The Most Important Match

By Brian HewittSeptember 17, 2008, 4:00 pm
LOUISVILLE, Ky. ' It will, if it comes to pass, be the dream match-up of a Ryder Cup that begins with alternate shot here Friday morning at Valhalla Golf Club.
It will be a pairing that will give the Americans and the Europeans, for a compelling variety of reasons, an opportunity for a win that will count one point in the standings and immeasurably more in the confidence column.
Im talking about the first foursomes match Friday morning. Tee time: 8:05 ET.
Im talking about Kentucky native sons Kenny Perry and J.B. Holmes vs. the stalwart Euro tandem of Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia.
Im talking about a match that would almost certainly go a long way toward setting a tone for the 27 matches to follow.
A little history: At the 2004 Ryder Cup, played at Oakland Hills, American captain Hal Sutton obdurately insisted on mixing oil and water when he paired Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods in the first match on the first day. European captain Bernard Langer countered with Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington.
Harrington and Montgomerie silenced a Detroit sports crowd itching to explode with a 2-and-1 victory that the Americans, arguably, never recovered from en route to an 18 - 9 defeat.
I think it helped the guys behind and we felt it was almost worth a bit more than a point to beat Phil and Tiger, Montgomerie said afterward.
Langer echoed the sentiment almost verbatim. We always felt this match was worth more than a point, he said.
Fast forward to Valhalla and consider, first, a Perry-Holmes win against Garcia and Westwood, the partner with whom Garcia has had the most success on the current European team, would be huge.
Perry and Holmes winning would, without a doubt, whip the Kentucky crowd into a frenzy. And it would be impossible for that energy not to filter back to the other three morning matches Friday.
Moreover, Garcia is the player the Americans love to hate in the Ryder Cup. After the 2002 American loss to Europe at The Belfry in England, Jim Furyk said, We lost to 11 gentlemen and one little boy.
He was referring to the antic Garcia, whose greenside celebrations, the Americans felt, were way over the top.
Garcia, it turns out, is a target in more ways than one. His career Ryder Cup record is 14-4-2 and far better than any other player here on either team. Garcias record in alternate shot is an eye-popping 8-0-0.
I wasnt aware that he was that good, American captain Paul Azinger said Monday when told of Garcias foursomes mark. Just an amazing, passionate player.
All of which makes the point that the underdog Americans, psychologically, stand to win more than a point if Perry and Holmes get a shot at Garcia and Westwood and if they can take them down.
Those are both big ifs. Azinger, and especially Euro captain Nick Faldo, took pains Wednesday to stress that neither had penciled in their line-ups for Friday morning. Faldo did his best to weather a hail of questions from European writers who claimed to have, in their hands, a picture of a piece of paper with his Friday foursomes picks on them. Faldo attempted to deflect by saying it was the sandwich list for his teams lunch orders.
It was a story only the tabloids could love. And, safe to say, it wont knock the MLB pennant races off the front pages of the sports sections in the U.S.
Meanwhile, back on point: Perhaps the best part of the potential Perry-Holmes vs. Garcia-Westwood is the enormous risk-reward it entails for either captain.
A Perry-Holmes loss takes the local crowd out of the game, maybe for the rest of the week. A Garcia-Westwood loss topples Europes best alternate-shot team and encourages the state of Kentucky to throw a three-day party that wont end until well after Sundays singles matches conclude and victory is secured.
One final point: Much has been made of exactly how much influence a captain can have on his team at a Ryder Cup. Azinger reiterated Wednesday how much less nervous he is at this stage of the week than he was as a Ryder Cup player.
But a good captain sees things. And a really good captain sees sparks ' whether its something that happens in the team room or on the course or at dinner. It could be a reaction to something written in a newspaper article.
The best captain figures out a way to turn a spark into a bonfire that translates its way into a burning victory. Tony Jacklin did it for Europe in the 80s. Ben Crenshaw found it for the Americans Saturday night at Brookline in 1999.
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Related Links:
  • U.S. Report Cards
  • European Report Cards
  • U.S. Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • European Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • Full Coverage - 37th Ryder Cup
  • Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

    He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

    Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

    Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

    In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

    Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

    Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

    Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

    Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

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    Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

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    Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

    Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

    Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

    Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

    Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

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    Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

    By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

    The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

    They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

    Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

    Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

    Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

    ''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

    The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

    In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

    Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

    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.