Notes Miller no fan of captains picks

By Associated PressSeptember 17, 2008, 4:00 pm
Ryder CupLOUISVILLE, Ky. ' Johnny Miller still thinks the U.S. will snap its losing streak to the Europeans, but the outspoken former PGA TOUR star turned commentator isnt a fan of Paul Azingers four captains picks.
 
Miller called Azingers selections of J.B. Holmes, Hunter Mahan, Steve Stricker and Chad Campbell OK but would have traded Holmes for a more veteran player like Scott Verplank.
 
I certainly wouldnt have gone with J.B. Holmes, I tell you that, said Miller.
 
Miller said he would have chosen Verplank, Rocco Mediate, Brandt Snedeker and 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson over Holmes and Campbell, but said his views are like arguing over favorite ice cream flavors.
 
Besides, for all the risk involved with picking lightly experienced players, Miller said the U.S. teams problems over the last 13 years have started at the top with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
 
The great play by (Jim) Furyk, Tiger and Phil has not been there, Miller said. Its why the U.S. has done so poorly. Those three players have really played poorly in Ryder Cup play.
 
The trio has a combined record of 25-37-8, though Woods will be watching this years Cup from home while he rehabs his surgically repaired left knee. That may be a good thing in Millers eyes.
 
Without Tiger there, it surely isnt going to be easy, but if youre a gambler or a statistician, you think How can Europe keep making all these putts?' ' Miller said. Its time for the U.S. If youre a betting man odds are putting is going to flip flop in the U.S.s direction.
 
MISSING THE GREATEST
 
The man was missing, but the message was not.
 
The U.S. team visited the Muhammad Ali Center on Monday night, but a meeting with the former heavyweight champion and Louisville native had to be rescheduled when weather prevented Ali and his wife Lonnie from making the trip from Michigan.
 
Instead the team toured the center, which opened in 2005 and traces Alis life, boxing career and humanitarian efforts. The tour begins with a brief video about Alis legacy based on the Rudyard Kipling poem If.
 
'Its about What if? and dreams, Azinger said. I thought that was an important message. Thats such an important perspective on his life, and its so vast; it reaches beyond sports and athletics. The players loved it. They loved being in there. I just thought it was a great place to start the week.
 
Its not the first time a captain has turned to an American icon to give the team a little boost. Future president George W. Bush read a note written at The Alamo to the 1999 team before it rallied to knock off the Euros at The Country Club in Brookline.
 
Justin Leonard called the visit inspiring, but doesnt think the U.S. needs to look outside for encouragement. The U.S. teams lackluster play ' losing five of the last six Cups, including some in embarrassing fashion ' is plenty enough.
 
I dont think that we as players need that for further motivation, Leonard said. I think the motivation is already there. But it just adds some memories to the week.
 
Azinger remains hopeful the team will get a chance to meet Ali later in the week, and Ali isnt the only luminary Azinger hopes can bring a little juice to the team. Azinger invited former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz to dine with the team on Tuesday.
 
Hell probably say a few words, its hard to get him not to, Azinger said.
 
U.S. WINS (JUNIOR) RYDER CUP:
 
The Americans can only hope to follow the example set by their junior team.
 
The U.S. romped to a 22-2 victory over Europe in the Junior Ryder Cup on Tuesday, winning at The Club at Olde Stone in Bowling Green.
 
The Americans built on their opening-day success in the foursome and mixed four-ball matches, winning 11 of the 12 singles points and earning a halve in the final match.
 
Cory Whitsett of Houston won his match, 6 and 5, over Matteo Manassero of Italy, and Jeffrey Kang of Fullerton, Calif., defeated Moritz Lampert of Germany, 4 and 3.
 
We wanted to play like the matches were zero-to-zero and just go out there and win as many matches as possible, Whitsett said.
 
Jeffrey Kangs singles point secured the victory for the U.S.
 
We really didnt feel any pressure out there today, Kang said. We were able to have fun and play our game.
 
The Americans only other victory came in 1997, when the it was known as the Junior Match and was not a PGA of America sanctioned event. The teams will play a nine-hole friendship match on Wednesday at Valhalla, site of the 2008 Ryder Cup.
 
Related Links:
  • U.S. Report Cards
  • European Report Cards
  • U.S. Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • European Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • Full Coverage - 37th Ryder Cup
  • 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).

    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.