US Dominance Just Wait

By Adam BarrNovember 16, 2004, 5:00 pm
2004 UBS CupTake this test to see if youre a real golfer (or golf fan): When you drive by a course and see an undulating swath of velvety fairway leading to a slightly elevated green capped by a wind-whipped flag, does your pulse quicken?
Of course it does. And as one of The Initiated, you understand that that fairway, which looks like a carpet rumpled in the night by a mischievous giant, can cause dozens of crazy bounces. And somewhere within the driving zone is a speed slot ' which, if you hit your ball there, will fling a ball an extra 20 yards to the good ' and inches to the left of that, a shortcut to a stroke-sucking bunker.
Such is golf, and what seems unfairness to some is really the excitement of randomness to others. The games immutable relationship with fate also works against domination and dynasties. So if you expect the United States to continue to dominate in the UBS Cup, just wait ' all good things (or bad, if youre a Rest of the World fan) must come to an end, or at least a turning point.
In the first three Cups, U.S. players in the over-40 crowd have stepped up big. Hale Irwins overall record is 5 points. Scott Hoch is 4-3-2 since the Cups began in 2001, and Raymond Floyd is 4-2-3. Both Tom Lehman and 2004 Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton are each undefeated at 3-0-0.
Nine U.S. players have won more matches than they have lost in the first three cups. Seven Rest-of-the-World players have done that, most notably Nick Faldo (6-2-1), 3004 captain Gary Player (4-2-0) and Des Smyth (4-1-1).
So what the U.S. has isnt quite a dynasty ' yet. Clearly, there have been some red, white and blue bounces on those undulating fairways. But as any golfer or golf fan knows, things could go the other way rapidly.
And thats what makes the game interesting every time you tee it up. Just as the Ryder Cup became a pressure cooker after years of U.S. ownership, just as Vijay Singh surpassed the incredible Tiger Woods in the World Golf Rankings this year, golfs only constant is change.
It stands to reason when you consider the personnel in the 2004 UBS Cup. On both sides, youve got a bunch of gamers, perfect gentlemen on the outside burning with competitive fires within.
As he showed us in the Ryder Cup, Colin Montgomerie can handle match play. Critics have dogged Monty for his lackluster records in big stroke play events in the U.S., but something about mano a mano makes the blood of his Scottish golf ancestors run hot through Montgomeries veins. Monty paired with 2004 European Ryder Cup captain Bernhard Langer to take down Raymond Floyd and Hale Irwin 5 and 3 in a foursomes match in the 2003 UBS Cup, a feat of giant-killing proportions in the golf world.
Watch out for Langer too, and for former Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance. Each has a solid body of work in match play, and neither is likely to be an easy opponent. (Trust me; Hale Irwins 7-and-5 drubbing of Langer in the singles matches in the 2003 Cup was an anomaly. In the 2001 Cup, the best Irwin could manage against Langer was a half.)
Thats the key to both teams ' seasoning. Experience rests on the shoulders of all the UBS players, and that adds a special luster to the matches. Consider some of their accomplishments: Five British Open championships for Tom Watson. Two Masters for Langer. A stunning opening season on the Champions Tour for Craig Stadler. Fifty-five wins worldwide for Mark McNulty. All the UBS players long ago graduated from being able to fit their playing resumes on one page.
And dont forget the effect of this years playing captains. Not a golfer alive can bear the thought of disappointing either U.S. captain Arnold Palmer or Rest-of-the-World captain Gary Player, two of the games reigning elder statesmen. Age has not dampened their competitive infernos, so expect the younger set to play hard to please their skippers.
So what really dominates at the UBS Cup is not one team or the other ' but rather the unalloyed spirit of match play, done right by the seasoned experts. Thats not a knock on youth, just a realization that the greatest of games rewards experience as richly as it does muscle flexibility.
It would take a few more wins for the United States to claim real dominance. The real fun this year will be in watching the Rest of the World try to make a non-issue of it.
Related Links:
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    Stenson one clear of loaded leaderboard at Bay Hill

    By Nick MentaMarch 17, 2018, 10:10 pm

    Four of the top 15 players in the world and two men with stellar amateur resumes will do battle Sunday to win Arnold Palmer Invitational. Here’s how things look through 54 holes at Bay Hill, where Tiger Woods sits five back at 7 under par.

    Leaderboard: Henrik Stenson (-12), Bryson DeChambeau (-11), Rory McIlroy (-10), Justin Rose (-9), Ryan Moore (-9), Charley Hoffman (-8), Rickie Fowler (-8), Talor Gooch (-8), Ben An (-8)

    What it means:  For the second straight day, Stenson (71) will go off in the final pairing with DeChambeau (72), after both players failed to separate themselves from the field in Round 3, shooting a combined 1 under. Stenson really should have a win at Bay Hill by now. He finished in the top-10 four years in a row from 2013-2016, with three top-5s. The closest he came to victory was in 2015, when he lost to Matt Every by one shot after being put on the clock and three-putting the 15th and 16th greens. If he’s finally going to close the deal Sunday, the world No. 15 will need to hold off challenges from three of the top 13 players in the OWGR – No. 5 Rose, No. 7 Fowler and No. 13 McIlroy – and two men who won both the NCAA individual championship and the U.S. Amateur – DeChambeau and Moore.

    Round of the day: John Huh and Austin Cook both made the 1-over cut on the number and shot 66 Saturday to move into a tie for 18th at 5 under.

    Best of the rest: McIlroy, Rose and Jason Day (-5) all signed for 67. McIlroy remains in search of his first worldwide win since he walked away from East Lake with the Tour Championship and the FedExCup in 2016.

    Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

    Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

    Biggest disappointment: Fowler was 11 under for the week but dropped three shots in his last two holes. He failed to get up and down from the front bunker at 17 and then had his ball almost fully bury in the lip of a greenside trap at 18. With only a small portion of the ball visible, Fowler took two to get out of the sand and two-putted his way to a double-bogey 6, dropping him to 2 under for the day and 8 under for the championship.

    Shot of the day: Woods’ 210-yard 5-iron from the fairway bunker at the par-5 16th:

    Quote of the day: "I'm going to have to shoot a low one tomorrow, and probably get a little bit of help. But my responsibility is to go out there and shoot a low one first." – Woods

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    Rose thrives in Tiger's group, shoots 67 at Bay Hill

    By Ryan LavnerMarch 17, 2018, 10:05 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose has played plenty with Tiger Woods over the years.

    Saturday’s round was just … louder.

    The Englishman had a feeling that the third round might be a little different when he was waiting to be introduced on the first hole at Bay Hill.

    “Hurry up, Justin!” a fan hollered. “We want to see Tiger!”

    That spectator was roundly booed, and Rose proceeded to stripe his fairway wood down the center. In fact, even with the decidedly pro-Tiger crowds, Rose barely missed a shot in shooting a 67 that put him just three shots back of Henrik Stenson.

    “It focused your mind,” he said afterward. “I was definitely more nervous today – it took me a hole or two to settle into my round 100 percent, just because there’s more energy out there on the course.

    “But for me, Ryder Cups and major championships, those are the types of atmospheres you’ve got to play well in and I enjoy it, so it focuses your mind.”

    Rose beat Woods by two shots Saturday, 67-69, in their first Tour round together in five years.

    “People are more into this comeback this time around, I think,” Rose said. “It’s fun to play out there, for sure.”  

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    Lesson with Faxon gets McIlroy's putting on track

    By Ryan LavnerMarch 17, 2018, 9:53 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Two tweaks have Rory McIlroy in position to earn his first PGA Tour title in 18 months.

    The first was to McIlroy’s long game.

    One of the game’s preeminent ball-strikers and most prodigious drivers, he has struggled over the past few weeks, including a missed cut at last week’s Valspar Championship.

    The fix was “a feeling” with his backswing. He said that he’s trying to feel as though he’s making a three-quarter backswing, because when he’s too long he misses both ways.

    “I’m just bunting it around,” he said with a smile, but actually he’s ranked first in driving distance this week.

    The second fix was to his maligned putting stroke.

    Ranked 124th on Tour in putting, McIlroy met with former PGA Tour player and putting savant Brad Faxon for a few hours Monday at the Bear’s Club in South Florida.

    Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

    Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

    “I didn’t really hit many putts,” McIlroy said. “It was more of a psychology lesson than anything else.”

    The goal was to making McIlroy’s putting more instinctive and reactive, instead of being bogged down with mechanics.

    It has worked so far. Through three rounds, he is ranked second in strokes gained-putting, gaining more than seven-and-a-half shots on the field on the greens.

    McIlroy’s third-round 67 put him in the penultimate group, just two shots back of Henrik Stenson.

    “I can’t really ask for much more,” McIlroy said.

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    Highlights: Woods shoots Saturday 69 at API

    By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 17, 2018, 8:40 pm

    Tiger Woods made six birdies Saturday, including one at the home hole, to shoot 3-under 69 and move to 7 under par for the week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

    When he walked off the golf course, he was four off the 11-under pace set by Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson and Bryson DeChambeau, all of whom were still on the course.

    "I'm going to have to shoot a low one tomorrow, and probably get a little bit of help," Woods told Golf Channel's Steve Sands in a post-round interview. "But my responsibility is to go out there and shoot a low one first."

    Woods didn't bogey the first hole on Saturday like he did the day prior - but he did drop at a shot at the par-3 second when he failed to get up and down from the bunker.

    Luckily, it wouldn't take him long to get that stroke back. One hole later, at the dogleg-left, par-4 third, Woods ripped a 2-iron off the tee, hit a less-than-stellar approach long and right, and poured in this 38-footer for birdie to get back to even par on the day.

    He followed with another at the par-5 fourth, smoking a drive 313 yards uphill, short-siding himself with his second shot, and playing this deft pitch to set up a tap-in 4.

    After a par save from the bunker at 5, Woods missed the fairway right at the par-5 sixth, laid up with his second, spun a wedge to 15 feet with his third, and rolled in this third birdie of the day to move to 6 under for the week.

    Woods' momentum was slowed by a bogey at 8, the product of an errant tee shot, and a missed birdie try at 9 left Tiger to make the turn in 1 under-35, minus-5 for the week.

    He quickly returned to 6 under for the championship when he hit an approach from 186 to inside 10 feet at the par-4 11th and walked in the putt:

    Following four straight pars, Woods, for the second day in a row, made an unlikely birdie at the par-5 16th after missing the fairway to the right and declining to layup.

    Woods would drop one more shot coming in when his ball fried in the front bunker at 17, leading to a bogey, but this closing birdie at 18, his sixth of the day, got him into the clubhouse 3 under for the round and 7 under for the week. It also elicited a rare straight-down fist pump.