Ryder Cup Picks and Pans

By Brian HewittSeptember 5, 2008, 4:00 pm
The Comebacker this week is all about the captains picks. Europes Nick Faldo chose Ian Poulter and Paul Casey on Sunday. U.S. boss Paul Azinger followed with Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan, J.B. Holmes and Chad Campbell on Tuesday.
Tongues have been wagging and e-mails have been flying ever since.
Without further ado:

Larry writes: I don't know what to make of the captains picks by Faldo and Azinger. My guess is Faldo made a mistake by not taking Clarke. I have a gut feeling that the Americans are going to do well. It is kind of a weird team, with six rookies, but we seem to have some players like J.B. Holmes who would drive you nuts in match play. The Kentucky factor with Holmes and Perry will generate some enthusiastic gallery support and I can't help but think that the absence of Clarke will generate a camaraderie void that will hurt the Euros. In any event, it will be great theater and should be fun.
The Comebacker Holmes is sometimes desperately slow. And that will work to the Americans favor. He is also long enough to take lines off the tee that are so aggressive as to actually intimidate the less experienced of his opponents.

Troy writes: I am an avid GOLF CHANNEL/golf-in-general junkie and a fan of yours. What are your thoughts on Azinger not picking Rocco (Mediate) or Woody (Austin)? I think that the lack of fire and intensity that the American players have kills them in Ryder cup play. Azinger had a chance to change that and really messed up.
The Comebacker Azinger hasnt messed up anything yet. And its unlikely, especially with vice-captains Raymond Floyd and Dave Stockton at his side, that he will do so during the matches. But I remain disappointed with the failure to pick Scott Verplank, a flinty competitor and player unafraid to make putts. Verplanks career Ryder Cup record is 4-1-0.

Coy writes: If he (Nick Faldo) is as brilliant a captain as he was a player we are in trouble. I cant pick on him until we see the result. By the way, I do think Azinger will do a good job. I hope he stresses fun to our guys; when its fun (with fire in the heart) you will play your best.
The Comebacker Here, again, is my mad genius theory regarding Faldo: If the Euros lose, Faldo (because he has so many enemies on his own continent) will shoulder the blame. If the Euros win, (for the same reason) all credit will go to the players. As a result, Faldo has managed, intentionally or unintentionally, to take the pressure off the players.

James writes: Those are revealing stats that you present on the putting performance of the four U.S. captains picks. I think this will hurt the U.S. performance when it comes down to the crunch. Well see, of course ' but the U.S. squad looks even more the underdog to me now that the full team is known. Nick Faldo must be pleased Paul Azinger has chosen several guys with cold and erratic putters to oppose his team. The U.S. appears to be betting on a big bomb and gouge advantage. I dont see it happening.
The Comebacker The course in Kentucky should set up for Americas long hitters. But they still have to close holes out with their putters.

Connie writes: Paul Azinger's personal picks erased what little hope the USA team had to defeat the (Europeans). As usual the good ole boy network of the tour players prevailed. Appointing Paul Azinger as captain was the first mistake; his predictable and illogical picks were the final mistake. I predict a big (European) victory, tempered only by Nick Faldo's desire to keep it close to save his (butt) as a golf commentator.
The Comebacker Methinks Connies a little harsh on Zinger. This I can guarantee you: If the Euros win and it is close, a small margin of victory will have absolutely nothing to do with Faldos desire to save his (butt) as a golf commentator.

Phil writes: The Ryder Cup is totally overrated, overhyped. A little too much flag waving, quite honestly. Its just a game. We arent going to win the war in Iraq in Valhalla.
The Comebacker Id settle for winning the battle at Valhalla. In any event, The Comebacker, a Ryder Cup junkie, believes the event is worth every bit of the hype.

Ernie writes: No matter what either of those two would have decided, there would always be criticism. Why all the second guessing? Just like religion and politics, they are circular discussions, with everyone having their own beliefs and opinions. The teams are what they are. Let the games begin and lets enjoy them for what they are meant to be.
The Comebacker Sorry, Ernie. Not buying your pacifism here. Half the fun is deconstructing the picks and the rationales behind them.

Jeff writes: I feel like this is a make or break Ryder Cup. Losing the last three, coupled with the sweeping changes Paul made to the selection process has the U.S. in a very precarious position. Your thoughts?
The Comebacker If the U.S. loses, look for the PGA of America to revert back to the old system where the captain got just two picks.

Bucko writes: Everyone is patting Zinger on the back for his choices ' why can't he comment on who he did not pick? I believe Scott Verplank should be there and why not bring Woody Austin along? Too much is being said about this team getting along well together yet there are no personalities. Some of the best teams in sports have not always got along well together but they won. (Oakland A's, Oakland Raiders, N.Y. Yankees). Not everyone is enamored with Monty, yet he has the best Ryder Cup record of all time! Unless Southerners Holmes, Weekley and Perry can excite the Kentucky crowds and get the job done, it'll be a very long weekend!
The Comebacker
In the immortal words of Long John Silver, Aye, me Bucko.


Bill writes: Something about your story really struck me as unusual; namely, the quote by Valhalla's pro that he had widened the intermediate rough at Azinger's direction. Is this true that the U.S. captain can exert his influence on the shape of the course to the advantage of his team? If so, this is bull. The Americans will already enjoy the support of the home fans. It's totally unfair and frankly unethical whether the home captain is American or European to be using his authority to alter the course in such a way. It's a friggin conflict of interest!
The Comebacker Get down off your high horse, Bill. Course tinkering by captains has been going on for years and the home town is always within its rights to doctor the course as they see fit.

JP writes: This is not a good week for the Ryder Cup. No Darren Clarke makes no since; Ian Poulter couldn't beat me; Paul was even worse. I love J.B., but no way; Chad Campbell is nothing; Where is Verplank? Could have taken Steve Flesch and we would have a lot of Kentucky boys. This is going to be an interesting year. It will be the team that backs into the Ryder Cup and not one that wins it.
The Comebacker
Am guessing JP might be watching the NFL on Ryder Cup Sunday. Its all yours, pal.

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Related Links:
  • American Team Records
  • European Team Records
  • Full Coverage - 37th Ryder Cup
  • Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME

    By Nick MentaNovember 18, 2017, 8:47 pm

    Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.

    Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)

    What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.

    Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.

    Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.

    Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.

    Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.

    Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.

    Watch: Pros try to hit 2-yard wide fairway in Dubai

    By Grill Room TeamNovember 18, 2017, 5:20 pm

    While in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour prestented a little challenge to Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay, Nicolas Colsaerts and Soren Kjeldsen. On a stretch of road outside of town, the four players had to try and hit a 2-yard wide fairway. Check out the results.

    Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai

    By Associated PressNovember 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the season-ending Tour Championship as he attempts to win a third straight title on the European Tour and a second career Race to Dubai crown.

    The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for a 7-under 65 Saturday and overall 15-under 201.

    The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.

    Rose is looking to be Europe's season-ending No. 1 for the second time. His leading rival for the Race to Dubai title, Tommy Fleetwood, is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

    Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.

    ''So, last day of the season and I've got a chance to win the Race to Dubai,'' Fleetwood said. ''It's cool.''

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    Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Race to Dubai title, is tied for 13th on 10 under after a 67.

    Fleetwood had a lead of 256,737 points going into the final tournament and needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

    Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey.

    Rose, who made some long putts for birdies apart from chipping in on the 13th hole, looked to be throwing away his advantage on the par-5 18th, when his second shot fell agonizingly short of the green and into the water hazard. But with his short game in superb condition, the reigning Olympic champion made a difficult up-and-down shot to stay ahead.

    ''That putt at the last is a big confidence-builder. That broke about 18 inches right-to-left downhill. That's the kind of putt I've been hoping to make. That was a really committed stroke. Hopefully I can build on that tomorrow,'' said Rose. ''I know what I need to do to stay at the top of the leaderboard. If I slip up tomorrow, he's (Fleetwood) right there. He's done everything he needs to do on his end, so it's a lot of fun.''

    The last player to win three tournaments in a row on the European Tour was Rory McIlroy, when he won the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in 2014.

    Fleetwood was 1 over after seven holes but turned it on with a hat trick of birdies from the eighth, and then four in a row from No. 13.

    ''I wanted to keep going. Let's bring the tee times forward for tomorrow,'' quipped Fleetwood after closing with a birdie on the 18th. ''Just one of them strange days where nothing was going at all. A couple sloppy pars on the par 5s, and a bad tee shot on fifth and I was 1-over through seven on a day where scoring has been really good ... Ninth and 10th, felt like we had something going ... it was a really good last 11 holes.''

    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.

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    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.