Americans Smoked in Morning Matches

By Associated PressSeptember 17, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 Ryder CupBLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- The United States sent out its Dream Team for the first match of the Ryder Cup, and it was all downhill from there.
 
Staring down Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and the rest of the Americans, Europe got off to a stunning start Friday at Oakland Hills. winning three better-ball matches and tying in the other to take 3 1/2 of the first 4 points.
 
Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington took care of Woods and Mickelson, the top two American players and paired together for the first time in the opening match.
 
Montgomerie got the Europeans rolling by knocking in a 10-foot birdie at the first hole, then finished off the match by tapping in an 18-inch par putt at No. 17 for a 2-and-1 victory.
 
'It was a super morning for Europe,' said Monty, always at his best in the Ryder Cup. 'As a team, it was almost worth more than a point to beat Phil and Tiger.'
 
The rest of the European team was clearly inspired.
 
Darren Clarke and Miguel Angel Jimenez routed Davis Love III and Chad Campbell, 5 and 4. Jim Furyk and David Toms were treated similarly, swept aside, 5 and 3, by Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood.
 
Europe had a chance for the first sweep of a session in 15 years until American Ryder Cup rookie Chris Riley sank a 6-foot putt on the final hole to salvage a tie with partner Stewart Cink against Paul McGinley and Luke Donald.
 
Amazingly, the Americans never led at any point of the four morning matches.
 
The Europeans had a grand ol' time. Clarke and Jimenez puffed on cigars provided by the Spaniard. Garcia and Westwood helped each other read putts. Montgomerie and Harrington chatted all the way around the course.
 
The Americans? They looked shell-shocked.
 
'The European team had a great morning,' Mickelson said. 'It's one match. We'll go back out this af ternoon and try to make up some ground.'
 
Four alternate-shot matches were scheduled for the afternoon.
 
The last time a team swept a session was 1989, when Europe took all four better-ball matches the first day on the way to retaining the Cup at The Belfry.
 
The early play was true to form. Europe usually does its best work in the team phase, while the Americans always seem to be scrambling to make up ground on the final day, when 12 singles matches are held.
 
Europe has led after the first day at six of the last eight Ryder Cups, a trend that U.S. captain Hal Sutton hoped to change by pairing up Woods and Mickelson.
 
'I felt like history needed it. I felt like the fans needed it,' Sutton said Thursday at the opening ceremony. 'And most of all, I felt like Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods needed it.'
 
The top two American players strolled out of the clubhouse to huge cheers, but got off to an inglorious start. Woods drove his tee shot into a bunker, while Mickelson's pulled his under a tree. Both made it on to the sharply sloping green with their next shots, but Lefty struck a terrible putt that failed to clear a ridge, rolling back almost as far as he hit it in the first place.
 
Both Woods and Mickelson picked up when Montgomerie sank his birdie putt, giving the Europeans a lead they never lost.
 
Monty, improving to 12-2-3 in his last 17 Ryder Cup matches, also made long birdie putts at the fourth and sixth. Harrington, the top-ranked European player, chipped in with a 25-footer for birdie at eight.
 
Woods and Mickelson tried to hang tough, making three birdies on the front side themselves. It wasn't enough.
 
This was the first time in seven team events -- four Ryder Cups, three Presidents Cups -- that an American captain put Woods and Mickelson together. Sutton decided to change that as soon as he was appointed to the post two years ago.
 
'This might be one of the greatest teams ever paired in U.S. history,' the captain said.
 
It didn't look that way on the first morning, but Sutton decided to keep Woods and Mickelson together for the afternoon matches. Lefty already had warmed up for that possibility by practicing with Woods' brand of balls the previous day.
 
Woods and Mickelson were matched against Clarke and Westwood. The other alternate shot matches: Jimenez and Thomas Levet vs. Americans Chris DiMarco and Jay Haas; Montgomerie and Harrington vs. Love and Fred Funk; and Garcia and Donald vs. Cink and Kenny Perry.
 
Sutton knew his decision to go for one point with his two best players could backfire. Five years ago at Brookline, Europe got a huge lift when Clarke and Westwood beat Woods and David Duval, the top two Americans at that time.
 
'There's a risk every day in life,' Sutton countered. 'You cross the street and it's a risk. Someone may run over you.'
 
Clearly, this pairing wasn't about camaraderie.
 
Woods and Mickelson have never been the best of friends. On the first tee, their sometimes-icy relationship was evident as Mickelson stood on one side, Woods on the other. The Europeans, meanwhile, were chatting away, and Monty even yucked it up with a fan wearing an Irish flag and hat.
 
The Europeans had fun the rest of the morning, too.
 
'It's a good start for us, but that's all it is,' Montgomerie said. 'There's still four round of golf to play today.'
 
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    McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

    Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

    McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

    Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

    McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, four shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

    Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

    Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

    ''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


    First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

    ''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

    David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

    The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    ''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation.