Breaking borders: Americans playing globally

By Doug FergusonNovember 15, 2011, 6:01 pm

MELBOURNE, Australia – One thing already can be said for this Presidents Cup. The Americans have come a long way.

Only it has nothing to do with the oceans and time zones they crossed to get Down Under. Nor is progress measured by the outcome, for the Americans have lost this event only once since it began in 1994.

It’s all about their willingness to travel amid the changing landscape in golf.

The Presidents Cup returns to Royal Melbourne for the first time in 13 years, and just think how differently golf looked back then from an American perspective. It was late in the season – the second week in December – some six weeks after the Tour Championship. Hardly anyone was playing meaningful golf. Even fewer felt like going all the way to Australia.

The International team handed the United States its worst loss in any team competition. The score was 20 1/2 -11 1/2 , such a blowout that the Cup was secured when Nick Price beat David Duval in the second of 12 singles matches on the final day.

“Got beat and still had time to eat breakfast,” Duval said with a laugh.

That was the year before the World Golf Championships began, a series of tournaments for players around the world, and originally designed to be played around the world.

But in the first year, a half-dozen Americans from the top 50 in the world chose not to go to Spain at the end of the season. And when the Match Play Championship went to Australia two years later, so many players stayed away – most of them Americans – that the tournament went down to No. 104 in the ranking (Greg Kraft) to fill the 64-man field.

That led to Stuart Appleby’s famous line about Americans.

ldquo;They’re like a bag of prawns on a hot Sunday,” he once said. “They don’t travel well.”

Now those passport pages are filling up quickly.

U.S. captain Fred Couples wanted his two captain’s picks to play the week before in the Australian Open, and was pleased that six other players joined them. Some of them started even earlier.

Jim FurykBill HaasHunter MahanDavid Toms and Nick Watney were in Shanghai the week before at the HSBC Champions. Furyk and Mahan were in China even earlier, playing the Shanghai Masters. Phil Mickelson was in Singapore last week. After the Presidents Cup, Matt Kuchar is headed to China for the World Cup.

They worry less about the destination and more about what time the plane leaves.

“I think it’s fantastic the way Americans have embraced the way global golf is played nowadays,” International captain Greg Norman said Tuesday. “The season post-Tour Championship gives them the validity of going to Shanghai or Singapore or down here to Melbourne or other places around the world to play. And those opportunities, the guys are taking.”

The shocker might have been Toms in Shanghai.

He played overseas when he was young because he had not made it onto the PGA Tour and had few other options. Once he established himself, Toms found little need to travel except for the British Open or the Ryder Cup. The prize money was minimal, and whatever appearance money he received wasn’t always worth the trip.

But there he was at the HSBC Champions – the same week of the LSU-Alabama game, no less. Toms acted like a true pro, too. The game was on Sunday morning, he wasn’t in contention, yet the LSU alum was on the range an hour before his round, just like always.

Watney takes about every opportunity that comes his way overseas. He gave up Thanksgiving one year to play the World Cup with John Merrick. He has become a regular in Shanghai.

“I just believe that to be a truly great player, you have to win all around the world,” Watney said.

Dustin Johnson might take up European Tour membership next year. Bubba Watson went to France, although he lasted all of two days at the French Open and couldn’t get home fast enough.

Norman says more travel, especially this time of the year, could make the matches closer this time. But he looked beyond that to a broader picture of Americans getting out more.

“Look, it’s the responsibility of every player, no matter what their position is, to promote the game on a global basis,” Norman said. “And I like to see what the Americans are doing, traveling and playing overseas.”

Ernie Els was talking about the history of the Presidents Cup a few weeks ago, how the only two times the International team did not lose was in Melbourne and South Africa (the famous tie). Not so coincidentally, his team had the crowd on its side.

And then there was that other “road” game in Montreal in 2007.

“All due respect to my great friend Mike Weir, but why go to Canada?” Els said.

There was a reason for that.

After the plunder Down Under in 1998, and with South Africa already planned for the next road game, there was enough concern about Americans traveling a long distance for the Presidents Cup that the Tour made it easy on them by going north of the border.

That’s no longer necessary. The next overseas Presidents Cup in 2015 is likely headed to either South America (depending on the state of the Olympic golf course being built in Brazil) or Asia, with South Korea a prime candidate. This year’s International team has a record four Asian players.

Els was on his way to the first tee for a practice round when asked about this crop of Americans being more willing to travel. He was more concerned about his own itinerary – Singapore last week, Australia this week, South Africa next week.

“The only trouble is it’s so bloody far to get down here,” he said.

The Big Easy laughed when it was pointed out to him that as a South African, he had no choice but to go bloody far to get anywhere.

“These American boys are starting to travel a bit more,” he said. “And it’s good to see.”


Watch wall-to-wall coverage of the Presidents Cup live on Golf Channel beginning Monday at 6PM. Tournament air times: Golf Channel Wednesday 9PM-2AM, Thursday 7:30PM-2AM, Friday 3PM-2AM and Saturday 6:30PM-12:30AM. NBC coverage Saturday at 8AM and Sunday at noon. (Note: all times are ET)

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."