities of the players choosing.
Theres not much talk of money around the Solheim Cup, mainly because theres not much money to talk about. Solheim, who was more than well off by the time he and Mrs. Solheim endowed the competition, wasnt concerned about it.
Neither, it appears, was U.S. captain Patty Sheehan, who spoke at the opening ceremony about integrity, the rules of the game, etiquette, and fair play.
Womens golf has become so used to low pay that its not even discussed anymore.
To be fair, the Ryder Cup is not all about money. Under the veneer of modern sports commerce is the matured version of the spirited but friendly competition Samuel Ryder envisioned. But I wonder if it isnt time to find some way to elevate the Solheim Cup to Ryder Cup status.
Heres why: Consider the World Series. That seven-game compression of baseball drama is probably responsible for more childhood aspiration than a thousand regular season tilts. And even though the participants stand to gain a lot of dollars, no one ever talks about that.
Golfs professional cup competitions are the same way. After the PGA forestalled the 1999 money talk in time for the bad taste to wash out of peoples mouths, it was all about the golf. The Solheim Cup has always been like that. Both competitions attract avid golf fans (and in the case of the Ryder Cup, sports fans) because of the purity of competition among the best in the world.
Thats an echelon of player that rarely elevates flag above purse. After all, playing for money is their job. Seeing them play for glory is a rare treat in a world that sometimes seems to offer us only sitcoms and Styrofoam.
And why is that important?
When I watched the Solheim opening ceremony, and when I walked around Brookline at the 1999 Ryder Cup, I saw kids. Lots of kids.
And they had that World Series look in their eyes.
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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."