Presidents Cup not a preview of the Ryder Cup

By Doug FergusonOctober 13, 2009, 2:52 am
Presidents CupSAN FRANCISCO – This had all the trappings of an international incident, at least by golf’s standards.

Retief Goosen removed his cap and appeared to be conceding a 3-foot putt. Goosen realized he had the score wrong and the putt meant something, so he moved back to the edge of the green and watched as Justin Leonard missed.

It was all a misunderstanding. No hard feelings. Leonard said so himself, confirming Goosen’s good intentions and blaming only himself for a bad putt that cost his team a point.
Ryder Cup trophy
The Ryder Cup is far different from the Presidents Cup. (Getty Images)
This was in the opening round of the Presidents Cup.

And if this had taken place in Wales next year at the Ryder Cup? Leonard couldn’t contain his laughter.

“You guys,” he said to a few reporters, “would have made it a much bigger deal.”

It’s not a good idea to compare the two cups, even in the aftermath of an impressive U.S. victory. The Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup are nothing alike except for the size of the teams (12 players) and the excess of ceremonies and celebrities.

The golf was spectacular at times, and the Americans have rarely looked this strong. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were unbeaten in all five of their matches for the first time in a team competition.

Just don’t jump to any conclusions about the Ryder Cup next year. There is no comparison with the cups when it comes to the intensity, scrutiny, pressure and hyperbole. That doesn’t make it better, just different.

No one sprayed champagne Sunday afternoon from the clubhouse balcony at Harding Park, and not just because the public course doesn’t have a balcony, or even much of a clubhouse.

Woods delivered the cup-clinching point and didn’t know it, even after U.S. captain Fred Couples told him.

The Presidents Cup once was described as matches between the United States and an International team from Florida. That’s no longer true because two International players have homes in Arizona. And while the Presidents Cup features 24 of the world’s best players, all but one of them – 18-year-old Ryo Ishikawa of Japan – is a PGA Tour member.

What makes the Ryder Cup so compelling, beyond its 80 years of history, is the pride of one tour (Europe) and the pressure on another tour (United States).

No one handles the spotlight as well as Woods. No other player in his generation has faced more significant shots. Still, one can’t help but wonder if he produces better shots at the Presidents Cup because the matches are more about amity than enmity.

Woods delivered the defining moment of this Presidents Cup when he holed a 25-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole, then twirled his club and struck a conductor’s pose upon hitting 3-iron from 218 yards into 8 feet for an eagle that was conceded, and a stunning foursomes victory in what turned out to be the pivotal match of the week.

Consider his top highlights from the Ryder Cup:

  • An eagle putt that he knocked across the green and into the water at Valderrama.
  • The pained expression on his face when Mickelson, his partner, hit a tee shot out of play on the 18th hole at Oakland Hills.
  • His caddie dropping a 9-iron into the River Liffey during a singles match at The K Club in Ireland.

To suggest that Woods has finally figured out team play is to get carried away with the results of one cup. He didn’t care any less before. He didn’t try any harder this time.

“I didn’t notice any more intensity,” Mike Weir said. “He’s always like that.”

Couples summed it up beautifully earlier in the week when he said the key to getting points from the world’s No. 1 player is to give him a partner who contributes, arguing that two-against-one is not a fair fight, even when Woods is involved.

Stricker pulled his share of the load and then some, although NBC Sports analyst Johnny Miller was either playing favorites or not paying attention when he said of Woods, “If he didn’t have Steve Stricker as a partner, he would have lost both his matches (Saturday).” Woods carried their foursome match in the morning, then turned it over to Stricker’s awesome putting in the afternoon fourball.

They became the first Presidents Cup partners to win all four matches, and the first 4-0 team in any cup since 1979.

“It was a blast to play with him,” Stricker said. “I felt like I held up my end of the deal, which was a big concern for me coming into this because I knew I was going to play with him. I wanted to make sure I contributed, and I felt like I did at times.”

Sure, there are lessons that Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin can take from Harding Park.

“Sign up Michael Jordan,” Couples suggested.

Jordan said the Americans looked like a real team last week, meaning he hasn’t been paying attention, either. The Americans have always gotten along well as a team. They just couldn’t make putts. When putts go in, points go on the board, smiles broaden, everyone has a good time. It really is that simple.

Pavin surely saw that Woods and Stricker make great partners, and that Mickelson can play great with anyone. Pavin should take one thing away from Couples and Jack Nicklaus, captain of the previous three Presidents Cup teams. Instead of over-analyzing, they asked the players who they wanted as partners. It shouldn’t be that hard.

Next year is the Ryder Cup.

The players will be different, including the Americans. The audience will be greater, the stakes higher. And the scrutiny will be keener than ever. Especially if the Americans lose.
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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."