A Tale of Two Continents at Ryder Cup

By Associated PressSeptember 16, 2006, 4:00 pm
36th Ryder Cup MatchesTom Lehman stayed up all night agonizing over his captain's picks for the Ryder Cup before finally picking up the phone and telling Davis Love III and a few others that it ripped his gut apart not to be able to take them to Ireland.
Ian Woosnam, meanwhile, walked into a bar and casually told Thomas Bjorn he wasn't going to be on the European team.

Oh, and barkeep, while I'm here would you mind pouring me a pint?
'In a bar,' a bitter Bjorn said. 'That kind of sums it up.'
Trouble on the European team? Hardly, because Bjorn didn't wait long before apologizing to everyone around for any disparaging comments he made about the pint-sized European captain.
Besides, nothing much shakes these Euros. They beat up on Tiger Woods on a regular basis, know how to play alternate shot, and don't tremble at the thought of having to make a 5-footer on Sunday afternoon with the pride of a continent at stake.
All good reasons why they've won four of the last five of these things, and are the favorites to be hoisting seed salesman Samuel Ryder's cup above their heads at The K Club.
But there's more to it than that. There has to be, because the recent European dominance of the cup makes no logical sense.
America has the best players in the world, including the top three in the world rankings at last glance. And Americans win the major championships, something a European hasn't done since Paul Lawrie won the British Open seven years ago.
Yet somehow they get drubbed almost every time they put a flag on their shirt.
Just how is it that Colin Montgomerie can't come close to sniffing a par from the fairway on the final hole of the U.S. Open, yet can't lose when playing for national pride? How does Sergio Garcia manage to elevate his game for his teammates when he can't do it in the final round of a major championship?
And how can the greatest player of his time -- perhaps all time -- play so miserably when he has to play with someone else?
Maybe it's because the Europeans take it more seriously than the Americans. More likely, it's because they don't take themselves as seriously as the Yanks.
When Woods took the rookies of the U.S. team out for dinner at a fancy steakhouse one night last month the golf world was astonished. So apparently were the rooks, one of whom, Brett Wetterich, had never met Woods.
Contrast that to the on-course leader of the European team. When he's playing the PGA TOUR, you can usually find Monty in the corner booth of the local Chili's. Across the pond, he's likely as not to be joining the lads in the hotel bar for an after-round libation.
Americans try their best to manufacture camaraderie every two years for players whose idea of conversation with each other at any other time is limited to 'You're out.' They bring in fine chefs, stock a room with every toy and game imaginable, and hope some serious bonding goes on.
Lehman went one step further this year, convincing Woods and Phil Mickelson to leave their private rides home and go on a charter with the team to Ireland for two days. Once there, they practiced their games, learned the names of some of their teammates, and practiced how to get along with each other.
With the Europeans, it's already there.
They know each other, socialize with each other, root for each other. Like the Americans, most of them are millionaires. Unlike the Americans, they don't act as though being rich and playing golf for a living was their birthright.
Most of them are stuck on a minor league tour that zigzags through Europe and Asia, playing mostly before small and apathetic crowds. The Ryder Cup is their moment in the spotlight, their time to shine.
They've now won seven of the last 10 of these events, which, by the way, never seemed to mean that much when the Americans were regularly whipping the British. Even Woods says -- and the oddsmakers agree -- that they will be the favorites in Ireland.
With good reason. Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk may be the top three players in the world but they're a combined 20-28-7 in the Ryder Cup. The current U.S. team is a pathetic 31-39-10 overall, and will start four players who have never played a Ryder Cup match.
The Europeans, meanwhile, are 75-42-21.
In the end, it's not the numbers that really matter. What matters is the Europeans understand how to take an individual game and make a team sport out of it.
It's something the Americans have yet to figure out.
And a few days in Ireland isn't likely to change that.
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.