Notes New Spanish Armada US No Shows

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2006, 4:00 pm
36th Ryder Cup MatchesSTRAFFAN, Ireland -- Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal were the most prolific partnership in Ryder Cup history, known as the 'Spanish Armada' for going 11-2-2 in team matches.
So when Olazabal and Sergio Garcia won the only match that didn't go 18 holes on Friday, the question was obvious.
Is this the next great Spanish duo in the Ryder Cup?
'I'm running out of years,' said the 40-year-old Olazabal, playing his first Ryder Cup since 1999. 'We'll see. It was really nice to play with Sergio, and it was beautiful to be part of the team again.'
Olazabal and Garcia never have been particularly close, so the pairing was peculiar. But they looked like long-lost brothers at The K Club, walking off greens with arms draped around shoulders, chattering away in Spanish as they helped each other read putts.
The golf was nothing short of splendid.
'He made things very simple for me,' Garcia said.
Garcia opened the match with a long birdie putt, and Olazabal added birdie on the next hole. They never trailed in their fourball match against David Toms and Brett Wetterich, and the 26-year-old Garcia essentially closed them out with a 10-foot birdie on the 15th.
Olazabal said it was different playing with Ballesteros, one of the most creative players in history who won five majors and could get up-and-down from almost anywhere (including a parking lot at one British Open).
'Seve and I, we're pretty similar,' said Olazabal, a two-time Masters champion. 'When we're off the tee, we had to counteract with a lot of guts and heart. Playing alongside Sergio, it's like watching golf at its best. He played extremely well. He drove the ball very straight. He rarely missed a shot. I have to say, it's more relaxing. Not so much excitement, maybe.'
The only shots hit by Scott Verplank and Vaughn Taylor came on the practice range.
Taylor has not been playing well during practice, hitting one 3-wood that barely got off the ground. But Verplank's absence was a surprise, particularly because he was a captain's pick.
Why pick him if you're not going to use him?
'That's a question for Tom,' Verplank said while taking a break hitting chips.
Verplank went 2-1-0 in his only other Ryder Cup, and he is best suited for alternate shot as the straightest hitter on the team. With preferred lies in effect because of the soggy course, it would have been a safe bet that his partner would be using a clean ball.
Lehman did not answer directly about sitting out Verplank, only saying he liked the teams he had.
Verplank, too, was diplomatic.
'As an individual, I'm disappointed I'm not playing, especially alternate shot,' he said. 'As a team player, he's the captain, the coach, the man in charge. I'll go with whatever he wants to do.'
Verplank suffered a minor back injury three weeks ago, but he looked solid during practice. Asked if his back was hurting, Verplank replied, 'No. It feels great.'
It was the first time since 1999 that an American sat out the first day. Steve Pate, another captain's pick, and Mark O'Meara did not play until Saturday at The Country Club.
The players weren't the only players who showed some nerves on the first tee.
Ivor Robson, the baritone Brit who for years has served as the official starter of the British Open, was on the first tee at The K Club when he cleared his throat and announced the first session of matches as foursomes.
Oops. The first round was fourballs.
'It even got to Ivor,' Colin Montgomerie said of the pressure. 'That shows you what it felt like.'
The pressure also got to Tiger Woods. He took a divot with his fairway metal and hooked his opening shot into a pond.
He is considered one of the greatest to ever play his sport, and certainly one of the most clutch performers. And he was standing around the tee box at The K Club, never too far from Jim Furyk.
Michael Jordan is becoming a regular visitor at the Ryder Cup.
The former Chicago Bulls star spent most of his day following Woods, a close friend and kindred spirit. Jordan referred to the Ryder Cup as 'like the Olympics' for Woods, although golf's No. 1 player hardly has been part of a Dream Team.
'He tries real hard. He wants to be a great leader. He wants to play well,' Jordan said. 'People want to make excuses for him not playing well, but he never makes excuses. He values this competition.'
Jordan, allowed inside the ropes with a TV pass, picked up Woods as his morning fourball match made the turn. Woods had struggled, but then made consecutive birdies to stake he and Furyk to a lead they never gave up.
'It doesn't take much to get him going,' Jordan said. 'He was off to a slow start, but that doesn't stop him. It's hard to break his spirit. He's been there many times.'
Stewart Cink and David Howell were each a cruel inch or two from turning a nice day into a great one.
Paired against each other in the afternoon foursome matches, they had almost identical looks at birdie putts that would have won their match on the 18th hole.
Howell's peaked at the hole and barely slid by, causing the Brit to flip his putter in the air in despair. A second later, Cink barely missed and looked heavenward and smiled.
They wound up halving the best-played match of an afternoon in which every match came down to the 18th hole. It was a match that included eight birdies and only a single bogey, one in which neither team took more than a one-hole lead.
'It was a great game,' Howell said. 'A bit of a roller coaster, but a great game.'
For Cink, the day ended with two matches, two ties, one point for the Americans.
'I played almost exactly the same, both morning and afternoon,' he said. 'Felt pretty good all the way, and you know, I haven't won yet, but I haven't lost, either.'
Bookmakers have shortened the odds on Europe winning the Ryder Cup to 4-9 after Ian Woosnam's team finished the opening day with a 5-3 lead over the United States. That compares with 5-6 before a ball was hit.
American odds went up from 11-10 to 21-10.
Punters also believe Sergio Garcia will be the star of this Ryder Cup, installing him at 6-1 to finish with a perfect record.
Playing with Jim Furyk meant Tiger Woods had a familiar Ryder Cup face in his group -- Mike 'Fluff' Cowan, who was Woods' caddie when he made his debut at Valderrama in 1997, works for Furyk now. ... Furyk won a fourball match for the first time in the Ryder Cup. ... Mickelson is 1-6-1 in his last eight matches at the Ryder Cup. ... Among those in the gallery were former President Bush, a regular at Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup matches. ... PGA of America officers still feel obliged to wear uniforms and walk down the fairways, but at least this year they decided not to wear the same shirts as the players.
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.