Notes Sun-splashed ceremony kicks off Matches

By Associated PressSeptember 18, 2008, 4:00 pm
Ryder CupLOUISVILLE, Ky. ' The only thing missing was the bourbon.
Valhalla gave the Ryder Cup teams a warm Bluegrass welcome Thursday with the kind of pomp and circumstance normally reserved for the Kentucky Derby.
There were flyovers, marching bands, national anthems and the playing of My Old Kentucky Home during the sun-splashed opening ceremonies, as thousands turned out to kick off the biggest golf event in the states history.
The festivities also drew out the differences between chatty European captain Nick Faldo and more reserved U.S. captain Paul Azinger.
Faldo gave an expansive introduction of each player and cracked jokes during a lengthy speech in which he invoked everything from the Derby to Louisville native and former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, who made a visit to the course earlier in the day.
We may look like we floated in on a butterfly, but we are here to sting like a bee, Faldo said, borrowing one of Alis most memorable phrases.
Azinger, perhaps eager to get on with things as he tries to lead the United States to its first victory in nine years, couldnt help but give Faldo a little jab when he finally wrapped it up.
Id like to thank Nick for being brief, Azinger said with a chuckle.
The ceremony also included a gathering of some of the most notable captains in Cup history.
Ben Crenshaw, who captained the 1999 U.S. team and famously said he had a feeling before Sundays singles play that year even though the teams faced a hefty deficit, isnt making any kind of predictions this year.
Ive got a feeling weve got nothing to lose, Crenshaw said.
Jack Nicklaus, who designed Valhalla, and former European player and captain Tony Jacklin also spoke briefly about the 1969 Cup in which Nicklaus conceded a short putt to Jacklin on the 18th hole of their singles match, resulting in the first tie in Ryder Cup history.
Nicklaus said he decided to tell Jacklin to pick it up out of respect for how Jacklins team played that week. Jacklin, however, was too stunned to think about the ramifications of the gesture at the time.
I was just relieved I didnt have to make it, he said.
Much has been made of Faldo only having one assistant captain in Jose Maria Olazabal, while Azinger can rely on Dave Stockton, Raymond Floyd and Olin Browne.
Faldo, though, has a few backups to help him keep an eye on the four matches.
Billy Foster, one of two caddies for Sergio Garcia, is at Valhalla as an extra hand and will scout some matches. The other helper was a surprise ' Martin Kaymer of Germany, who is ranked No. 43 in the world and nearly made the team.
I had an idea a while back, that I felt it was a great opportunity to bring some rookies here who just missed out on the team, Faldo said. I thought it would be a good experience for them to come and feel it. They literally will be right next to me. I havent given Martin a role, but could send him out with another match.
Jim Furyk skipped Thursday mornings final practice round to be with wife Tabitha when she was taken to a hospital with intense back pain.
Azinger said Tabitha Furyk has a bulging disk that has been bothering her for some time. Azinger said Furyk was having a hard time concentrating and left to join his wife.
She had a lot of discomfort in the back of her head kind of, nerves through a bulging disk and than can radiate, Azinger said. The word I got was that everything was fine; shes resting comfortably.
Azinger said Furyk has been hitting the ball well and didnt need to squeeze in a final few holes. Furyk returned to participate in the opening ceremonies on Thursday afternoon.
Alis surprise visit broke up a relatively quiet morning at Valhalla.
Ali showed up in a cart on the 10th tee just as the American team began its final day of practice.
His hands trembling from Parkinsons disease, the former heavyweight champ waved to the cheering gallery. Ali got out of the cart to pose with the U.S. team for a photo.
After the final group teed off, the 66-year-old Ali drove to the front nine and met with the European team.
Some of the Europeans were already on the second hole when the call came in that Ali was on the grounds. They quickly hopped on a golf cart and sped back to the first tee while the caddies stayed behind.
The visit choked up Faldo, who declined to talk about it afterward.
Dont start me again, Faldo said. Im about there with emotions this week, already. I need to get it out somewhere.
Ali was born in Louisville, and both teams toured the Muhammad Ali Center earlier in the week.
U.S. Ryder Cup rookie and noted big-hitter J.B. Holmes didnt miss a chance to show off on the practice tee.
Finishing his warmup Thursday, the Kentucky native grabbed his driver and pointed to the roof of the pavilion that was to host the opening ceremonies later in the day.
One mighty swing later, the ball clanged off the roof as the highly partisan crowd roared.
Holmes, however, wasnt the only one playing to the fans during the final day of practice. European team member Ian Poulter was so confident after hitting a short putt that he reached down to pick the ball out of the hole before it even dropped.
One problem: it didnt. The ball rolled around the cup and back out, and an exasperated Poulter feigned embarrassment while his teammates laughed. Poulter signed the ball and then threw it into the crowd, part of a competition between the teams to see who could sign the most autographs.
Felt black markers were in plentiful supply for both teams, a lesson the U.S. learned after the 2004 Cup at Oakland Hills. The teams agreed before the Cup that year to abstain from signing autographs, a deal the Europeans broke in an effort to curry favor with the U.S. crowd.
The Americans wont be able to blame a loss on having too many black-tie dinners.
For the first time, the PGA of America combined the welcome dinner (typically held Tuesday) with the black-tie gala dinner on Wednesday at the Kentucky Center in downtown Louisville.
So when the well-heeled VIPs took their seats for dinner, the players were in another room having dinner. Part of that was a response to last time in Ireland, when officials asked the guests to keep their space from the players, yet both teams were hounded by handshakes and autograph requests.
After the dinner, guests were invited into a theater where the players were introduced, and captains Nick Faldo and Paul Azinger answered questions from the emcee, NBC Sports anchor Dan Hicks.
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
  • Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

    By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

    Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

    With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

    Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

    The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

    Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

    In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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    Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

    By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

    After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

     There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

    It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

    It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

    “The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

    In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

    Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

    Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

    “You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

    Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

    Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

    If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

    For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

    Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

    Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

    While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

    When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

    Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

    After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

    The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

    That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

    The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

    While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

    Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

    Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

    “We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

    The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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    Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

    John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

    That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

    Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

    Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

    Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

    Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

    World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

    Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.