Memo to Captain Azinger

By Brian HewittAugust 24, 2008, 4:00 pm
Memo to U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger:
 
Get copies of the U.S. mens basketball teams pulsating 11-point victory over Spain in Sundays gold medal game at the Beijing Olympics.
 
When your team arrives at Valhalla next month for the matches against Europe, show them tapes of this game. Over and over.
 
Make sure they take note of the complete lack of self-consciousness and selfishness by the winners. And remind your players that American coach Mike Krzyzewski, with a lot of help from U.S. basketball mahout Jerry Colangelo, convinced 12 of the biggest basketball egos and richest hoopsters on the planet to buy into the concept.
 
Winning the gold, Colangelo and Krzyzewski espoused, was more important than winning an NBA title. And to a man, the U.S. players, behind team leaders LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, bought into the concept heart and soul.
 
The American basketball players, unlike recent previous U.S. Olympic teams, actually wanted to be at the Olympics. And they showed their support for other American Olympians by appearing regularly at other venues to cheer.
 
Their enthusiasm for the Olympics in general and their specific task at hand was palpable. And that went a long way toward winning the crowds in China. At Athens four years earlier, a spoiled and arrogant American team had been booed and rooted against.
 
Zing ' or is it Zinger? ' the crowd isnt going to be a problem at Valhalla in Kentucky where the fans, without much encouragement, will make this Ryder Cup sound more like an SEC football game than a golf competition.
 
But thats what everybody said in Detroit four years ago when the Euros thrashed captain Hal Suttons side with impunity. During the practice rounds the Euros couldnt have been more gracious, signing autographs and finding time for the fans that lined the fairways at Oakland Hills.
 
The Europeans not only acted like they wanted to win, they acted like they were enjoying the entire experience. And none of them found the need to go off-site to practice during the days leading up the matches.
 
If international superstars like Bryant, James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and the rest of Krzyzewskis team could find time to embrace every last bit of the Olympic experience, theres no reason why players like Justin Leonard, Phil Mickelson, Kenny Perry and Ben Curtis cant do the same during Ryder Cup week in Kentucky.
 
In fact, captain Azinger, right about now Id be chartering a plane to whisk Krzyzewski to Louisville to address your team. If Kobe or LeBron or Dwyane want to ride a cart and be seen during the matches, Im all for it.
 
These guys subjugated their own immense senses of self-importance for the greater good of the American team. If the best American players in the NBA can get behind the notion that Olympic gold is bigger and better than securing an NBA title, is it so far-fetched to insist the American Ryder Cup team buy into to the idea that recapturing the Ryder Cup is more important right now than winning a major?
 
The Euros dont have the same problem. Of course, their goals are similar to those of the Americans. Padraig Harrington knows that the three majors he has won in his last six major starts will go a long way toward defining his golfing legacy.
 
But I still havent seen a European exult after a major championship triumph the way 12 Europeans go collectively and delightedly over the top as a team when they beat the Americans.
 
There are a lot of American hoops junkies who believe Olympic mens basketball gold medal is a national birthright. Today, that right has been restored.
 
There are a lot of American golf devotees who believe the Ryder Cup is also a national birthright. Problem is, the U.S. hasnt won the Cup since 1999.
 
The cynics say whipping up all this kind of patriotic frenzy ignores the fact that the Europeans simply putt better than the Americans in the Ryder Cup. Well, they said the same thing about the American three-point shooting.
 
When it counted, in recent Olympic failures, the U.S. couldnt get the ball in the hole from beyond the arc. When it counted this time, especially in the final game victory over a Spanish team bravely playing over its head, the Americans started making their 3-pointers. They made 13 of 28 3-pointers in the final and shot close to 40 percent for the Games.
 
Announcer Doug Collins, who played on the U.S. team that lost a heartbreaking gold medal game to the Russians way back in 1972, suggested that the improved accuracy was tied into the commitment that the Americans had made.
 
So in closing, Zinger, everybody knows the talent you will be taking to Valhalla wont be as comparatively dominant as the talent Krzyzewski took to Beijing. But theres no reason the commitment cant be there.
 
Used to be the players complained about too many dinners and functions during Ryder Cup week. Then the captains began finding ways to get their players out of all the obligations, which fostered a sense that the Americans were being coddled.
 
My advice, captain Azinger, is to show your players the moving pictures of Kobe and LeBron pulling their jerseys in front of their chests and pointing proudly to the letters U.S.A. Tell your players if they want to play in next months Ryder Cup, theyre going to need to show up, shut up, keep up and go along with the program.
 
If Americas best professional basketball players can do it, so can Americas best professional golfers.
 
Our basketball teams coaches and team leaders were committed to one goal. And the commitment spread from the top on down in China like a powerful flame.
 
This, too, can happen to our Ryder Cup team.
 
Finally this to the American players: Your captain burns with the same kind of single-minded intensity that Krzyzewski brought to his task in Beijing. Paul Azinger will take a metaphorical bullet for you. Be prepared to do the same for him.
 

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Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.