Europe Wont Let Go of Cup - Literally

By Associated PressSeptember 21, 2006, 4:00 pm
36th Ryder Cup MatchesSTRAFFAN, Ireland -- As if recent history weren't enough, Europe showed just how tight a grip it has on the Ryder Cup.
 
U.S. captain Tom Lehman gathered his team on the 10th tee Thursday morning for the official team photo, which lately is the closest the Americans ever gets to posing with the Ryder Cup trophy.
 
The Europeans didn't even allow them that luxury at The K Club.
 
Whether it was a harmless oversight or not-so-subtle message about the true ownership of the shiny gold chalice, captain Ian Woosnam neglected to turn over the trophy even for 15 minutes of a photo opportunity. It was the first time since 1985 -- coincidentally, the start of European dominance in these matches -- that the 17-inch trophy was not part of the official team photo.
 
'I wasn't aware of that,' Lehman said. 'I have not idea what the protocol is or isn't, so I can't even respond to that.'
 
All he cares about is posing with it Sunday.
 
After four days of glitz and galas, topped off by an opening ceremony that celebrated Ireland's biggest sporting event, the Ryder Cup was set to begin Friday morning with both sides sending out their best teams.
 
Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk faced Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington in the opening fourball match, a sign that both captains were intent on taking control as early as possible.
 
'We've got two of Europe's best on the first day,' Woods said.
 
Woods has lost seven straight matches on opening day at the Ryder Cup, dating to his debut in 1997, and he rarely looks like the world's No. 1 player in these team events. On the other end is Montgomerie, 0-for-60 in the majors, 0-for-America, yet a stalwart in this event.
 
It will be the second straight time Montgomerie and Harrington have drawn a Dream Team from the United States. Two years ago at Oakland Hills, they beat Woods and Phil Mickelson in a match that set the tone for Europe's largest victory ever, 18 1/2 -9 1/2 .
 
'We are leading out, as I have done a lot in this event, and it's almost my role here,' Montgomerie said. 'Whether I play again or not, I don't care. To start off this thing is great, and we will try our best with it.'
 
For the Americans, the next three days are more important than they used to be.
 
They have a 26-9-4 lead in the Ryder Cup since it began in 1927 as a friendly exhibition between American and British golf professionals, but the symbol of dominance over the last 20 years is the European flag, blue with 13 gold stars.
 
Europe has captured the cup seven of the last 10 times, with victories in four of the last five matches. The last U.S. victory came in 1999 outside Boston, and even that needed a 45-foot putt by Justin Leonard on the 17th hole at The Country Club to complete the biggest comeback in Ryder Cup history.
 
Not only does Europe own the cup, but many believe it has the best team.
 
The lowest-ranked European player is Paul McGinley, No. 53 in the world and best known as the Irishman who made the clinching putt at The Belfry in 2002. None of Europe's 10 players with Ryder Cup experience has a losing record.
 
'This is probably -- hate to say (this) before the event starts -- but it's our strongest,' Montgomerie said. 'I believe it's our strongest team we've ever put together.'
 
The Americans counter with the 1-2-3 punch of Woods, Phil Mickelson and Furyk, the top three players in the world. Then again, that hasn't gotten them very far before.
 
What might help this time is a strange label as underdogs.
 
'Why not play that underdog role?' David Toms said. 'We haven't performed our best in the last few. On paper, I think we're as strong as their team is. I guess we're supposed to be underdogs because we have not performed up to our capabilities.'
 
The key is Friday, when the Americans will be desperate to fill the scoreboards around The K Club with red numbers, instead of the European blue. The United States has trailed after the first day in the last four Ryder Cups, and seven of the last nine.
 
'Contrary to what some people say or believe, there aren't any chops in this deal, OK?' Scott Verplank said. 'Both teams have 12 good players, if not great players. You're going to have to play well to get a point for your team. If you don't stand on that first tee thinking you're going to win your match, then you're already behind.'
 
Lehman has tried to keep his team relaxed, bringing them over to Ireland at the end of last month for two days of practice, and the games have continued throughout a week abbreviated by weather. Rain has saturated The K Club, limiting practice sessions to nine holes on Wednesday and Thursday, the only full round coming on Tuesday.
 
Above all, Lehman has listened to the players.
 
'We have a policy on our team that you say what you think ... as long as it's what you truly feel,' Lehman said. 'It's not like I'm making decision in a void. There's input. If I have a real strong feeling about something, I push my opinion pretty hard. But I am very confident that we're going the right direction.'
 
The Europeans counter with confidence that is at an all-time high.
 
They have not lost on home soil since 1993 at The Belfry in England, and this is a course they know well, even if it was designed by Arnold Palmer. The European Open is played here, and among past champions is Lee Westwood. Darren Clarke set a European Tour record on the course with a 60.
 
Clarke brings experience and emotion.
 
He played the Madrid Masters last week, his first tournament since his wife died of cancer on Aug. 13. He decided to accept a captain's pick, and the 38-year-old from Northern Ireland has become a rallying point for Europe, as if it needs one.
 
The leadership comes from Woosnam, a scrappy Welshman and former Masters champion who has driven home his personal motto to the European team all week.
 
'I'm never scared of anybody,' Woosnam said. 'Not even Tiger Woods.'
 
In this event, there's been no need for that.
 
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  • If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


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    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

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    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''