Ugly Weather Ugly Americans

By Associated PressSeptember 20, 2006, 4:00 pm
36th Ryder Cup MatchesSTRAFFAN, Ireland -- There are times when the Americans just can't win, such as the Ryder Cup.
 
And sometimes, they don't even have to wait for the matches to get under way.
 
The weather turned so nasty Wednesday morning, with 40 mph gusts that toppled a few trees and brought the rain sideways, that The K Club was closed to the public for nearly three hours. U.S. captain Tom Lehman sent his players back to bed, and only later did both teams believe it best to play for thousands of spectators who eventually got onto the course.
 
But it was no time to take golf seriously, not with the wind blowing the ball all over the place.
 
Lehman fulfilled a prediction he made in February by creating what was believed to be the first 'twelvesome' game in Ryder Cup history, his entire team playing nine holes on a gray, miserable afternoon.
 
But there was a twist.
 
They worked on their short game, starting each hole from about 120 yards away. The gallery wasn't aware of this, so when Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and the rest of the Americans walked from the fourth green, past the fifth tee and kept marching down the middle of the fairway, the Ryder Cup got its first dose of booing.
 
'You don't give a damn about Ireland's public,' shouted one man behind the tee, and hundreds of others nodded.
 
Another man asked Jim Furyk to stop for a picture. He walked over to man's wife, put his arm on her shoulder and posed with a smile.
 
Walking back toward the fairway, Furyk said, 'I guess we're just the ugly Americans.'
 
Lehman later asked for a mulligan.
 
He realized his squad should have performed at least on the first tee, where the grandstands were packed with people. And when he caught up with his team on the seventh hole, he told them to tee off on No. 9, the only drives they hit all day.
 
'We walk down the first hole to about 120 yards short of the green and started from there, and kind of left everybody sitting in the stands by the first tee waiting,' Lehman said. 'That was a mistake. We should have hit a tee shot at least on the first hole. To all of those fans left waiting, I apologize. That was my mistake.'
 
There's always something at the Ryder Cup.
 
Woods riled the English fans at The Belfry four years ago when captain Curtis Strange allowed him to practice at 6 a.m., as he normally does, finishing about the time fans were just showing up.
 
Last time outside Detroit, the Americans were criticized by their own gallery for not signing autographs during the practice rounds. There was a policy against autographs, which the Europeans gladly violated with hopes of winning favor on foreign soil, and it worked.
 
Lehman's apology was sincere, but he had no regrets about what unfolded on The K Club.
 
Furyk recently described the Americans as looking 'constipated' when they get to the Ryder Cup, but not on this day. Asked to describe what kind of game it was, Scott Verplank replied, 'Fun.'
 
It was quite a scene, the 12 Americans and their caddies on the same green, all dressed in black rain suits (an appropriate color).
 
Each player put $100 into the pot on each hole, and formed teams for an alternate-shot match that started within about pitching wedge range except on the par 3s. In case of a tie, there was a chip-off on each hole to determine the winner.
 
Verplank and David Toms were formidable, although don't read too much into that pairing.
 
Verplank won a chip-off on the third by pitching from a knoll beyond the green, over a bunker to within a foot. On the next hole, the par-5 fourth, the players started from 240 yards away, and Woods, Furyk and Brett Wetterich were the only players to reach in two. No matter: Toms chipped in for eagle and the other guys missed their putts.
 
The drama came at the par-4 seventh, a peninsula green.
 
Not only did Lehman have them stop short of the pond, they had to skip the ball off the water and over the rocks rimming the green, similar to a tradition during practice at the Masters.
 
Verplank hit a masterful shot that skipped off the water, over the rocks and banged hard enough into the slight slope that it rolled about 20 feet away from the pin. J.J. Henry and Zach Johnson hit shots that plopped and sank. Chad Campbell was last to hit, and he skipped it over and up to within 3 feet. Wetterich, his partner, knocked in the putt with the entire team watching.
 
Chris DiMarco gets into the Ryder Cup, even in practice.
 
He won a chip-off from the bunker on No. 8 by blasting out to 15 feet, while Wetterich left his in the sand. It must have been the first skin for DiMarco, because he instinctively raised and shook his fist, looking at the fans for some cheers, not realizing they didn't care.
 
But there was banter along the way, even with the caddies.
 
Mike 'Fluff' Cowan was walking to the eighth tee when he spotted an Irish teenager wearing a New York Yankees cap. Cowan has roots in New England, and he couldn't resist.
 
'Name me one player on the New York Yankees. Just one,' he challenged him.
 
The kid shrugged his shoulder and Cowan walked away in mock disgust until the kid returned the challenge.
 
'Name me a Kerry footballer,' he said.
 
'Ian Coughlin,' Cowan replied, choosing two common names from this part of the world.
 
Then they headed off to the practice range, where the Europeans worked quietly. There wasn't much time left, for the black-tie gala dinner was to start at 7:30 p.m.
 
'We took a day that could have been not a whole lot of fun out there -- grinding it out, putting for pars and bogeys and not making very many birdies -- to having a good time,' Toms said. 'That's what we've been stressing to each other. Enjoy the competition, and I thought we did some things where the fans seemed to be enjoying what we were doing.
 
'Plus, I won some money,' Toms said. 'So it was good.'
 
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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

    Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    “I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

    McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

    He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

    Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

    “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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    Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

    Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

    Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

    Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

    Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

    Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.