McGinley rules out another stint as European captain

By Doug FergusonSeptember 29, 2014, 8:13 pm

GLENEAGLES, Scotland – Paul McGinley is ready to call it a career in the Ryder Cup, and it ended on a perfect note.

McGinley made his debut in 2002 at The Belfry by holing the winning putt for Europe. His final act was captain of another formidable team, and he called all the right shots at Gleneagles as Europe sailed to its eighth win in the last 10 Ryder Cup matches.

In between, he played in two other Ryder Cups (both record wins for Europe) and was an assistant twice.

''That's six Ryder Cups now I've been involved in and six wins,'' he said. ''I do feel lucky.''

After another celebration that lasted into the early hours Monday, McGinley says he won't take part in another Ryder Cup, at least not in an official capacity.

''I've gone from a player to a vice captain to a captain. I've been six out of six. I've been very lucky that I've had six great experiences,'' McGinley said. ''I'm very happy to help going forward in an unofficial capacity.''

Two of his assistants at Gleneagles previously were captains - Sam Torrance in 2002 and Jose Maria Olazabal in 2012. McGinley said his personality would not allow him to return after being at the pinnacle of European leadership.

''I've put so much on the table,'' he said. ''I would like to be able to support the next captain in whatever direction he went, and if I had a belief about a different area, I'm afraid there would be conflict. So I can't see myself doing that role again.''

His job for the European team is not over yet.

McGinley will join Olazabal and Colin Montgomerie on a five-member panel that decides the next captain for the 2016 job at Hazeltine. European Tour chief executive George O'Grady and a player from the tournament committee fill out the panel.


Ryder Cup: Articles, videos and photos


Darren Clarke is among those under consideration. McGinley and Clarke had a falling out two years ago when Clarke was up for the 2014 job, stood down and then backed Montgomerie because he thought Europe needed a big personality to match U.S. captain Tom Watson, who has iconic status in Scotland.

McGinley pledged there would be ''absolutely no problem whatsoever'' when he serves on the panel.

''I'm going to get a large opinion from a lot of players and a lot of people before I put my opinion forward,'' McGinley said. ''I think a lot of us benefited hugely from being vice captains. Darren has been a vice captain, along with many other guys, as well. So we will see where that all evolves, and I certainly won't have no issues with that whatsoever. I'll make a professional decision based on the views of the people I respect.''

McGinley was not ready to think that far forward. He still was buzzing from a big night in the team room, and some photos on Twitter illustrated the happy occasion. Among the more unusual photos was Rory McIlroy dressed in only a tartan skirt with a red wig, posing with Stephen Gallacher.

McGinley some of the Europeans ventured into the team room of the Americans to play table tennis and ''we got our (butt) kicked.''

''I'm glad the Ryder Cup is not a table tennis championship,'' he said.

McGinley said his last Ryder Cup and first Ryder Cup were filled with the same satisfaction, though not quite the same emotion. He was the player who hit the winning shot for Europe at The Belfry in 2002. He didn't hit a single shot at Gleneagles.

''The buzz at The Belfry was incredible. It was the first time I felt that kind of ecstasy, that sense of 'Wow!' It was an explosion of joy,'' he said. ''Yesterday wasn't quite the explosion because I was very much in management mode. ... But the sense of satisfaction is exactly the same.''

The American team filed out of Gleneagles Hotel in the morning, heading for Edinburgh and a charter flight home. It left on a far less unified front as Phil Mickelson said the Americans had strayed from a winning formula under Paul Azinger in 2008 and that Watson didn't involve his players.

McGinley still hasn't seen the press conference, which attracted nearly as much attention as Jamie Donaldson's winning shot into the 15th. He greeted Watson at the hotel on Monday morning before the U.S. team left.

''He's incredibly disappointed,'' McGinley said. ''But you know what? He's got that smile, that steely grin. Tom Watson is Tom Watson. He's a hard man, and he's a man I respect. So I have the greatest respect to be able to share this journey with a hero of mine.''

Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

"The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).


Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

“Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

Getty Images

McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

Getty Images

Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

Getty Images

Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.