US Stars Not Shining Once Again

By Associated PressSeptember 23, 2006, 4:00 pm
36th Ryder Cup MatchesSTRAFFAN, Ireland -- It's a lesson they should have learned in preschool. Somehow, though, it's hard to imagine Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods coming home with a smiley-face sticker for playing well with others.
 
Grown-ups get points for doing just that in the Ryder Cup.
 
Mickelson and Woods won't be going home with many of those. Barring a Brookline-like miracle, they won't be carrying the Ryder Cup with them, either.
 
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson may be looking for a place to hide this week.
Often brilliant as individuals, the United States' best just can't seem to find a way to play with each other. It happens every time, despite the best efforts of any number of American captains to figure out a solution.
 
Mickelson and Chris DiMarco were a disaster. Woods and Jim Furyk looked more like journeymen than the top two players in the world.
 
Captain Tom Lehman didn't send either to the corner for a time out. Perhaps he should have, because when your stars take a pounding, the rest of team begins getting queasy.
 
Especially when the rest of that team isn't as good as the rest of the other team.
 
'You don't like looking up there and seeing your superstar teams getting it handed to them,' Scott Verplank said.
 
That must have made the sight of Mickelson especially scary. Here's a guy who won the Masters, should have won the U.S. Open and is arguably the best player in the world whose first name is not Eldrick.
 
When Lefty left the course Saturday afternoon, though, here's the grand total he contributed in four matches -- one half of one point.
 
Let's put that in perspective. Vaughn Taylor is a Ryder Cup rookie and thought to be the weakest link on this team coming in. He played in one match -- and won the same half-point as Mickelson.
 
You might have thought Lehman would sit Mickelson down as his struggles became more apparent. You might have thought that, but Lehman apparently didn't.
 
He didn't even consider it.
 
'No,' was the short answer.
 
Lehman, of course, plays golf for a living. The captain thing is a part-time gig that will end sometime early Sunday evening. By all accounts, he has tried his best to make a go of it and win his country a Ryder Cup.
 
So maybe we shouldn't be so harsh. But there comes a time to cut your losses, and Lehman just couldn't bring himself to do it.
 
It's not because Lehman is too nice of a guy, because he didn't mind telling Verplank as he played the 13th hole Saturday that he was reneging on a promise to play him twice. And it's not like he didn't see Mickelson imploding, because he's been out there watching for two days.
 
No, the American team has a star system. And Lehman decided long before he even got here that he was going to live and die with his stars.
 
That meant Mickelson played every match. It also meant Woods and Furyk were going to be joined at the hip for this Ryder Cup, no matter how many wayward shots they hit or short putts they missed.
 
Woods was the nearest thing to a lock inside five feet all year on the PGA Tour. But he missed a half dozen of those putts in his four matches. Even a win in the last match of the day couldn't disguise the fact that the American team got only two points from possibly the best player ever and the guy right behind him in the world rankings.
 
Do the math yourself. The top three players in the world combined for 2 1/2 points for the U.S. team. Sergio Garcia won four on his own for the Europeans.
 
You don't bench Woods, of course. But did Lehman ever think of splitting he and Furyk up?
 
'No.'
 
If Lehman's pairings seemed uninspired, so did his team. The points weren't coming from the top, and the other guys couldn't help noticing.
 
Woods is 6-12-1 when playing with others, while Furyk is an even more anemic 3-11-1. Mickelson is 6-9-4, and 1-8-1 overall in his last 10 matches.
 
For some reason, the Europeans have no such problems with their best players. They enjoy the camaraderie of team play. They like hanging out together, and they enjoy winning together.
 
All the fist bumps and fist pumps the Americans exchange don't equal the warmth of one hug between the Euros. And when things go wrong, it's usually every American for himself.
 
'If you're out there and your partner misses a shot you know the only thing you do is just give them a laugh and just encouragement,' Garcia said. 'You don't give them any weird looks or anything. That's not the way to go, and that's not the way to win Ryder Cup.'
 
That was a thinly veiled jab at Woods, who does not suffer fools on the golf course easily, even if they're wearing the same uniform.
 
The Americans are getting used to taking punches in team play. They can't seem to play well together.
 
They will get no smiley faces this time around.
 
And they won't have any smiles on their faces on Sunday either.
 
Related Links:
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  • Full Coverage - 36th Ryder Cup Matches
  • Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME

    By Nick MentaNovember 18, 2017, 8:47 pm

    Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.

    Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)

    What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.

    Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.

    Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.

    Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.

    Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.

    Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.

    Watch: Pros try to hit 2-yard wide fairway in Dubai

    By Grill Room TeamNovember 18, 2017, 5:20 pm

    While in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour prestented a little challenge to Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay, Nicolas Colsaerts and Soren Kjeldsen. On a stretch of road outside of town, the four players had to try and hit a 2-yard wide fairway. Check out the results.

    Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai

    By Associated PressNovember 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the season-ending Tour Championship as he attempts to win a third straight title on the European Tour and a second career Race to Dubai crown.

    The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for a 7-under 65 Saturday and overall 15-under 201.

    The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.

    Rose is looking to be Europe's season-ending No. 1 for the second time. His leading rival for the Race to Dubai title, Tommy Fleetwood, is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

    Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.

    ''So, last day of the season and I've got a chance to win the Race to Dubai,'' Fleetwood said. ''It's cool.''


    DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship


    Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Race to Dubai title, is tied for 13th on 10 under after a 67.

    Fleetwood had a lead of 256,737 points going into the final tournament and needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

    Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey.

    Rose, who made some long putts for birdies apart from chipping in on the 13th hole, looked to be throwing away his advantage on the par-5 18th, when his second shot fell agonizingly short of the green and into the water hazard. But with his short game in superb condition, the reigning Olympic champion made a difficult up-and-down shot to stay ahead.

    ''That putt at the last is a big confidence-builder. That broke about 18 inches right-to-left downhill. That's the kind of putt I've been hoping to make. That was a really committed stroke. Hopefully I can build on that tomorrow,'' said Rose. ''I know what I need to do to stay at the top of the leaderboard. If I slip up tomorrow, he's (Fleetwood) right there. He's done everything he needs to do on his end, so it's a lot of fun.''

    The last player to win three tournaments in a row on the European Tour was Rory McIlroy, when he won the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in 2014.

    Fleetwood was 1 over after seven holes but turned it on with a hat trick of birdies from the eighth, and then four in a row from No. 13.

    ''I wanted to keep going. Let's bring the tee times forward for tomorrow,'' quipped Fleetwood after closing with a birdie on the 18th. ''Just one of them strange days where nothing was going at all. A couple sloppy pars on the par 5s, and a bad tee shot on fifth and I was 1-over through seven on a day where scoring has been really good ... Ninth and 10th, felt like we had something going ... it was a really good last 11 holes.''

    If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.