Time and Tears for Europes Rock

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2006, 4:00 pm
36th Ryder Cup MatchesSTRAFFAN, Ireland -- He hugged everyone, his playing partner, captain, caddie, his opponents and their caddies, too, even one of their wives.
That's because Darren Clarke will never again hold the one person he wanted to hug most. Almost six weeks after Heather Clarke succumbed to cancer, her husband of 10 years stood on the first tee Friday morning at the Ryder Cup and stared through misting eyes down the barrel of the toughest tee shot he ever faced.
Darren Clarke
Darren Clarke receives a warm welcome from the fans on the first tee at the K Club.
He striped it.
'I don't know how I managed to do that. Sort of tee it up and get it somewhere down there, and it went flush, flush, flush and made a 3.
'It was,' Clarke added a moment later, 'good.'
It was better than that actually, a birdie that set the tone for a match in which Clarke and trusty sidekick Lee Westwood outlasted the American duo of Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco 1-up. Soon after it was official, and not long after Clarke buried his head on a few shoulders and was embraced by Amy Mickelson, someone asked whether the tears welling in his eyes at the end were a sign of joy or relief.
'Emotions, hopefully, you won't ever have to feel,' Clarke replied. 'That's basically what they were.'
Much has been made about how Europeans dominate the Ryder Cup -- winning four of the last five and seven of the last 10 -- because they play like a team instead of a collection of talented individuals. That was apparent even in Thursday's opening ceremonies, when the Americans again were introduced, beginning with Tiger Woods, according to their world rankings and the Europeans, as always, in alphabetical order.
Much has been made, too, about how Clarke's recent loss would bind an already close-knit bunch even tighter. There was plenty to support that theory, too.
In a classy gesture, he was hugged by Mickelson and DiMarco on the first tee and then was wrapped up in an ovation so long, loud and warm that you half-expected Clarke to float off down the fairway behind his golf ball. Every grandstand after that treated him to an encore, and along almost every fairway, cheers broke out ahead of Clarke to replace those that died out behind.
'I was very, very wary of trying not to make it too loud,' he said, 'in case that would be perceived as using the crowd in my favor. That's not what I wanted at all. I was very grateful for the support. I think they showed me that they care.'
A quieter but just as powerful dynamic is at work behind the scenes. Clarke's teammates, mindful of how often he's delivered in past Ryder Cups, have tried their level best to provide support without having it feel like pity. Clark made that delicate task easy.
'He's sort of the rock on our team,' Paul Casey said. 'It's been very emotional, but we're all there for him, and I think he's having a cracking time so far.'
Clarke was hardly the only European feeling that way after his side rang up a 5-3 lead on opening day, in part because he and Jose Maria Olazabal, another decorated veteran, offered to sit out the second session so captain Ian Woosnam could get every one of his dozen players on the course. And each, in turn, contributed at least half a point.
That was in sharp contrast to the U.S. side, where Scott Verplank and rookie Vaughn Taylor never got into the game, and another rookie, Brett Wetterich, lost his morning match and didn't get the chance to redeem himself in the afternoon.
Westwood, on the other hand, had little problem going out in the alternate-shot session without Clarke, making Woosnam's mix-and-match philosophy work by combining with Colin Montgomerie to halve their match with Mickelson and DiMarco.
'I've never played with Monty before,' Westwood said, 'but Woosie asked him who he would like to play with and he said me, which was nice.'
By the same token, Westwood, the Englishman, made his name riding shotgun for Clarke, from Northern Ireland, and the two will be back together Saturday in a better-ball match against Woods and Jim Furyk. They've become such close pals while beating the likes of Woods, Mickelson and even U.S. captain Tom Lehman during the last three Ryder Cups that not only do their styles fit together seamlessly, they often finish each other's sentences.
During one post-match interview, Clarke was looking for the words to describe his reception on the first tee when Westwood interjected, 'I was nearly crying myself.' A moment later, Clarke said about the opening tee shot, 'That was always going to be a tough ...' and before he could finish, Westwood cut in grinning, 'and then hit it 340 yards right down the middle.'
Clarke was on his own in the interview room later, though, and he wanted to make a point of sharing the credit for his sparkling play on what had been a very difficult day. He praised Westwood to the skies, then Mickelson and DiMarco, his teammates, his opponents and 'everyone involved with the event.'
Clarke's two sons, Tyrone, who just turned 8, and Conor, who's 6, were still in school, but he had few doubts his older boy would figure out a way to see the replay.
'He knows how to work it,' Clark laughed, 'better than I do.'
Whether that win would help lift their spirits was a question Clarke left unanswered. But when the same question was put to him, Clarke didn't hesitate.
'The only thing that can do that,' he said, 'is time.'
Related Links:
  • Ryder Cup Scoring
  • Full Coverage - 36th Ryder Cup Matches
  • Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

    By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

    Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.

    Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan

    By Randall MellNovember 23, 2017, 2:54 pm

    Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.

    Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.

    Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:

    “Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”

    Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.

    “When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”

    Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.

    “Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”

    In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.

    “Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”

    Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.

    “The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”

    Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.

    “Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to GolfChannel.com.

    Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:

    Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:

    LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:

    Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

    Christina Kim:

    LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

    LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

    LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

    LPGA pro Jennie Lee:

    Fitzpatrick one back in 2018 Euro Tour opener

    By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 1:37 pm

    HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia had six birdies and a bogey Thursday for a 5-under 65 and a one-stroke lead at the Hong Kong Open, the first event of the 2018 European Tour season.

    Playing in sunny but breezy conditions at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the greens had the players struggling to gauge the approach.

    ''Very tough conditions today,'' Chawrasia said. ''It's very firm greens, to be honest. I'm just trying to hit the second shot on the green and trying to make it like a two-putt.''

    Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open

    Shubhankar Sharma and Matthew Fitzpatrick (both 66) were one shot behind, while seven others were tied for fourth a further stroke behind.

    ''Hit it great tee to green,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''I think I had like seven or eight chances inside 15 feet, and on a day like today when it's so windy and such a tough golf course, with how tight it is, yeah, it was a good day.''

    Justin Rose, who won the title in 2015, shot was 2 under with five birdies and three bogeys.

    ''I think the course played a couple shots harder than it typically does,'' Rose said. ''I like this course. I think it offers plenty of birdie opportunities.''

    Masters champion Sergio GarciaRafa Cabrera Bello and defending champion Sam Brazel (69) were in a group of 16 at 1 under.

    Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

    By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

    The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

    Leaderboard: Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

    What it means: Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

    Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

    Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

    Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

    Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday.