Europeans Wear the Underdog Label Well

By Associated PressSeptember 16, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 Ryder CupBLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Don't look for Hal Sutton to repeat the classic introduction Ben Hogan gave during the flag-raising ceremony for the 1967 Ryder Cup.
'Ladies and gentlemen,' Hogan said solemnly, 'I present the American team - the 10 greatest golfers in the world.'
For one thing, there are now 12 golfers per side. For another, it would be farfetched for a U.S. captain of this generation to claim his team has a monopoly on the world's best players.
That said, the Americans find themselves in a familiar role. They are the clear favorites, with star power and major championships that can't be matched by the Europeans. The world rankings are more ammunition for those who expect Oakland Hills Country Club to be the scene of a red, white and blue celebration this weekend.
35th Ryder CupAnd this being the Ryder Cup, it doesn't mean a thing.
'Being underdogs doesn't mean we're going to lose,' European star Sergio Garcia said. 'Being underdogs means that on paper, they are better than us. You've just got to look at the world rankings. That definitely says something.'
Granted, the world rankings are a hodgepodge of complicated formulas, mind-numbing idiosyncrasies and questionable criteria that make the BCS look like a model of simplicity.
Even so, three Americans - No. 2 Tiger Woods, No. 4 Phil Mickelson and No. 6 Davis Love III - show up in the rankings before the first European, No. 8 Padraig Harrington, makes an appearance.
Five more U.S. players are in the top 20. Only three of Harrington's teammates can make such a claim. The lowest-rated American is No. 59 Fred Funk. The Europeans have four players at 60 and below.
Still need convincing? The Americans have 12 major titles on their respective mantels, eight of them won by Woods. No one on the European team has even one major victory, the first time that's happened since 1981.
'We have come into the matches as underdogs most of the time,' said Colin Montgomerie of Scotland, who has never lost a singles match at the Ryder Cup. 'I don't think this is any different. We're playing away from home and we're underdogs. We'll start that way and then, hopefully after about two hours, it might be different.'
If recent history is any indication, it's the Americans who are the decided underdogs.
Beginning in 1985, when Europe finally broke a 28-year drought, the guys from the other side of the Atlantic have won five times, halved another match to keep the Cup and lost only three matches.
Two years ago, the Europeans easily won - 15 1/2 points to 12 1/2 - with a lineup that, on paper at least, looked hopelessly outmatched by the U.S. firepower.
On the final day of singles, Montgomerie routed Scott Hoch, Harrington crushed Mark Calcavecchia, little-known Phillip Price easily beat Mickelson and Jesper Parnevik halved his match with Woods.
But singles isn't the European strength. They usually do their best work in the team portion - two rounds of alternate-shot and better-ball each of the first two days.
Only once in the last nine matches have the Americans been in the lead heading to the singles, leading to the perception that the United States has a collection of stars, the Europeans have a team.
That line of thinking was bolstered Wednesday when Mickelson took the day off, leaving the other 11 Americans to go through an 18-hole practice round with a pair of threesomes and an unwieldy fivesome.
The Europeans were grouped off in foursomes, all of them dutifully taking part. Even an American fan took note as Montgomerie, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and David Howell scurried around the 16th hole, trying to get a read on the steeply sloping green.
'I'd rather to go to the bar with those guys than anyone on the American team,' the spectator said.
Sutton said the show of individualism fits in with everything he's been preaching.
'Worry about yourself,' he said. 'If I get you to worry about you, and I get the best out of you, then it will come together as a team effort that could be brilliant.'
That's not the only change of pace.
Captains usually have a good idea about teams midway through the week and start putting those players together during practice so they can get comfortable with each other. Not Sutton, who is keeping his team in the dark until sometime before opening ceremonies Thursday.
The matches begin Friday morning.
'I told them I wasn't going to set the pairings for the practice rounds,' Sutton said. 'Be prepared to beat the other two guys by yourself, and if I give you a little help, that's a bonus. So they have no clue who they're going to play with. If they know who it is, they start worrying about their partner's game instead of worrying about their own game.'
Sutton is unlikely to reprise Hogan's brilliant touch of gamesmanship in 1967, which turned out to be right on the mark. The Americans romped to a 15-point victory, still the greatest margin in Ryder Cup history.
Sutton would gladly settle for a one-point victory.
Whatever it takes to get the Cup back on this side of the Atlantic.
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    Watch: Tiger throws dart, pours in birdie at 8

    By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 18, 2018, 7:31 pm

    Starting Sunday five off the lead, Tiger Woods teed off his final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a laced 2-iron and a par at No. 1.

    Woods hit the green at the par-3 second but left himself a 50-foot birdie putt and a 6-footer to save par, which we walked in.

    A two-putt 4 at the par-5 fourth gave Woods his first birdie of the day and moved him to 8 under for the week. Apparently energized, Tiger pulled driver at the short par-4 fifth and unleashed this violent swing.

    A pitch from the thick rough hit a sprinkler head and stopped on the apron, leading to this birdie try, which fortunately hit the pin but unfortunately didn't fall.

    Looking to pick up another stroke - or two - at the par-5 sixth, Woods took his drive 317 yards over the water and hit this second shot from 227 yards to 13 feet, leading to another two-putt birdie when his eagle try burned the right edge.

    Returning to his trusty 2-iron, Tiger found the fairway at par-4 eighth and then threw this dart from 176 yards to 6 feet and rolled in his third birdie putt of the day to move to 10 under.

    (More coming...)

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    Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

    By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 5:00 pm

    Tiger Woods will start Sunday five off the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. How will he follow up last week's runner-up? We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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    McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

    By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

    McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

    “I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

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    “I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

    This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

    A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

    McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

    “It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

    As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

    “It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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    Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

    By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

    PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

    She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

    Her confidence is high.

    “Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

    Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

    Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

    “One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

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    Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

    “I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

    Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

    “I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

    That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.