Woods Mickelson to Lead Americans

By Associated PressSeptember 16, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 Ryder CupBLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Always rivals, barely friends, finally partners.
U.S. captain Hal Sutton made sure this Ryder Cup gets off to a dynamic start by pairing Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson -- America's best two players -- for the first time in the opening match at Oakland Hills.
'We came here to win,' Sutton said Thursday, determined as ever.
So did Europe, which has captured the Ryder Cup six of the last nine times and showed that it wasn't about to back down. Sensing a Woods-Mickelson pairing was inevitable, European captain Bernhard Langer decided to send out Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington to stop them.
Harrington is Europe's best player. Montgomerie has the best Ryder Cup record.
'We can beat them,' Monty declared. 'We will go to bed with that view, and we will wake up tomorrow morning with that view. And it will be dramatic.'
Not even the glitzy opening ceremony that featured plenty of star power -- from Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps to Detroit Pistons coach Larry Brown to Donald Trump -- could set the stage any better for the three most intense days in golf.

Woods and Mickelson, who have combined to win 63 times on the PGA Tour, sat side-by-side at opening ceremonies as the leading points-earners on the U.S. team.
For the first time in seven team events -- four Ryder Cups, three Presidents Cups -- they will be side-by-side on the tee box Friday morning for the first of four better-ball matches.
The decision is risky.
The last time America's best two players were paired was in the second set of matches at Brookline five years ago, and it gave Europe a huge lift when Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood beat Woods and David Duval.
'If we do win that game, it will have a dramatic effect on the day,' Montgomerie said. 'It would be huge for the European team -- and everybody here -- to see that we can cope with their top two.'
Sutton sees it a differently.
He had this pairing in mind when he was appointed captain two years ago, not sure why other captains never bothered to match golf's two most exciting players.
'I felt like history needed it. I felt like the fans needed it,' Sutton said at opening ceremonies. 'And most of all, I felt like Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods needed it.'
Is it a risk if they lose?
'There's a risk every day in life,' Sutton said, losing patience with anyone who doesn't see his side. 'You cross the street and it's a risk; someone may run over you. This is a risk Hal Sutton is taking. I'm not afraid of this risk. And I challenged them not to be afraid of this risk.'
No one is sure what to expect -- not now.
Mickelson is coming off a stunning year in the biggest events, winning the Masters and coming within a combined five shots of winning the other three majors. But he changed his equipment companies last week and will be playing with a new driver, fairway metals and golf ball at Oakland Hills.
Plus, he put a bulls-eye on his back by not practicing with the team the last two days. He took Wednesday off and played Thursday on the adjacent North course.
Woods is in the midst of his least productive year. His only victory came in February at the Match Play Championship, and his five-year reign at No. 1 in the world ranking ended two weeks ago.
Still, Sutton figures that Tiger is Tiger and Mickelson is the kind of guy who likes to show he can get it done.
'This might be one of the greatest teams ever paired in U.S. history,' Sutton said.
In other better-ball matches Friday morning, Darren Clarke and Miguel Angel Jimenez of Europe will play Davis Love III and Chad Campbell; Paul McGinley and Luke Donald of Europe will play Chris Riley and Stewart Cink; and Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood (3-1 as partners at The Belfry two years ago) will take on David Toms and Jim Furyk.
Sutton purposely kept his players guessing on their partners, wanting them to concentrate on their own games and not how their partners were playing.
Langer started pairing his guys up the last two days, having them play better-ball matches the front nine, and alternate-shot matches on the back.
The only change he made was to swap McGinley for Paul Casey, simply because McGinley has been hot in the last two months and continued to show good form during practice rounds.
'I think I've sent out some very strong pairings,' Langer said. 'They have 12 very strong players, and they're going to have strong pairings no matter who they send out together.'
Still, the focus is squarely on the opening match.
The rivalry between Woods and Mickelson intensified early last year when Lefty joked in a magazine interview that Woods used 'inferior equipment.'
They have never been particularly close off the course. Woods played in the World Cup three straight years until the rules were changed in 2002 requiring the highest-ranked players to represent the U.S. team. With Mickelson the next-ranked player, Woods chose not to play that year.
Even so, Sutton said the pairing sends a strong message about U.S. unity.
Mickelson gave Woods a gentle tap on the back as they were introduced at opening ceremonies, and they returned to their seats with a firm handshake.
'We're fine with it,' Woods said. 'We're totally excited about it. We're geared up. Can't wait to get out there and play.'
Woods might have been speaking for all 24 players from both teams.
After four days of Ryder Cup pomp and gala dinners in tuxedos, it's time to take off the cuff links and play golf.
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    Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

    PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

    She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

    “I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

    Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

    “Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

    She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

    “I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

    Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    “Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

    She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

    “They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

    Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

    While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

    “Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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    Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

    PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

    In fact, she named her “Mona.”

    For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

    While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

    And that has her excited about this year.

    Well, that and having a healthy back again.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    “I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

    Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    “Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

    Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

    She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

    Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

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    Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

    By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

    PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

    Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

    Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.

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    Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:26 am

    PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.

    With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.

    After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.

    “I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”

    It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.

    Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.

    “It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”

    Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

    “Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”

    Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).

    Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.

    “It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”

    Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.

    “This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”

    Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.