Americans in command early at Ryder Cup

By Associated PressSeptember 19, 2008, 4:00 pm
Ryder CupLOUISVILLE, Ky. ' Phil Mickelson pointed his putter toward the cup, took a step and punched his fist to celebrate a clutch birdie. Boo Weekley revved up the crowd after holing a 50-foot putt from just off the green. Anthony Kim set a record for high-fives.
 
Yes, those were the Americans having all the fun Friday at Valhalla.
 
At the Ryder Cup, no less.
 
My cheeks are sore from smiling all day long, Justin Leonard said. This was a lot different than my other Ryder Cup experiences.
 
Anthony Kim
Anthony Kim went 1-0-1 with Phil Mickelson Friday. (Getty Images)
In a stunning turnaround, the Americans rallied from a back-nine deficit four times to take a 5 1/2 -2 1/2 lead, their largest margin after the opening day since continental Europe first was included in the Ryder Cup in 1979.
 
Mickelson and Kim twice came back from a 3-hole deficits and picked up 1 1/2 points, as many as Lefty earned in the last two Ryder Cups combined. Leonard had never won a match in any Ryder Cup until two blowout victories with Hunter Mahan, one of six U.S. rookies who played like recent European dominance really was ancient history.
 
Were in a good place, U.S. captain Paul Azinger said. Who would have thought?
 
The Americans hadnt led after any session since last winning the Ryder Cup in the Miracle at Brookline in 1999. But with six rookies and no Tiger Woods, they lost only one of eight matches and left European captain Nick Faldo wringing his hands.
 
Europe has won the last three Ryder Cups ' and five of the last six ' but now finds itself desperate to catch up.
 
Weve had a tough time, Faldo said. We lost a few points, but we havent lost any spirit.
 
One of the few bright spots for Europe was Lee Westwood, who tied Arnold Palmer by running his unbeaten streak in the Ryder Cup to 12 matches. Westwood and Soren Hansen birdied the last three holes in the final fourballs match of the afternoon, the last one enough to earn a halve against Weekley and big-hitting J.B. Holmes.
 
Its a novelty, isnt it? Westwood said. Its not the position we wanted to be in, thats for sure.
 
Westwood landed in an even worse spot after the long day. In a surprising move, Faldo decided to bench Westwood and Sergio Garcia for the Saturday morning foursomes. Neither has ever missed a Ryder Cup match ' 27 straight for Westwood, 22 straight for Garcia. Combined, they have a 27-5-8 record in team play.
 
Rarely has a European captain shook up his lineup so drastically. But then, rarely is Europe behind.
 
Azinger sent out the same players for Saturday morning foursomes that he used on the opening day, which produced a 3-1 lead. It was the first time the United States won the first session of the Ryder Cup since 1991.
 
Even so, Captain America was cautious.
 
Weve got a long, long way to go, he said. And we know how good they are.
 
Even so, it was an amazing start for the Americans.
 
In the opening match, Mickelson and Kim trailed by three holes with six to play until winning three straight holes and earning a halve against Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson. Down by three after four holes in the afternoon, Kim gave them their first lead of the day with a 7-foot birdie on the 14th, and Mickelson dropped in a 20-foot birdie on the 17th that led to a 2-up victory.
 
We played with a lot of heart and a lot of emotion today to pull the halve and win out, Mickelson said. We have a lot of work to do. This is a fun day. I love playing with this guy. Anthony has got this youthfulness to him, and he has a lot of game.
 
It was a big day for most of the U.S. rookies, who went 3-2-3.
 
Leonard teamed with one of those rookies, Hunter Mahan, and they won both matches without reaching the 17th hole. The afternoon victory came at the expense of Sergio Garcia, who finally looked ordinary in the Ryder Cup.
 
It was the first time Garcia failed to win a match in a single day.
 
Garcia had been undefeated in foursomes (8-0) but had to settle for a halve with Westwood in the morning. Kenny Perry, the lone disappointment for Kentucky, missed a 5-foot par putt that would have won the match on the 17th, then drove into the water on the 18th hole to allow Europe to catch them.
 
Leonard and Mahan then handed Garcia only his second loss in team matches by going 9 under through 15 holes, with Leonard finishing it off with a chip-in for birdie that had him pumping his fists.
 
It was a familiar scene across Valhalla.
 
Weekley, with a pinch of snuff jutting out of his lip and his arms flapping to exhort a spirited crowd, knocked in a 50-foot birdie from just off the green at No. 12 to give his team a lead it never relinquished until the last hole.
 
And while Weekley and Holmes didnt win the match, they illustrated the Americans resolve.
 
Europe had the lead in all four morning matches in the first hour and only came away with one point. It was the first time since 1991 that the United States won the opening session of the Ryder Cup.
 
In the afternoon, Europe had the lead in three matches going to the back nine, and came away with only 1 1/2 points.
 
The Americans had watched 11 consecutive matches go to the final hole without winning until Chad Campbell, the final captains pick, hit a 5-iron to 20 feet on the par-5 18th as he and Stewart Cink went 1-up over Ian Poulter and Justin Rose.
 
Poulter and Rose won the only match for Europe, a 4-and-2 victory over Steve Stricker and Ben Curtis.
 
But that wasnt enough to quiet the crowd.
 
There was a lot of noise all day, from the first tee on, Cink said. Just to hear them excited about the way we were playing for a change in the Ryder Cup was refreshing. Ive never been able to experience that myself when we were ahead. So its great.
 
Azinger told the Kentucky crowd ' he called them the 13th man ' at a pep rally Thursday night that it was OK to cheer if Europe missed a putt. He defended that remark as educational, and said the crowd did nothing to embarrass itself.
 
Westwood, however, took issue with Weekley whipping the crowd into a frenzy before the 12th hole was completed.
 
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 Boo holed off the back (of the green), Ive still got a putt for the halve. Theres no need to do it between shots. At least wait until were walking off the green.
 
Westwood glared at him, and occasionally shook his head. But he kept his opinions to himself on the course.
 
Its not my job to tell people how to behave, he said.
 
Harrington, Europes best player with three majors since the last Ryder Cup, had no problem with the exuberance from the 23-year-old Kim, who high-fived Mickelson after an array of great shots and clutch putts.
 
None was bigger than Mickelson, who has struggled with his putting all summer, knocking in the 20-footer on the 17th hole that gave the Americans a 1-up lead going to the 18th in a match that swung momentum to his side.
 
Anthony, its his first Ryder Cup and he was excited out there, Harrington said. And he hit some great shots at times, and he had a right to be excited.
 
So did the rest of the American team.
 
Even though they were on home soil, they found themselves in foreign territory ' in the lead at the Ryder Cup.
 
Related Links:
  • U.S. Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • European Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • Full Coverage - 37th Ryder Cup
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    Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 11:14 pm

    John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.

    The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.

    That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.

    He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.

    Getty Images

    Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

    Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

    Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

    In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

    Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

    “I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

    Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

    Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

    In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

    “I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

    The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

    Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

    The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

    The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

    “My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

    It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

    Tweet of the week:

    It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

    The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.