American rookies do just fine in Ryder Cup

By Associated PressSeptember 19, 2008, 4:00 pm
Ryder CupLOUISVILLE, Ky. ' The Americans did just fine with all those Ryder Cup rookies.
Hunter Mahan finally felt as though he belonged. Anthony Kim brought out the best in Phil Mickelson. And Boo Weekley sure got under the Europeans skin, giving Valhalla Golf Club the feel of a college football stadium while skirting the line on good decorum.
U.S. captain Paul Azinger played all six of his rookies Friday, and they justified his faith by going 3-2-3'surely better than anyone expected in the pressure cooker of golfs grandest team event. In all, the newcomers had a hand in four of the 5 1/2 points won by the Americans, who took a commanding three-point edge into Saturday.
The ones who didnt earn a point were Steve Stricker and Ben Curtis, beaten by Ian Poulter and Justin Rose in the only outright U.S. loss of the day.
I put a lot of rookies out there, Azinger said, and they did well. Im proud of them.
Weekley teamed with another yet another rookie, J.B. Holmes, to halve the final match of the afternoon, a back-and-forth, best-ball showdown with Lee Westwood and Soren Hansen.
All around the course, Weekley revved up the crowd by flapping his arms. They responded with chants of Boooo! that were really cheers.
But Westwood thought Weekley went too far with his raucous celebration at No. 12 after he holed a 50-foot birdie putt from off the green, putting the American duo ahead for the first time since the opening hole. Westwood, who still had a putt to halve the hole, glared at Weekley.
You walk a fine line when you start doing that sort of thing, Westwood said. I dont mind raising your arms and whipping the crowd up. But at 12, when Boos holed off the back, Ive still got a putt for a half. Theres no need to do it between shots. At least wait until were walking off the green. It was interrupting the flow of play.
Weekley shrugged off the criticism.
We miss over there (in Europe), they clap and holler and hoot, the homespun Floridian said. Whats the difference?
Weekley and Holmes went to the 18th with a 1-up lead, but both knocked their tee shots in the water. The Europeans were able to escape with a half-point, and Westwood seemed to relish sticking to it the U.S. team.
Its not my job to tell people how to behave, the Englishman said. It certainly gave me a more burning desire to win some holes.
With a pinch of snuff tucked into his jaw, Weekley said he was just enjoying the moment.
It blew my expectations out of the water, he said. All the people hollering and hooting and cheering, just pulling for you. Its unreal. Its kind of like going to a college football game and being there with a helmet on your head. Thats what I reckon it feels like.
While no one stirred things up like Weekley, Mahan was the most productive rookie. The 26-year-old got off to a shaky start'he and Leonard dropped the first two holes of their morning match'but they bounced back for a 3-and-2 win over Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey.
In the afternoon, the American duo led all the way in a 4-and-3 rout of Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez'the first foursomes loss on Garcias stellar Ryder Cup resume.
I was just trying to go out and play golf, make it as simple as I can, Mahan said. Nothing more, nothing less.
That was a far cry from his attitude a year ago, when he was selected to the Presidents Cup team as a captains pick.
I questioned whether I belonged there, Mahan said. I felt like I deserved to be on the team, but personally I didnt think I was there. I felt more together this year, this week. I feel like Im good enough to be here.
No doubt. While Leonard did most of the heavy lifting'especially in the afternoon best-ball match'Mahan chipped in to help the Americans win five of the 15 holes, four of them with birdies.
Im a good enough player to play with these guys, Mahan said.
The fiery Kim seemed to stir Mickelson to new heights. They read putts together, discussed strategy and exchanged so many high-fives'Kim is only 23, after all'that both sets of hands must have been stinging by the end of the day.
Making it all the sweeter: Mickelson and Kim fell behind by three holes in each of their matches, but rallied for a half point in the morning against Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson, then came back to beat Harrington and Graeme McDowell 2-up in the afternoon.
We played with a lot of heart and emotion, Mickelson said. I love playing with this guy tight here. Anthony has got this youthfulness to him, he has a lot of game and we had a lot of fun.
Kim sure enjoyed himself in his first Ryder Cup appearance.
Its definitely lived up to the hype, he said.
Speaking of hype, whats next in the simmering Weekley-Westwood feud. Neither was scheduled to play in the Saturday morning matches, which was especially shocking in Westwoods case. This will be the first time hes sat out a session in his Ryder Cup career, as captain Nick Faldo apparently decided it was more important to rest him.
But hell surely return in the afternoon, and maybe Weekley will be on the opposing team.
Bring it on, Boo said.
I really dont care if I did (upset Westwood), I really dont, Weekley said. I aint there to make him mad or aggravate him or anything like that, but I want everybody here to enjoy what we got going on. I want them to pull for us and holler and hoot. As long as theyre quiet before he hits the shot, it wont matter.
Related Links:
  • U.S. Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • European Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • Full Coverage - 37th Ryder Cup
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    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 4:45 pm

    Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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    J. Korda fires flawless 62, leads by 4 in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 23, 2018, 12:48 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand – Jessica Korda shot a course-record 62 at the Honda LPGA Thailand on Friday to lead by four strokes after the second round.

    Playing her first tournament since having jaw surgery, Korda made eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record for the event.

    ''That was a pretty good round, pretty special,'' she said. ''Just had a lot of fun doing it.''

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    Korda is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda. She leads from another American, Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course.

    Minjee Lee of Australia is third and a shot behind Linicome on 11 under after a 67. Lexi Thompson, the 2016 champion, is fourth and another shot behind Lee.

    Korda is making her season debut in Thailand after the surgery and is playing with 27 screws holding her jaw in place.

    She seized the outright lead with a birdie on No. 15, the third of four straight birdies she made on the back nine. Her eagle on the last meant she finished with a 29 on the back nine, putting her in prime position for a first tour win since 2015.

    ''The best part is I have had no headache for 11 weeks. So that's the biggest win for me,'' she said. ''Honestly I was just trying to get on the green, get myself a chance. I birdied four in a row and holed a long one (on 18). I wasn't expecting it at all. It was pretty cool.''

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    Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1

    By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2018, 1:25 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tiger Woods had what he called ''easily'' his best round hitting the ball, and he didn't even break par at the Honda Classic.

    Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course, and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.

    ''When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, 'Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,''' said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.

    Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.

    Woods had only one big blunder - a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt - in an otherwise stress-free round. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.

    ''It was very positive today,'' Woods said. ''It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.''

    It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.

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    Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double bogey and shot 72.

    Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.

    The Swede is a nine-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 16 in the world, though he has yet to make a connection among American golf fans - outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, from his college days at Oklahoma State - from not having fared well at big events. Noren spends time in South Florida during the winter, so he's getting used to this variety of putting surfaces.

    ''I came over here to try to play some more American-style courses, get firmer greens, more rough, and to improve my driving and improve my long game,'' Noren said. ''So it's been great.''

    PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Morgan Hoffmann - who all live up the road in Jupiter - opened with a 67. There's not much of an advantage because hardly anyone plays PGA National the other 51 weeks of the year. It's a resort that gets plenty of traffic, and conditions aren't quite the same.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who now lives primarily in West Palm Beach, also came out to PGA National a few weeks ago to get a feel for the course. He was just like everyone else that day - carts on paths only. Not everyone can hole a bunker shot on the final hole at No. 9 for a 67. Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot his 67 with a bogey from a bunker on No. 9.

    Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.

    ''One bad hole,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes.''

    It came on the easiest hole on the course. Woods drove into a fairway bunker on the par-5 third, laid up and put his third shot in a bunker. He barely got it out to the collar, used the edge of his sand wedge to putt it down toward the hole and missed the 3-foot par putt.

    He answered with a birdie and made pars the rest of the way.

    ''I'm trying to get better, more efficient at what I'm doing,'' Woods said. ''And also I'm actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.''

    Woods played with Patton Kizzire, who already has won twice on the PGA Tour season this year. Kizzire had never met Woods until Thursday, and he yanked his opening tee shot into a palmetto bush. No one could find it, so he had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Kizzire covered the 505 yards in three shots, an outstanding bogey considering the two-shot penalty.

    Later, he laughed about the moment.

    ''I was so nervous,'' Kizzire said. ''I said to Tiger, 'Why did you have to make me so nervous?'''

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    Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda

    By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 11:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods called the greens “scratchy” on PGA National’s Champion Course.

    Rory McIlroy said there is “not a lot of grass on them.”

    Morgan Hoffmann said they are “pretty dicey in spots, like a lot of dirt.”

    The first round of the Honda Classic left players talking almost as much about the challenge of navigating the greens as they did the challenge of Florida’s blustery, winter winds.

    “They looked more like Sunday greens than Thursday,” McIlroy said. “They are pretty crusty. They are going to have a job keeping a couple of them alive.”

    The Champion Course always plays tough, ranking annually among the most challenging on the PGA Tour. With a very dry February, the course is firmer and faster than it typically plays.

    “Today was not easy,” Woods said. “It's going to get more difficult because these greens are not the best . . . Some of these putts are a bit bouncy . . . There's no root structure. You hit shots and you see this big puff of sand on the greens, so that shows you there's not a lot of root structure.”

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    Brad Nelson, PGA National’s director of agronomy, said the Champion Course’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are 18 years old, and they are dealing with some contamination, in spots, of other strains of grasses.

    “As it’s been so warm and dry, and as we are trying to get the greens so firm, those areas that are not a true Tifeagle variety anymore, they get unhappy,” Nelson said. “What I mean by unhappy is that they open up a little bit . . . It gives them the appearance of being a little bit thin in some areas.”

    Nelson said the greens are scheduled for re-grassing in the summer of 2019. He said the greens do have a “crusty” quality, but . . .

    “Our goal is to be really, really firm, and we feel like we are in a good place for where we want them to be going into the weekend,” he said.