Mahan learns tough lesson on Ryder Cup comments

By Associated PressAugust 5, 2008, 4:00 pm
Follow the 90th PGA Championship all week on GOLF CHANNEL. Click for our TV schedule!
 
2008 US Open 81x90BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. ' He complained about the money, control, time and extravagance at the Ryder Cup, some of the same issues that David Duval raised nine years ago without ever having played in one.
 
At least Hunter Mahan did not call it an exhibition.
 
The 26-year-old American has a lot on his plate at Oakland Hills this week. Mahan is trying to validate his potential by winning the final major of the year. He is No. 10 in the Ryder Cup standings and needs a strong week to qualify. And he is busy making the rounds with PGA of America officials, apologizing for critical comments about an event he has never played.
 
Hunter Mahan
Hunter Mahan is two spots from earning an automatic berth onto the U.S. Ryder Cup team. (Getty Images)
They took it personally, and I dont blame them, Mahan said after meeting with PGA president Brian Whitcomb and CEO Joe Steranka. I deserve what I get. I take full responsibility for what I said.
 
Mahan brought the wrong kind of attention to himself with an interview in Golf magazine in which he was asked to explain why the Americans keep losing the Ryder Cup. Among other things, he said the PGA of America could care less about winning because they decide where it is played based on where it can make the most money.
 
And from what Ive heard, the whole week is extremely long, Mahan said in the interview. Youve got dinners every night ' not little dinners, but huge, massive dinners. I know as players, thats the last thing we want to do. We want to prepare ourselves. Thats part of the whole thing: Youre just a slave that week.
 
Mahan thought the interview, which took place in late spring, was going to be about his love for cars, especially with the PGA Championship coming to Motor City. Only when he read the interview did he realize there might be a problem.
 
Then my dad called and said he heard it on the GOLF CHANNEL, Mahan said. I guess they hammered me pretty good, and it kind of erupted from there.
 
Give him credit in one respect. In an age when athletes routinely blame the messenger, Mahan never said he was misquoted or taken out of context. He immediately called U.S. captain Paul Azinger to apologize. Whether it hurts his chances of being a captains pick if he doesnt qualify remains to be seen, although Azinger said he wasnt losing sleep over the interview.
 
I want guys playing good, he said. Im not going to hold a grudge over that.
 
Next up came Mahans meeting with the PGA of America brass, which accepted the apology but still sent a message.
 
It was a chance to enlighten him about the Ryder Cup and PGA of America activities, Whitcomb said Tuesday morning. We saw a talented young man who would like to play in the Ryder Cup and knew he had made a mistake, and was looking to amend those mistakes. I appreciated that.
 
Steranka felt like he had been through this before.
 
Those comments sounded like they were 9 years old, he said. Because they are not relevant to what the Ryder Cup is today.
 
Mahan knows what Ryder Cup competition is all about.
 
He was in the gallery at Brookline in 1999 after being invited to play in the Junior Ryder Cup. Oddly enough, that was the year Duval and Tiger Woods led a mini-revolt over Ryder Cup income that led to each player being allotted $200,000 for charity.
 
It was intense, Mahan said. The crowd, you could hear it a mile away. We had to sit at one hole and wait for people to come through, and it was just crazy. You could see the energy on everybodys faces.
 
Perhaps thats why he was so disappointed to hear chatter that the Ryder Cup wasnt what it appeared to be for all the players.
 
From what Ive heard, the Ryder Cup just isnt fun, Mahan said in the magazine interview. The fun is sucked right out of it. Thats the word I hear a lot.
 
Thats what should have stung the PGA of America the most.
 
Some of the most significant words in his interview might have been, From what Ive heard. Mahan, who hasnt caused any problems in his five years on tour, didnt come up with stuff on his own. He developed these Ryder Cup opinions by listening to those who have played in them, and one can only assume this gripe session took place in the team room at the Presidents Cup.
 
The question was, `Why has the U.S. lost?' ' Mahan said. Just from the Presidents Cup, having such a good time it was disappointing to hear about the Ryder Cup, that it wasnt as much fun. I was disappointed to hear that about an event I had looked up to as a kid.
 
Mahan was wrong to say what he did in the interview, and he knows it.
 
But that doesnt mean the issue will go away for the PGA of America, for its clear that some U.S. players still feel that the Ryder Cup is overcooked. And even though Mahan had no business asking, its a fair question. Of all the great courses in America, why is the Ryder Cup going to Valhalla, a course the PGA of America owns?
 
Then again, most criticism tends to be directed away from the real problem.
 
Even if players had to attend a gala dinner every night instead of just Wednesday, even if the Ryder Cup generated twice as much income, would it not be more fun for the Americans if they were winning?
 
Europeans wear tuxedos, too.
 
I should have said in the article how much I want to change the culture of the Ryder Cup and start winning, Mahan said.
 
No one would criticize that.
 
Related Links:
  • Full PGA Championship Tee Times
  • Full Coverage - PGA Championship
  • Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

    "The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).


    Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    “Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

    Getty Images

    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

    Getty Images

    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

    Getty Images

    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.