Ryder Cup tide bound to turn

By Brandel ChambleeSeptember 22, 2014, 1:30 pm

Before the Ryder Cup became the schadenfreude parade that it is now, the only reason to keep score used to be so everyone would know when it was over. From 1959-83 the United States never lost. In 1967 after European captain Dai Rees went through lengthy introductions for each of his 12 players, Ben Hogan, the U.S. captain, stood up, motioned to his team and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, the 12 best players in the world,” and then sat down. It was typical Hogan ... but he was wrong.

Jack Nicklaus, who had won seven majors to that point, wasn’t even on the U.S. team.  The PGA of America had a rule that a player had to serve a five-year apprenticeship as a pro before he could be granted full membership, and only then could he begin to accumulate Ryder Cup points. Nicklaus was granted membership in June 1966, and the cutoff for accumulating Ryder Cup points was the following year's Masters. Despite being the two-time defending champion at Augusta, Nicklaus missed the cut and wound up 13th on the Ryder Cup points list. And there were no captain's picks at that time. The same antiquated rule had kept Arnold Palmer out of the Ryder Cup until 1961. No matter - three days after Hogan's terse introduction the United States won, 23 1/2-8 1/2 (from 1963-75 the Ryder Cup consisted of 32 matches), which is the largest margin of victory in the almost 100-year history of this event.

I think what Hogan meant and saw no reason to draw out was that sitting beside him were the 12 best players in that room.

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In 1989 captain Ray Floyd, while introducing his team, on foreign soil no less, pungently echoed Hogan’s words from over two decades before. Sitting in that room — and not on Floyd’s team — were Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam. The late scribe Grantland Rice might have called them the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Together they were the nucleus of Death, Destruction, Pestilence and Famine, at least to the American dominance in the Ryder Cup.

All four of these men would ascend to No. 1 in the world. All four would partner and win with players far less skilled than themselves and the history of each of them became the history of all of them.

Like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Tom Watson had done from the early '60s to the early '80s, Europe’s “Four Horsemen” wrong-footed the opposition. But more than that, they obliterated what the Ryder Cup had been. By beating the Americans they turned a cult into a major religion.

Of course this stands to reason. Seve, Nick, Bernhard and Woosie were the best players in the world and the Ryder Cup is to golf what the Pro Bowl and the All-Star Game are to football and baseball: a venue for the best to show off.

And when the best face off against each other, over time the talents of each side see-saw to bring the contest to an equilibrium.

Don't believe it? Let's look at Major League Baseball's All-Star Game and the NFL's Pro Bowl.

Since the inception of the All-Star Game in 1933 (when Babe Ruth hit the first homer in All-Star Game history to lead the American League over the National League), the NL has won 43 to the AL’s 40, with two ties. There have been eras when one team dominated the other - from 1963-1982 the NL won 19 of 20 games but since 1988 the AL has won 20 of 27, wth one tie - but overall the results have been largely equal. 

A tally of runs scored mirrors the results; AL 349, NL 355. 

Football's Pro Bowl dates to 1950 but since 1971 it has pitted the AFC and the NFC. Over that time the NFC has 22 wins to the AFC’s 21.

Parity gets a bad rap, but it’s alive in baseball, football and golf.

Now to the Ryder Cup, which the U.S. leads all time 25-12-2 but is currently in a cycle of European dominance. Europe has won seven of the last nine matches, but a longer view takes us back to 1979, when the Great Britain and Ireland team was expanded to include all of Europe. Over that period Europe's lead is just 9-7-1. And since 1979 out of a possible 476 points, Europe has 241 1/2-234 1/2 for the U.S. In the last 17 Ryder Cups these two teams are separated by just seven points, with two of those points coming in the last two contests.

Taken as a whole, it gives one a different view of Europe’s dominance of late.

Perhaps this is the year that the Americans reverse the trend. But then maybe the Ryder Cup has become something so different from its origins, so animated, so confrontational, so jingoistic that it no longer suits the insulated sameness that it is to be an American millionaire Tour player.

Maybe the sour taste of the losing records of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk has impacted this generation of U.S. players the same way the spirit of Seve lives in Garcia, Westwood and in particular Poulter, who plays this event with the swollen arrogance of Henry the VIII. But it is all of this ... the losing and the yelling and the screaming and the history and the singing that make the Ryder Cup the greatest week in golf. Regardless of who wins.

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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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.”