Minnesota officials short on Ryder Cup support

By Associated PressJuly 3, 2015, 9:35 pm

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The 2016 Ryder Cup was awarded to the Hazeltine National Golf Club near Minneapolis years ago, however its promoters quietly recently tried to wedge money into Minnesota's new state budget for logistical assistance and sponsorships of the event.

Although their efforts fell short - the Legislature concluded its session after passing a budget without any money for the prestigious tournament - organizers are expected to continue to push for state assistance before next year's event.

Their pitch - detailed in a private meeting held days before lawmakers adjourned their 2015 legislative session - ran from $600,000 to $2 million depending on the state's involvement and willingness to absorb security costs. Potential benefits would range from the use of a private chalet for tourism and business promotion to Minnesota-themed ads run on international TV to hundreds of event tickets.

Emails, handwritten notes and other documents obtained by The Associated Press under a public records law highlight the late scramble and the wariness by state officials about buying in.

''They want $1.5 million from the state. Get real,'' Minnesota tourism director John Edman wrote to colleagues the morning after the May 12 meeting with tournament representatives, other state agency leaders and at least one legislator. ''It is not in our interest. They want us more than we want them.''

Kevin McKinnon, deputy commissioner of the state economic development agency, agreed in a note to Edman, saying ''fact is the event is here whether we do anything or not and the benefit (albeit very small to the state) will happen.''

Both suggested smaller sponsorships, perhaps in the Hazeltine welcome center.

Despite that hesitance and the fact that no bill had even been introduced, records show the carve-outs for Ryder Cup expenses remained in play with the Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton's office until the very end. Nothing concrete emerged.

Republican Rep. Joe Hoppe, who was at the table and whose district includes Hazeltine, said he should have begun pushing for funds sooner and through normal budgeting channels.

''It wasn't a tactical decision to get anything in at the last minute or hide it,'' Hoppe said. ''People would have looked at it as a no-brainer.''

Patrick Hunt, chairman of Hazeltine's Ryder Cup host committee, said organizers weren't in search of a traditional subsidy but were offering the state ways to leverage the international exposure the event assures. It will be aired for several days in at least 160 countries and attended by 250,000 people, most of whom will come from outside Minnesota.

Whether the state partners with organizers or not, Hunt said, ''The Ryder Cup is coming. There are no ifs, ands or buts.''

Even without explicit approval, lawmakers supportive of Ryder Cup spending say nothing would stop agencies from dipping into existing state funds. The Legislature might revisit the topic next year in a session that convenes six months before golfers descend on suburban Chaska.

''This is something we should not ignore,'' said Sen. David Tomassoni, a Democrat from Chisholm.

Added Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, ''This is a once-every-25-years opportunity to market our state to the world.''

The Ryder Cup alternates every two years between U.S. and European courses and features the top golfers from two continents squaring off in a team match-play tournament.

When a Kentucky course hosted the event in 2008, that state's lawmakers allocated $1.55 million for security, parking and logistical expenses. Four years later in Illinois, the Medinah Country Club reimbursed the state police for off-duty officers hired to help out, said Sgt. Matt Boerwinkle.

Minnesota officials balked at providing up to 600 hours of trooper overtime free-of-charge. State Patrol Lt. Chris Edstrom informed organizers that barring a special appropriation the state would bill the PGA.

By not acting this year, Hunt said Minnesota could miss out on one of the 80 hospitality chalets. Only 10 remain, with a going rate starting at $250,000.

Lack of a formal partnership would also deprive agencies from including the official Ryder Cup logo on promotional materials. Emails show the PGA has already warned the state about improper use.

In one email, Edman said he can tout Minnesota without it. ''I really don't need the Ryder Cup logo to do that.''

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.

Getty Images

McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

Getty Images

Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

Getty Images

Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''