Rookie bring no baggage just confidence

By Associated PressSeptember 17, 2008, 4:00 pm
Ryder CupLOUISVILLE, Ky. ' A recurring theme when Paul Azinger huddles with his U.S. team is to forget the past at the Ryder Cup.
 
He can be sure at least half of them get the message.
 
Ben Curtis was playing the mini-tours when Phillip Price and Paul McGinley delivered crucial points in Sunday singles to win at The Belfry in 2002, the opening blow in this decade of domination for Europe.
 
Anthony Kim was still in college when Padraig Harrington dropped one last putt at Oakland Hills to give Europe its biggest rout.
 
Anthony Kim
Anthony Kim tees off Wednesday at Valhalla. (Getty Images)
Boo Weekley?
 
He doesnt watch much golf on TV, so he might have been in a deer stand with a rifle slung over his shoulder when Darren Clarke provided the inspiration and Sergio Garcia provided most of the points in another record romp for Europe at The K Club.
 
They are among six rookies on the American team, the most in nearly 40 years, who have no Ryder Cup experience. Considering what happened the last three times ' and eight of the last 11 dating to 1985 ' they might be the Americans greatest asset.
 
Not being a part of the last few U.S. teams is not necessarily a bad thing, said Phil Mickelson, whose best Ryder Cup was his first one in 1995 when he went 3-0. So the guys who havent played, they have never lost this event.
 
It is an eclectic group, for sure.
 
Steve Stricker is a 41-year-old father of two with impeccable Midwestern manners who has been grinding away at golf for nearly two decades. He won twice on the PGA TOUR the year before Tiger Woods turned pro, plunged into a slump so deep he wondered if he would ever get out, then emerged over the last two years to rise as high as No. 3 in the ranking.
 
His greatest thrill in golf was when Azinger called to tell him he was a captains pick.
 
Right at the top, Stricker said. Its a great opportunity, something that Ill have forever.
 
Kim is a 23-year-old who grew up in LA and walks with a swagger, assuming he is not weighed down by his garish AK belt buckles. His college years at Oklahoma were marred by skirmishes with his coach, but the kid settled down and showed his potential this year, winning the Wachovia Championship and AT&T National at Congressional to become the youngest U.S. rookie since Woods made the team at 21.
 
Even as the tension builds, Kim breezes along Valhalla without a care.
 
I dont see anybody being tight, Kim said. Im sure as the tournament nears, theres definitely a little bit more added pressure. But were out here to have a good time. We have nothing to lose. Like Paul said, were the underdogs this week. Were going to go out there and freewheel it and make a lot of birdies and have some fun.
 
Kim played in a Walker Cup with J.B. Holmes, another rookie picked primarily for his roots (Kentucky) and his power. He has stopped traffic at Valhalla with some of his tee shots, including his drive onto the island green at the 352-yard 13th hole that players from both teams have been talking about.
 
The other rookie is Hunter Mahan, who made it through his first big test on Tuesday when the British press grilled him over his comments earlier this year in a magazine interview, in which he referred to the Ryder Cup as a moneymaking machine and said he heard that players were treated like slaves by the PGA of America.
 
Im just looking forward to playing golf now, Mahan said.
 
This is his second trip to the Ryder Cup, although the first one didnt last long. He was part of the Junior Ryder Cup team in 1999 that hung around on Saturday to watch the real show at Brookline.
 
That was the last time the Americans won the Ryder Cup.
 
Ive never seen anything like it, Mahan said, referring to the partisan support from the gallery, although he could have just as easily been talking about a U.S. victory.
 
Europe had five rookies on its 2004 team, and captain Bernhard Langer kept three of them out of action until the second day. One of those rookies, Paul Casey, thought that was a smart move because it gave them time to get used to noise and the nerves.
 
Azinger doesnt have that option. At least two of them will in the opening lineup Friday morning.
 
He might use all six.
 
I wouldnt have any trouble putting rookie and rookie together, he said. Sometimes, I think its more difficult to go out with an experienced player. I think sometimes the rookie feels like he has something to prove to that guy. But when you talk about rookies these guys all know that theyre equally as good as the guys who have played in the Ryder Cup before.
 
Weekley and Curtis are probably the most inexperienced.
 
Jack Nicklaus had Mahan hit the opening tee shot in the Presidents Cup last year in Montreal, and he split the middle. The only hiccup was when the strap on his bag broke leaving the first tee, a slightly embarrassing moment. Mahan played with Stricker, and they won both their matches. Stricker also went 5-0 at the Dunhill Cup in St. Andrews in 1996.
 
Kim and Holmes were teammates at the Walker Cup in 2005, which the Americans won outside Chicago.
 
Weekley is soaking it all in, starting with his uniform. The guy who first joined the PGA Tour by wearing rain pants and tennis shoes found himself in some mighty fine threads during the first day of practice.
 
I can tell you right now, these pants Ive got on are probably the most expensive thing Ive ever owned, Weekley said. These things here, they felt like a pair of silk underwear when youre getting ready to go hunting. Theyre unreal.
 
More important than how they look is how they play ' and how much they can put the last three Ryder Cups behind them.
 
I think the past has got to change, Weekley said. You dont know what youve got until you get out there and play with it. Its like getting a new pack of hounds when we were growing up and going deer hunting. You dont know what kind of dogs youve got until you run them. So lets run them and well see.
 
Related Links:
  • U.S. Report Cards
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  • U.S. Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • European Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • Full Coverage - 37th Ryder Cup
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    After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

    Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

    Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

    It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


    On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

    There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

    He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

    His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

    Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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    Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

    With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

    He picked up one more No. 2, too.

    The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

    In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

    Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

    “It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

    Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

    Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

    He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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    Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

    Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

    Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

    His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

    “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

    Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

    Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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    Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

    Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

    Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

    What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

    Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

    Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

    Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

    Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

    Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

    Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry