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
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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.