European caddie looping for Koepka at Ryder Cup

By Doug FergusonSeptember 17, 2016, 2:07 pm

CARMEL, Ind. – Ricky Elliott always hoped he could be in the Ryder Cup, the dream of any aspiring golfer from Portrush in Northern Ireland.

He finally got there as a caddie, which is not unusual.

Except that he'll be working for the other team.

''I'll be getting plenty of good needle, but it's all in good fun,'' said Elliott, the caddie for American player Brooks Koepka for the last three years. ''Whenever I'm out here, I stay with Kenny (Comboy), Billy (Foster) and all the other European caddies because we have the same things in common. I still am European. When it comes down to the matches, might they be a little wary in the team meeting? You just don't know. But it's all about getting the cup back to this side of the pond.

''And I'm working for the American team.''

The Ryder Cup is all about the flag, Europe against the United States, three days of frenetic golf and fanatical cheering.


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The PGA of America only began keeping records of Ryder Cup caddies in 1995. No European caddie worked for the American team in the last two decades, and no one could think of a European caddie on the American side in the decades before that.

If anything, there are stories of Europeans who didn't work.

Terry Holt of England worked for Paul Azinger in 1993, but chose not to go with him to the Ryder Cup at The Belfry. Dave Musgrove of England declined to work for Lee Janzen in 1997 at Valderrama, fearing a conflict in interest. ''He didn't want to be in a bad situation. People might wonder about his loyalties,'' Janzen said then.

The most recent example was Andy Sutton, the English caddie whom Ben Curtis hired when he won the British Open at Royal St. George's. Curtis qualified for the Ryder Cup in 2008 at Valhalla, and Sutton didn't want to work for him that week.

''We had talked about it in the past and he said, 'If you ever make the Ryder Cup, I can't work for you,''' Curtis said. ''When it came about, I remember saying to him, 'Are you serious?' He said: 'I can't. I'll catch too much grief from the other European caddies.' He decided it might be better for me to have someone else.''

Curtis hired Tony Navarro for the week. He said years later, Sutton regretted not working for him at the Ryder Cup.

What's in store for Elliott?

''I have no worries about him,'' said John Wood, who caddies for Matt Kuchar and will be working at his sixth Ryder Cup. ''There might be some out there I would be concerned about, but not Ricky. I think he'll jump right into the feel of the team and be part of it. I think it would be difficult if you had somebody who had been on a European Ryder Cup team and then came into the U.S. room. But for Ricky, it will be a fresh experience for him.''

There have been examples of American caddies working for European players in the Ryder Cup - Jerry Higginbotham for Sergio Garcia in 1999, and Lance Ten Broeck for Jesper Parnevik in 1999 and 2002.

''It was kind of weird in the beginning,'' Ten Broeck said. ''I remember I was kind of concerned about doing it, but the more I spoke to Hal Sutton, he said: 'Why wouldn't you do it? That's who you work for.' And I spoke to Jesper about it a long time. This is a golf match, not a war. And it's one of the great experiences.''

Elliott played college golf at Toledo, competing against Curtis at Kent State, and stayed in America. He lives in Florida near Graeme McDowell, one of his best friends from Portrush, and decided last year to become a U.S. citizen.

''I had to say a sentence in English and I had to spell a word, and I just squeaked by that,'' Elliott said in his sing-song Irish lilt. ''There was about 80 of us in the room and 2,000 people had come to watch. I was there on my own, sitting beside a wee Chinese man waving the flag. It was cool. I've spent half my life over here. You're still always where you're from, but I'm pleased as punch to be an American citizen.''

Elliott was trying to find a golf pro job during the economic downturn in 2008 when he caddied for Maarten Lafeber on the European Tour, and then Curtis. He was between jobs when Koepka, who began his career on the European Tour, received an exemption to the 2013 PGA Championship and his regular caddie had visa problems.

''First time I ever met him was on the range at the PGA,'' Elliott said. ''He's striping these shots and I'm like, 'Happy days.' I was still in Europe, but you know what it's like when you see a good player. He made the cut that week, played with Tiger (Woods) on Sunday and said to me in the locker room, 'Do you fancy doing a few in Europe?'''

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.