Americans turn to turn the Ryder Cup tide

By Associated PressSeptember 18, 2008, 4:00 pm
Ryder CupLOUISVILLE, Ky. ' Paul Azinger had pairings in his pocket and butterflies in his stomach.
 
As the last of his American players headed to the 10th tee for the final practice session Thursday at the Ryder Cup, Azinger acknowledged some nerves for the first time all week at Valhalla.
 
It was different from being a player. He felt more like a parent sending his child off to college.
 
Paul Azinger and team
Paul Azinger leads his team into the opening ceremonies Thursday. (Getty Images)
Azinger has done all he can to stop Europes recent dominance in the Ryder Cup. He overhauled the qualifying process to field the best team. He set the course up just like he wanted, with moderate rough that should yield lots of birdies. He tried to convince his players that the past'Europe has won three straight and five of the last six'means nothing.
 
Its like drawing back a bow string, he said, motioning like an archer. You pull it back for two years, and now youve got to let it fly. All you can do is hope youve got it pointed in the right direction.
 
He turned to Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim to set the right course.
 
Mickelson and Kim, who have been asking for a partnership over the last month, will be the opening foursomes match Friday morning against double major champion Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson.
 
The whole team is anxious to play, Mickelson said. Anthony and myself have been talking about this for some time. I love that we are able to get off in the first group and get out and hit the first shots because again, weve been wanting this day to come.
 
Turns out Azinger was toying with the press about pairing Kenny Perry and J.B. Holmes to fire up their home crowd in Kentucky.
 
He put Perry in the final morning match with reliable Jim Furyk, but they face Europes most formidable pair in Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood. Garcia is 8-0 in foursomes, while Westwood is unbeaten in his last 10 team matches.
 
Sergio and I have played well together in the past and taken in a few points for the European cause, so we will be looking to do the same again tomorrow, Westwood said.
 
Justin Leonard, whose 45-foot putt at Brookline in 1999 gave the Americans their last victory, will play with Hunter Mahan against Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey, while Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell take on the English duo of Justin Rose and Ian Poulter.
 
The final practice day included an inspirational visit by Muhammad Ali, who posed with both teams on opposite sides of the golf course. European captain Nick Faldo was so moved that his voice quivered and eyes glistened when talking about meeting the heavyweight champ.
 
An incredible moment, he said.
 
Now all thats left is to see how this heavyweight fight takes shape.
 
The Americans have not led after any session on any day at the Ryder Cup since winning at Brookline. And they have not led after the opening session of four matches since 1991 at Kiawah Island.
 
We have six rookies on the team, which I think is a good thing, said Steve Stricker, one of those rookies at age 41. We havent experienced some of those defeats in the previous years. And I think its important that we do get off to a good start to gain some momentum and just roll from there. Its a long competition. Theres five rounds. So if you do get behind, theres plenty of time to make it up.
 
Friday and Saturday feature four matches of foursomes (alternate shot) and four matches of fourballs (better ball), with the Ryder Cup concluding Sunday with 12 singles matches.
 
Of the 28 points available, Europe as the defending champion only needs 14 to retain the cup.
 
The Americans will be without Tiger Woods, the No. 1 player in the world with 14 majors and 75 victories worldwide, although there is no talk about an asterisk because they havent been winning the Ryder Cup when he was playing.
 
Its one of the few events weve been to where Tiger really has not been mentioned at all, Faldo said. The Ryder Cup is bigger than any one player. We play for points. Tiger has not crossed my mind this week.
 
Faldos pairings were no surprise.
 
A British photographer captured them with his zoom lens when Faldo whipped out his notepad during Wednesday practice, and while Faldo jokingly said it was a list of sandwiches for his team, his pairings were exactly what was on the slip of paper.
 
The only secret to the Ryder Cup, just like most any other tournament, is making putts.
 
And no team has putted like Europe.
 
The guys have been on good form, Faldo said. We know golf. We understand golf. We start back at level ground with America, and we will do our utmost to move forward. Thats really it.
 
Faldo is the most celebrated European player in Ryder Cup history, having set records for most teams (11) and most points (25). Unlike previous captains, however, he has been somewhat of an outcast since he last played the Ryder Cup in 1997 at Valderrama.
 
Mark James famously trashed Faldos good-luck note in 1999, and he has been missing from European camaraderie the last three matches, getting no closer than the broadcast booth.
 
But he has four rookies who know only the Faldo that won six majors, not the aloof player with singular drive to the top. And typical of most European teams, this is a happy bunch full of laughter and purpose.
 
Im loving every minute of this, Faldo said. This really is the best experience Ive ever had as a non-player, inside and outside the ropes. This is the most special week of my life right now, and we havent even started yet.
 
Related Links:
  • U.S. Report Cards
  • European Report Cards
  • U.S. Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • European Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • Full Coverage - 37th Ryder Cup
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    Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

    Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

    Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

    As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

    "That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

    Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

    Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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    Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

    If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

    Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

    But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

    Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

    Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

    Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

    Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

    Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

    Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

    Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

    Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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    Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

    Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

    “It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

    Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

    “What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

    Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

    “When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.