Big Guns Blazing Early

By Associated PressSeptember 21, 2006, 4:00 pm
36th Ryder Cup MatchesSTRAFFAN, Ireland -- Tiger Woods gets another chance to set the tone for the Ryder Cup, this time with a new partner.
Woods and Jim Furyk, unbeaten in the three matches at the Presidents Cup, will be the first to tee off Friday morning in a fourball match against Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington, Europe's toughest tandem in the last Ryder Cup.
Tom Lehman and Arnold Palmer
U.S. captain Tom Lehman chats with Arnold Palmer during Thursday's practice session.
'We have got two of Europe's best on the first day,' Woods said. 'Hopefully, we'll be able to get it started and get the momentum on our side going out early.'
That sure wasn't the case last time.
In a notorious start at Oakland Hills, Woods and Phil Mickelson played together for the first time. Montgomerie and Harrington birdied the first hole and never trailed, a 2-and-1 victory that gave Europe an emotional lift on it way to its largest victory ever, 18 1/2 -9 1/2 .
'The first point is important,' U.S. captain Tom Lehman said. 'You want to lead with your best.'
Mickelson also found a good partner at the Presidents Cup last year when he and Chris DiMarco were unbeaten in four matches. They will bring up the rear for the Americans in the opening session in what figured to be the most emotional match Friday. They will face Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland, whose wife died of cancer five weeks ago.
'It's a big occasion for Darren tomorrow, and playing with one of his best friends,' European captain Ian Woosnam said. 'I think that's going to boost Darren right up.'
In between were a couple of mild surprises, with Lehman starting two of his four unheralded rookies.
J.J. Henry, who has played as well as anyone in the three days of practice at The K Club, will join Stewart Cink in the second fourball match against Paul Casey and Robert Karlsson. In the third game, David Toms and big-hitting Brett Wetterich will take on Sergio Garcia and Jose Maria Olazabal.
Woods has lost seven consecutive matches on opening day at the Ryder Cup, dating to his debut match at Valderrama in 1997. He and Furyk come into this Ryder Cup on top of their games. Woods has won five of his last six tournaments and Furyk won the Canadian Open two weeks ago, although both lost in the first round of the World Match Play Championship last week.
Montgomerie and Harrington, Ireland's best golfer, won both their matches at Oakland Hills without reaching the 18th hole.
'Monty always just seems to raise his game for this tournament,' Woosnam said. 'Obviously he stands on that first tee, he changes into a different person. ... He's got a fantastic record and not very often he gets beat.'
Montgomerie had said last time that beating Woods and Mickelson was worth two points because of the emotional lift. Woosnam believes a victory over Woods and Furyk would do the same.
'It's going to be a big boost for us if we can beat that pairing,' he said.
Lehman said he had his opening-session pairings in mind before arriving on Monday, and nothing he saw in practice changed his mind.
Woosnam, meanwhile, relied on his gut feeling watching his players this week. That much was obvious with his pairing of Casey and Karlsson. The original plan was for Karlsson to play with fellow Swedish rookie Henrik Stenson.
Casey won the HSBC World Match Play Championship last week, and Karlsson reached the semifinals.
'I decided last night on that pairing,' Woosnam said. 'And that's why they went out together today, to give them a chance to play together. They both hit the ball extremely long. They hit in the same club and hit the same shots into the green, and I think that's what made me go for that pairing.'
Another surprise was Garcia and Olazabal.
Woosnam said he hoped they could deliver the kind of magic Olazabal and Seve Ballesteros brought to Europe in the 1980s, when the 'Spanish Armada' produced the most successful tandem in Ryder Cup history.
Ballesteros was a mentor to Olazabal, however. Garcia has never been particularly close to either Spanish star.
'They both got this love of match play,' Woosnam said. 'Obviously, they might be talking Spanish all the way around.'
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.