Its the Majors That Really Matter

By Associated PressSeptember 26, 2006, 4:00 pm
CHANDLER'S CROSS, England -- Now that the Ryder Cup is over, golf returns to normal.
 
Of the 19 flags that rippled in a cool breeze Tuesday morning at The Grove, none was a blue banner with 13 gold stars. They were from Northern Ireland and South Africa, Canada and Australia, the United States and England.
 
Chad Campbell, Brett Wetterich and Jim Furyk walked down the first fairway as friends, but not teammates. Phil Mickelson has gone back on vacation, if he ever left. No one will pick up a ball from anywhere but the bottom of the cup.
 
Everyone is responsible for his own golf. Only one player gets the trophy.
 
The winner gets $1.3 million.
 
The only winning streak anyone is talking about involves Tiger Woods, the best in the world when he's playing for himself. While his streak ended two weeks ago at the World Match Play Championship about 30 miles down the M25 at Wentworth, a victory in the American Express Championship would be his sixth in a row at PGA TOUR events.
 
Ah, this is more like it.
 
Sure, Woods successfully defending his title at this World Golf Championship would only emphasize that Americans care more about their own achievements than winning a 17-inch golf trophy named after an English seed merchant.
 
But that's how it should be.
 
Golf is an individual game. Legacies are built on personal success, not team play that happens one week out of the year. Think of the players who are linked with their performance in team events, and you'll find guys who have never won a major, some who have never won many tournaments at all.
 
Colin Montgomerie. Sergio Garcia. Chris DiMarco.
 
No one has won more points for Europe than Nick Faldo, but that's only a postscript on the resume of a six-time major champion who won back-to-back at the Masters and once made 18 pars in his final round to win the British Open.
 
The Europeans are not just winning the Ryder Cup -- three in a row, five of the last six -- but dominating. Just don't get the idea that Europe is dominating the world of golf.
 
How else to explain why their players have been shut out in the last 29 majors?
 
'We've got a lot more top-10s in the majors, we've got more wins in the majors, we've got more tournament wins,' Stewart Cink said. 'In every category, we outpace them.'
 
The exception, of course, is the Ryder Cup.
 
But does that matter?
 
We give the Ryder Cup too much credit for its place in the game. It is a wonderful exhibition, and because it is so different from the 72 holes of stroke play seen the majority of the year, it is by far the most exciting tournament in golf to watch.
 
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, consider what has followed: the Presidents Cup, the Seve Trophy, the Royal Trophy, the UBS Warburg Cup (now extinct, thankfully), the Lexus Cup and something called the Handa Trophy, which pits senior U.S. women against senior women from the rest of the world.
 
All of them were or still are promoted as being styled after the Ryder Cup.
 
But these matches only decide which team gets the trophy. It doesn't make the Americans a bunch of chops, nor does it make the Europeans a world power.
 
Perhaps the most telling match of the Ryder Cup was when Garcia and Luke Donald defeated Woods and Furyk in a foursomes match Friday afternoon. Garcia played in the final round against Woods at the British Open and got smoked. Donald was tied for the lead with Woods in the final round at the PGA Championship and fell apart.
 
As partners, Garcia and Donald are 4-0 in foursomes play at the Ryder Cup.
 
'It's match play over 18 holes, and anything can happen in an 18-hole sprint,' Woods said. 'You play a stroke-play event, all you're looking for is one shot over 72 holes. It's more of a marathon. It's about being consistent. It about never making big numbers. You could be three down after the first nine holes ... you've got 63 holes to go.
 
'In match play, it can turn pretty quickly.'
 
The Ryder Cup was never that big of a deal before World War II, when the United States won four matches and Britain won twice. After the war, when Britain took far longer to recover, the Americans won the Ryder Cup 18 out of 19 times before the other side caught up. Britain first got help from Ireland in 1973, then all of continental Europe in 1979.
 
Just like the America's Cup, it became a big deal when the Americans started losing.
 
Now, the PGA of America wants it to be a big event because the Ryder Cup has become its biggest moneymaker. Europe needs it to become a big event -- and needs to win -- to help increase sponsorship for its tour.
 
No doubt, the top 12 Europeans as a whole are equal to the top 12 Americans, and Ian Woosnam probably was right when he said Europe is strong enough now to field two teams.
 
It's also possible that Europeans are about to catch up in the four Grand Slam events, as they did when their 'Big Five' of Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam and Sandy Lyle combined to win 16 majors.
 
Europe had eight players finish in the top 10 at majors this year, including three who played in the final group: Kenneth Ferrie at the U.S. Open, Garcia at the British Open and Donald at the PGA Championship. Montgomerie was a 7-iron away from winning at Winged Foot.
 
That still shouldn't change the dynamics of the Ryder Cup.
 
It's still an exhibition, golf entertainment at its finest, and nothing more.
 
One of the famous stories about Woods as a child was that he kept a list of Jack Nicklaus' achievements on the wall in his bedroom.
 
It's safe to say that list included nothing about the Ryder Cup.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - 36th Ryder Cup Matches
     
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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.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    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

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    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.''