No Problems for US in Presidents Cup

By Associated PressSeptember 24, 2007, 4:00 pm
Every two years, the United States fields a team of 12 players who produce some of their best golf.
In one of the most nervous moments of his career, Tiger Woods showed why he is the best clutch putter of his generation. Chris DiMarco, after an unlikely escape from an awkward stance in the bunker, holed a 15-foot putt that set off a celebration of raw emotion. Jim Furyk has never lost in singles.
Young or old, rookies or veterans, they come together as one and usually hoist the gold trophy.
Now if they can only figure out how to do that in the Ryder Cup.
The Presidents Cup clearly doesn't pose that much of a problem. The Americans will try to build on their 4-1-1 lead in the series starting Thursday when the matches are held at Royal Montreal in what is expected to be the biggest golfing event in Canada.
Never mind that the International team, comprised of players from every continent except Europe, boasts six major champions and appears to be a more daunting opponent than Europe.
Recent results in these cup competitions are hard to fathom:
  • In 2003, the International team had four of the top 10 players in the world, and eight of the top 20. Woods was changing his swing, Phil Mickelson went 0-5 in the Presidents Cup, and it still ended in a tie.
  • In 2004, Europe had only three players among the top 20 in the world at Oakland Hills, yet handed the United States its worst Ryder Cup loss, 18-9.
  • In 2005, the United States faced an International team with an average world ranking of 22 and won, 18-15.
  • In 2006, Woods and Mickelson had won three of the four majors. Europe again won by a record margin in Ireland, 18-9.
    'The teams are the same as far as on the U.S. side,' Mickelson said. 'We enjoy playing together. We have a lot of fun. We bring out our best golf at the Presidents Cup, and we seem to not do that in the Ryder Cup. I don't know why that is.'
    Equally perplexed was Furyk, although he might have hit on one possibility when he said of the Presidents Cup, 'I think our team probably is a little more relaxed.'
    And it helps to be trying to win for an iconic leader.
    Jack Nicklaus returns as U.S. captain for the fourth time, sporting a 1-1-1 record. Many thought his victory in 2005 at the Robert Trent Jones Club was a perfect way to end his career, but he agreed to be captain again as a way of staying close to the game.
    He needles his players, respects them, and makes sure they have a good time.
    'I've tried to make the matches fun for them,' Nicklaus said. 'I've tried to let them be themselves. I like to let them be part of the process and part of the solution to everything. '
    Gary Player returns as International captain, still looking for his first victory. He and Nicklaus agreed to the tie in South Africa when darkness interrupted a riveting playoff between Woods and Ernie Els, and he lost in 2005.
    His most significant decision was taking Mike Weir as a captain's pick, even though Weir was No. 20 in the standings. But he is the most popular player in Canada, a former Masters champion whose game has shown signs of turning around.
    'If we didn't have a Canadian in the team and playing in Canada, I can assure you, in my opinion only, the series would be quite flat among the Canadian people,' Player said. 'Mike is a hero in his country, deservedly so.'
    Also back for the International team is Els, who missed in '05 recovering from knee surgery. Els hasn't won on the PGA TOUR in three years, although he contended in the final two majors of the year.
    Both sides might be battling exhaustion at Royal Montreal.
    The Presidents Cup will be played one week after the four-week grind of the FedExCup, which ended at the TOUR Championship. Seven players from the U.S. team and five players from the International team played all four playoff events.
    Woods, who has won four of his last five tournaments, skipped the first playoff event in New York. Even so, he will have played six out of nine weeks when he gets done with the Presidents Cup.
    He doesn't expect that to be a problem in a team event. Four sets of matches played over the first three days (two sessions on Saturday) will be either foursomes or fourballs, with the 12 singles matches on Sunday.
    'Any time you go to team events, if you notice, being in a team atmosphere ... guys pull off shots that they normally don't by themselves,' Woods said. 'I think that's the beauty of having a teammate there. We don't play with teammates week after week, and then we finally do. You can be more aggressive. You can do things that you normally don't get a chance to do because you're always playing pretty conservative out here.'
    Still, that doesn't explain why the Americans seem to tighten up in the Ryder Cup.
    One possibility is that Europe has an easier time rallying under one flag, the European Union. The International team is a fabricated flag, created in 1994 to give the growing roster of international stars a chance to take part in a Ryder Cup format.
    This team hails from six countries ' Argentina, Australia, Canada, Fiji, South Africa and South Korea ' but all of them were PGA TOUR members this year, and most have homes in the United States. The Presidents Cup used to be referred to jokingly as a match between players from the United States and Orlando.
    Europe, even though it has captured the Ryder Cup eight of the last 11 times, still rallies around underdog status because of perceptions its players belong to a second-class tour. The International team has a harder time rallying against the Americans since it spends most of the year as their neighbors.
    Whatever the case, the Presidents Cup again should be close.
    Woods is playing some of the best golf of his career, coming off a 2007 season in which he won seven times and tied his PGA TOUR record with a 67.79 scoring average. Mickelson won three weeks ago in Boston for his third victory of the year, and while this U.S. team has three players who have never played in any cup ' Hunter Mahan, Lucas Glover and Woody Austin ' all are playing well.
    Nine Americans have combined for 18 victories this year.
    The International team counters with the last two U.S. Open champions, Angel Cabrera and Geoff Ogilvy, along with Rory Sabbatini and K.J. Choi, who finished in the top five in the FedExCup.
    'The Americans obviously have had a lot of satisfaction in victories from the Presidents Cup, but haven't managed to find that with the Ryder Cup,' said Stuart Appleby of Australia. 'We've got our own troubles with us trying to get our version of the victory.'
    Related Links:
  • United States Report Card
  • International Report Card
  • Full Coverage - Presidents Cup
  • Getty Images

    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

    Getty Images

    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

    Getty Images

    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

    Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    “I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

    McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

    He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

    Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

    “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

    Getty Images

    Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

    Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

    Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

    Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

    Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

    Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.