Game on: Captains, players arrive in Chicago

By Doug FergusonSeptember 24, 2012, 11:54 pm

MEDINAH, Ill. – Jose Maria Olazabal stepped off the plane carrying the Ryder Cup, a familiar sight considering that Europe has won six of the past eight times.

It was who followed the captain off the plane that showed how much the dynamics of this event have changed over the years.

Olazabal flew over from London with only three of his 12 players – Paul Lawrie, Francesco Molinari and Ryder Cup rookie Nicolas Colsaerts.

Everyone else was already here.

Five of the Europeans – Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Peter Hanson, Graeme McDowell and Sergio Garcia – have homes at Lake Nona in Orlando, Fla.

Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood, among four players who were in Atlanta on Sunday for the Tour Championship, are moving to south Florida. Luke Donald lives about 45 minutes away on the north side of Chicago.

It wasn't that long ago that Team Europe came over together because that's where so many lived and played – Howard Clark and David Gilford, Sam Torrance and Mark James, Ian Woosnam and Colin Montgomerie.

Olazabal didn't see that as a problem.

''Obviously, when you look at some of the European players, they have their home base here,'' he said. ''They play the Tour over here. They are very familiar with the golf courses around here, with their opponents, and in that regard, I think they feel really more comfortable with the whole situation of coming here to the States to play the Ryder Cup. It has changed in that respect and also that they have realized through the years that they have been able to compete against the players here.

''And that somehow boosts your confidence, and that is a very important part when you are playing match play.''

Still, there was a certain charm about having the team arrive as one.

U.S. captain Davis Love III remembers his first Ryder Cup in 1993 at The Belfry, when Tom Watson assembled his group in New York and spoke of a grand adventure to Europe with the sole purpose of bringing back the cup.

Golf is different now.

''I miss that a little bit,'' Love said. ''We all gather and fly over. They fly over here. That was a really cool thing. But I think what we have got now is a much bigger event.''

Noting that so many of the world's best players are at Medinah Country Club, Love said that golf has become ''incredibly better.''

''What we have in our team rooms now and the camaraderie between the two teams is just incredible, and it's amazing how much it's changed over the years,'' Love said. ''And we're playing against our friends, but it's still as intense – maybe even more – because we are more familiar with them.''

One thing hasn't changed.

Both teams desperately want that 17-inch gold trophy.

Europe is coming off a 14 1/2 - 13 1/2 win two years ago in Wales, a week of slogging through the rain that forced a Monday finish that made everything worth the extra day when it came down to the final match, with Graeme McDowell delivering the winning point.

Medinah, the tree-lined course that has hosted five major championships, doesn't look anything like those events. Love has asked for the rough to be virtually eliminated and the greens to be slick as ever, hopeful that's an advantage to a U.S. team that he tried to stock with good putters.

Even though Europe seems to have owned this event, The Americans have lost only once at home in the past 15 years – at Oakland Hills in 2004.

''We are playing here against a very strong team,'' Olazabal said. ''We are playing away. The crowds are going to be rooting for the home team really strong, so in that regard, we have to be prepared for that. I think I've said it all along, I think both teams are pretty much even, and it's going to be a close match. From that point of view, I don't see any favorites, and it will have to be decided, obviously, on the golf course.''

The golf course was relatively quiet on a sunny, breezy day in the Chicago suburbs, which began with temperatures in the 40s and warmed beautifully by late afternoon.

Steve Stricker drove from his home in Wisconsin straight to Medinah, dressed in shorts as he worked on his chipping and putting. Keegan Bradley, one of four Americans making their Ryder Cup debut this week, also was practicing along with Matt Kuchar. Assistant captain Fred Couples took four players to the movies.

Tiger Woods, FedEx Cup champion Brandt Snedeker and Jason Dufner were due to arrive Monday night.

The first official practice day is Tuesday, along with the team photos. Love said his pairings for the opening day on Friday were close to being finished, and the Tuesday practice sessions would offer a strong hint whom he has in mind as partners.

Both sides have been busy.

The entire U.S. team and five of Europe's team members reached the FedEx Cup finale at the Tour Championship. Snedeker has had only one week off dating to the British Open, while Kuchar has missed only two weeks.

Love jokingly said Snedeker would have been at Medinah earlier except that he had to go to the bank and deposit the $11.44 million he won Sunday at East Lake from his victory in the Tour Championship that gave him the FedEx Cup title.

''Brandt doesn't ever need a week off. He's perpetual energy,'' Love said. ''But I've been stressing to them to make sure that they get some rest and that they are prepared. We have four guys at the movies with Freddie this afternoon, four guys out chipping and putting and we've got another four coming in all during the afternoon. I think they are taking it easy today, and they will be ready to go.''

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Watch: Highlights from Tiger's Friday 71 at Honda

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 23, 2018, 8:12 pm

Tiger Woods got caught in the Bear Trap on Friday, but bit back with a late birdie to sign for 1-over 71 on a difficult day at PGA National, where he sits four off the lead heading into the weekend at the Honda Classic.

Woods started at even par in Round 2 and began Friday with a bogey at the par-4 second, before getting that stroke back with a birdie at the par-4 fourth:



Following four consecutive pars, Woods birdied the par-4 ninth to turn in 1-under 34.



At 1 under for the tournament, Woods was tied for 10th place, three off the lead, when he began the back nine at PGA National. He remained there with this enthusiastic par save at the par-4 11th.

Tiger poured in three more pars at was just two off the 3-under pace when he rinsed his tee shot at the par-3 15th, leading to a double bogey. He dropped another shot and fell to 2 over when he three-putted 16.

But he wouldn't leave the Bear Trap at a total loss. At the diabolical par-3 17th, Woods wowed the jam-packed stands with a flagged 5-iron iron and a 12-foot putt for birdie, pulling him back to plus-1 for the week.

Woods would go on to par the closing hole, leaving him in a tie for 14th with two rounds to play.

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Defending champ Fowler misses cut at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:14 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The roles might be reversed this weekend for Rickie Fowler.

Last year, when he won at PGA National, Fowler was greeted behind the 18th green by Justin Thomas, one of his Jupiter neighbors. Thomas had missed the cut in his hometown event but drove back to the tournament to congratulate Fowler on his fourth PGA Tour title.

It’s Fowler who will be on the sidelines this weekend, after missing the Honda Classic cut following rounds of 71-76.  


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


“I haven’t been swinging it great the last month and a half,” he said afterward. “Obviously playing in the wind, it will pick you apart even more.”

After a tie for fourth at Kapalua, Fowler has missed two of his last three cuts. In between, at the Phoenix Open, he coughed up the 54-hole lead and tied for 11th.

Fowler said he’s been struggling with commitment and trust on the course.

“It’s close,” he said. “Just a little bit off, and the wind is going to make it look like you’re a terrible weekend golfer.”

Asked if he’d return the favor for Thomas, if he were to go and win, Fowler smiled and said: “Of course.”  

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:00 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.


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Cut Line: Woods still eyeing Ryder Cup dual role

By Rex HoggardFebruary 23, 2018, 6:57 pm

In this week’s edition, Jack Nicklaus makes the argument, again, for an equipment rollback, Tiger Woods gets halfway to his Ryder Cup goal and Paul Lawrie laments slow play ... in Europe.

Made Cut

Captain’s corner. Last week Tiger Woods coyly figured he could do both, play and be a vice captain for this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team. On Tuesday, he made it halfway to his goal.

U.S. captain Jim Furyk named Woods and Steve Stricker vice captains for this year’s matches, joining Davis Love III on the team golf cart.

Whether Woods will be able to pull off the double-header is now largely up to him and how his most recent comeback from injury progresses, but one way or another Furyk wanted Tiger in his team room.

“What Tiger really has brought to the table for our vice captains is a great knowledge of X's and O's,” Furyk said. “He's done a really good job of pairing players together in foursomes and fourball. When you look at our team room and you look at a lot of the youth that we have in that team room now with the younger players, a lot of them became golf professionals, fell in love with the game of golf because they wanted to emulate Tiger Woods.”

Woods is currently 104th on the U.S. points list, but the qualification process is designed for volatility, with this year’s majors worth twice as many points. With Tiger’s improved play it’s not out of the question that he gets both, a golf cart and a golf bag, for this year’s matches.

#MSDStrong. Every week on Tour players, officials and fans come together to support a charity of some sort, but this week’s Honda Classic has a more personal impact for Nicholas Thompson.

Thompson graduated from nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and last week’s horrific shooting there inspired the former Tour member to work with tournament organizers and find a way to help the victims.

Officials handed out 1,600 maroon ribbons to volunteers to honor the victims; and Thompson and his wife, who is also a Stoneman Douglas graduate, donated another 500 with the letters “MSD” on them for players, wives and caddies.

Thompson also planned to donate 3,100 rubber bracelets in exchange for donations to help the victims and their families.

“I’m not much of a crier, but it was a very, very sad moment,” Thompson told PGATour.com. “To see on TV, the pictures of the school that I went through for four years and the area where it occurred was terrible.”

The Tour makes an impact on communities every week, but some tournaments are more emotional than others.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Golden moment. Jack Nicklaus has never been shy about expressing his thoughts on modern equipment and how far today’s professionals are hitting the golf ball, but this week the Golden Bear revealed just how involved he may be in what is increasingly looking like an equipment rollback of some sort.

During a recent dinner with USGA CEO Mike Davis, Nicklaus discussed the distance debate.

“Mike said, ‘We’re getting there. We’re going to get there. I need your help when we get there.'” Nicklaus said. “I said, ‘That’s fine. I’m happy to help you. I’ve only been yelling at you for 40 years.’ 1977 is the first time I went to the USGA.”

The USGA and R&A are scheduled to release their annual distance report before the end of the month, but after the average driving distance jumped nearly 3 yards last year on Tour – and nearly 7 yards on the Web.com Tour – many within the equipment industry are already bracing for what could be the most profound rollback in decades.

Stay tuned.

Geographically undesirable. Although this will likely be the final year the Tour’s Florida swing is undercut by the WGC-Mexico Championship, which will be played next week, the event’s impact on this year’s fields is clear.

The tee sheet for this week’s Honda Classic, which had become one of the circuit’s deepest stops thanks to an influx of Europeans gearing up for the Masters, includes just three players from the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and none from top three. By comparison, only the Sony Open and CareerBuilder Challenge had fewer top players in 2018.

On Monday at a mandatory meeting, players were given a rough outline of the 2018-19 schedule, which features some dramatic changes including the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players shifting back to March, and numerous sources say the Mexico stop will move to the back end of the West Coast swing and be played after the Genesis Open.

That should help fields in the Sunshine State regain some luster, but it does nothing to change the fact that this year’s Florida swing is, well, flat.


Missed Cut

West Coast woes. Of all the highlights from this year’s West Coast swing, a run that included overtime victories for Patton Kizzire (Sony Open), Jon Rahm (CareerBuilder Challenge), Jason Day (Farmers Insurance Open) and Gary Woodland (Waste Management Phoenix Open), it will be what regularly didn’t happen that Cut Line remembers.

J.B. Holmes endured the wrath of social media for taking an eternity - it was actually 4 minutes, 10 seconds - to hit his second shot on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines, but in fairness to Holmes he’s only a small part of a larger problem.

Without any weather delays, Rounds 1 and 2 were not completed on schedule last week in Los Angeles because of pace of play, and the Tour is even considering a reduction in field size at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open to avoid similar schedule issues.

But all this seems to miss the point. Smaller fields aren’t the answer; rules that recognize and penalize slow play are the only solution.

Tweet of the week: @PaulLawriegolf (Paul Lawrie) “Getting pretty fed up playing with guys who cheat the system by playing as slow as they want until referee comes then hit it on the run to make sure they don't get penalized. As soon as ref [is] gone it’s back to taking forever again. We need a better system.”

It turns out slow play isn’t a uniquely Tour/West Coast issue, as evidenced by the Scot’s tweet on Thursday from the Qatar Masters.