Fast Start Stout Hearts for US

By Brian HewittSeptember 19, 2008, 4:00 pm
LOUISVILLE, Ky. ' The U.S. Ryder Cup team had been down so long it was beginning to look like up.
 
Which is why American captain Paul Azingers most important task at the moment is to keep his team from getting carried away with the euphoria of the 5 1/2 - 2 1/2 lead it forged Friday at noisy Valhalla Golf Club.
 
We love hearing the USA-USA, ' said Justin Leonard, who played better than anybody on either team on Day 1 and teamed with rookie Hunter Mahan in the morning and the afternoon to win two full points.
 
Its definitely lived up to the hype, said Anthony Kim, the hard-wired rookie who paired with Phil Mickelson in both sessions to halve their first and win their second.
 
Easy now, lads.
 
There are four more foursomes matches Saturday morning, followed by four more fourball matches Saturday afternoon, followed by 12 singles matches Sunday.
 
The Americans have found all kinds of ways to fail in five of the last six Ryder Cups and eight of the last 11.
 
Enter the wizened Mickelson, playing in his seventh Ryder Cup: We have, he said, a lot of work to do.
 
The good news for the U.S. team is the Europeans have a lot more to do. Neither one of the best players on the visiting team ' Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia ' won a match Friday.
 
Were down in points, said European captain Nick Faldo. But we are up in spirit.
 
Yet at least one highly-placed European source was critical of Faldos head-scratching decision to play long-hitters Paul Casey and Henrik Stenson in the foursomes and not the fourballs. The steady but shorter-hitting Miguel Angel Jimenez, on the other hand, got slotted into fourballs.
 
The Euros need a rally. Maybe not the kind we saw on Wall St. the last two days. But captain Faldos boys need to get on their motor scooters.
 
Im sure, Faldo promised, my team will rally tomorrow.
 
Meanwhile, all six American rookies are now blooded. And the raucous Kentucky crowd will show up Saturday loaded for more of what they got Friday.
 
We need some fresh legs for tomorrow, Faldo added.
 
(Aside: Speaking of Wall St. and volatility, are you watching any of this FedExCup bosses? You want volatility? Buy a stock.)
 
The Ryder Cup can be a roller coaster, too. And the leaders sometimes end up in a more difficult position than the pursuers. The team ahead must continue to freewheel and play with the edge that produced the lead, but it can not let overconfidence erode its sense of purpose.
 
All you need to know about the morning session, aside from the fact that the last time the Americans built a Ryder Cup lead in the Friday a.m. happened 17 years ago, was that the Americans trailed in all four matches and didnt lose a full point in any of them.
 
Lead-off hitters Kim and Mickelson found themselves three down with six holes to play and managed a nervous up-and-down on 18 to gain a halve against Harrington and Robert Karlsson.
 
Next up, Texans Leonard and Mahan bogeyed the first two holes and dropped 2-down quicker than you can say Casey and Stenson. They responded with three birdies and a conceded eagle on their next five holes and cruised to a 3-and-2 victory.
 
It was the first full point ever in a Ryder Cup match for veteran Leonard and it a smashing debut for Mahan, who probably hit more good shots than any player on either team early on.
 
We had a lot of fun out there, said Leonard.
 
So did Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell against Brits Justin Rose and Ian Poulter, especially after losing three of the first seven holes and falling three holes behind.
 
The most fun came on the 547-yard, par-5 18th where, with the match all square, Cink hit what he later said, might have been the best drive of my life. It left Campbell with a 186-yard 5-iron which he rifled to 12 feet.
 
Azinger would later put his arms around captains pick Campbell and tell him, Thats the reason youre here.
 
Poulter, perhaps feeling the pressure of being a controversial captains pick, missed a 5-footer for par and the Americans had stolen a full point with a conceded two-putt birdie.
 
A shame, Poulter said of the loss.
 
Poulter and Rose recovered in the afternoon with a 3-and-2 win over Steve Stricker and Ben Curtis for Europes only full point of the day.
 
It was also impossible to ignore, in the morning, that both of Azingers captains picks (that played) ' Mahan and Campbell ' won their matches. And both of Faldos picks ' Casey and Poulter ' lost.
 
The guys gave 100 percent out there, Faldo said at mid-day. But they won only 25 percent of the available points as the Americans raced off to a 3-1 lead.
 
It could have been even better for the Americans if the final pairing of Kenny Perry and Jim Furyk hadnt let the heavily-favored duo of Garcia and Westwood win the last two holes and escape with a halve.
 
Perrys tee ball wound up in the water on 18 much to the disappointment of a Kentucky crowd primed for Perry, one its two native sons on the team.
 
We havent been ahead a long time in the morning, Azinger said. We can only be happy about that.
 
At the end of the day, the Americans were even happier.
 
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
 
Related Links:
  • U.S. Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • European Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • Full Coverage - 37th Ryder Cup
  • 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.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''