The Day European Golf Came of Age

By George WhiteMay 20, 2002, 4:00 pm
Muirfield Village was one of the first Jack Nicklaus designs, done in the mid-70s just outside Jacks native Columbus, Ohio. Nicklaus wanted a very special tournament, one which would one day be viewed as a major.
 
The PGA Tour granted it special status, declaring it an invitational, the same as Arnold Palmers Bay Hill. The Memorial was patterned after the Masters with green the dominant color. The past three years, the champion has been Tiger Woods, one of the greatest players in history. But to look at Muifields defining moment in golf history, one would probably have to look past the tournaments and go to 1987, when the Ryder Cup was held there.
 
Nicklaus was to captain the American squad, pitted against Tony Jacklin of Europe. Jacklin and his team bolted to an impressive 16 - 11 victory the preceding match at The Belfry in 1985. The U.S. had chafed about the loss for two years.
 
Everybody on this side of the ocean believed it was just a quirk, that Muirfield and Jack would right the ship and the U.S. would resume its winning ways. After all, America had never lost on its home soil in the Ryder Cup in the 60-year history of the matches. And absolutely no one believed that now would be the first, not with Nicklaus as captain.
 
That September morning in 87, the first two matches went as expected. Englishman Howard Clark popped his opening drive into a bunker to start the Ryder Cup. Curtis Strange birdied the second. He and Tom Kite were out quickly to a comfortable 4 and 2 victory, followed immediately by Hal Sutton and Dan Pohl ' 2 and 1 winners over Ken Brown and Bernard Langer.
 
Then, things quickly got interesting. Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam ' one of the most successful pairings in European history ' went up-and-down all morning with Larry Mize and Lanny Wadkins. The Americans birdied the first hole and went on to make the nine-hole turn 4-up ' surely a winning effort to match the first two.
 
Faldo nailed a 3-iron to begin play on the backside, however, and Woosnam sank the five-foot putt for a birdie. Wadkins found sand with his drive at the 12th and the European team won another ' 2-down. Wadkins missed another drive at 14 and the visitors were now just one behind. The Brits squared the match at 15 with a beautiful 1-iron to the center of the green from 250 yards, then went 1-up at 17 when Wadkins putt hit the hole and ricocheted, and Mize missed the ensuing shorty. The Americans lost the final hole with a bogey and the Europeans, who were down four with nine left, won going away.
 
What was the visitors motivation? We dont need any motivation, said Faldo. We are playing for history. Its like playing for your life.
 
From that point on, Europe was a formidable opponent, indeed. Larry Nelson had a perfect 9-0 Ryder Cup record, but when he was matched with Ryder rookie Payne Stewart, the pair fell to another veteran who was playing with a rookie ' Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal. Ballesteros and Olazabal would go on to post the highest win percentage in European team history, and they started with a 1-up win in the closing match of the first day. The Americans, who early on looked like certain winners, were suddenly tied at 2 - 2.
 
The afternoon matches were all Europe, the visitors winning all four matches to a 6 - 2 lead.
 
This has nothing to do with money, American Tom Kite would say. Its bigger than that. This is playing for Uncle Sam. And Sam expects a lot.
 
Nicklaus sent out a warning to his players. Everyone of my team has played now, he said. From now on, Ill pick only the best players. Ive told them, If you dont win, you dont play.
 
Day 2 was the day the U.S. determined to reverse the slide, but the reversal wouldnt come. The morning result was 2 - 1 Europe, the afternoon matches were split, 2 - 2, and going into the final day, Europe was comfortably ahead, 10 - 5.
 
Could America actually lose, on a great American course with a great American ' Nicklaus - as captain? For the first time, that possibility appeared legitimate. And in five of the first seven singles matches, the European made bogey. Was it possible that the Americans could change possibly their biggest defeat into their biggest comeback?
 
Andy Bean defeated Ian Woosnam in the opening match, but Howard Clark turned it around by beating Dan Pohl in the next match, both players struggling home with 75s. Sam Torrance and Larry Mize halved, which was a virtual European victory considering the visitors now needed just 2 points.
 
The news from the course, however, was encouraging for the Yanks. The U.S. led in six of the nine matches, and in the three they did not lead, they were either tied or very near the lead.
 
Mark Calcavecchia defeated Faldo for another U.S. point, but Olazabal nudged Europe closer to its goal when he defeated Stewart on the 18th green. Kite performed beautifully in outdueling Sandy Lyle, but a tough break doomed Ben Crenshaw in his match with Eamonn Darcy. Crenshaw snapped his putter and had to putt most of the match with an iron.
 
I remember breaking my putter on the sixth green, said Crenshaw. I just tapped it down on a walnut, and it snapped. It was like somebody shot me.
 
Crenshaw actually holed a couple of long putts to keep the match going until the final hole, but bogeyed the 18th to lose the match. Europe now needed just two more wins.
 
Larry Nelson and Bernhard Langer halved, and Europe was a single point away from victory. There was some criticism over the Nelson defeat since he accepted Langers offer of a half at 18, though both players stood about three feet from the cup. However, Ballesteros won the Cup on the very next match, defeating Curtis Strange on the final hole.
 
They (the Americans) almost pulled it out, but we did not win the 18th hole in any match, and we lost the 18th in three crucial matches, said Nicklaus. We just werent as touch in the stretch as the European guys.
 
The U.S. won the matches Sunday, 7 - 4, but lost the war, 15 - 13. I never thought Id live to see golf played at the level it was played Friday and Saturday, said European captain Jacklin. Today? Ive never been so worried.
 
The Muirfield of Scotland has become famous as a legendary venue for the British Open. But the Muirfield of Ohio became legendary for Europes first success in America, a signal that golf had truly became a world sport.

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The Social: G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T.

By Jason CrookJanuary 23, 2018, 6:00 pm

Tom Brady compares himself to Tiger Woods, who coincidentally is returning to the PGA Tour this week, Jordan Spieth hangs out with some decent company and kids these days ruffle some feathers with their friendships.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

Well, it’s finally Farmers Insurance Open week and Woods has been spotted practicing for his official return to the PGA Tour on Thursday.

Some thought this day might never come after a 2017 filled with mostly downs for the 14-time major champ.

But as he has taught the golf world time and time again, you just can't count Tiger out.

So even as Jon Rahm attempts to overtake Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world this week at Torrey Pines, all eyes will be on one of the greatest we've ever seen do it, even if that guy is ranked No. 647 in the world.

Speaking of greatness …

There’s not many who can just offhandedly compare themselves to Tiger, but if anyone gets a pass, it’s Tom Brady.

The 40-year-old New England Patriots quarterback led his team back to the Super Bowl for the second straight year despite playing the AFC title game with a cut on his throwing hand.

When asked about it after the Patriots come-from-behind victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady answered, “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”

So there you have it. A 40-year-old Brady is winning AFC Championships with his C game. Good luck, Eagles; you’re going to need it.

Also, if for some reason you wanted an update on Justin Thomas' life, it's still awesome:

Yeah, that's last year's PGA Tour Player of the Year hanging with Cy Young winner Cory Kluber in a suite at the Patriots game and teasing us with a possible #SB2K18 cameo.

Curtis Strange likes his competitive golf straight up, hold the friendliness.

This, according to Curtis Strange.

The two-time U.S. Open champ took to Twitter during the CareerBuilder Challenge to vent his frustration regarding the constant chit-chat and friendliness between Rahm and Andrew Landry:

This, of course, makes sense in theory. But good luck watching golf – or really any sport – from here on out. Sure there will be a few old school guys who buck the trend here and there, but for the most part, it’s really hard to share a private jet/dinners/vacations/(insert awesome thing here) with someone, and then completely turn off the friendship coming down the stretch of a big tournament.

Damn millennials. They ruin everything.

By now you've all seen that poor Philadelphia Eagles fan who lost his battle with a subway station pillar (from multiple angles), so instead here is a video of a man attempting to stand on an egg. Bet you can't guess how that goes.

Tony's gonna stand on an egg

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Seriously if you haven't seen the video of that Eagles fan, here's your last chance in this column. You'll be glad you did.

Jordan Spieth, Michael Phelps and Bryce Harper walk on to a golf course … there’s no punchline, that actually happened last week in Las Vegas.

Was the whole thing just a big advertisement for Spieth’s new Under Armour shoe? You bet.

But that doesn’t make the optics of three of the biggest superstar athletes on the planet teeing it up for a round any less awesome.

Off to the next. #Spieth2 #TEAMUA

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The trio has three major wins, five All Star Game appearances and 28 Olympic medals between them, and there they were over the weekend just fake laughing for the camera and driving around individual golf carts with their own personalized logos on them.

Just guys being dudes. Nothing better than that.

Matt Kuchar. Still good at golf. Still overly polite. This according to European Tour pro Eddie Pepperell who had the privilege of hitting on the range next to Kuuuuuch in Abu Dhabi last week.

That image is burned into your brain forever now, thanks Eddie. From now on when you think of Kuchar you're going to think of those Sketches ads and "oopsies."

Which, I suppose is better than a, "Did you get that?"

Blayne Barber's caddie, Cory Gilmer, collapsed and hit his head while at a restaurant at the Sony Open and has been mostly unconscious in the neurological intensive care unit ever since.

The outpouring of love and support from the golf community has been overwhelming on social media, and a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the mounting medical costs for Gilmer and his family.

Check out the link below for more info or to donate to a worthy cause:

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Top-ranked amateur wins LAAC, earns Masters invite

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 5:38 pm

Joaquin Niemann walked Augusta National Golf Club as a patron last year. He’ll be a competitor in 2018.

Niemann, the top-ranked amateur in the world, shot 8-under 63 Tuesday at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Santiago, Chile, to win the Latin America Amateur Championship.

And with the title, both redemption and an invitation to the Masters Tournament.


Full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


Niemann finished runner-up in last year’s LAAC to fellow Chilean Toto Gana. He followed Gana around Augusta grounds, watching as his best friend played two rounds before missing the cut.

Niemann, who was going to turn professional had he not won this week, started the final round one back of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz. Niemann was sluggish from the start on Tuesday, but then drove the 313-yard, par-4 eighth and made the eagle putt. That sparked a run of five birdies over his next six holes.

Niemann was bogey-free in the final round and finished five shots clear of Ortiz, at 11 under.

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Judges Panel, Host Announced for Wilson Golf's "Driver vs. Driver 2," Premiering This Fall on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJanuary 23, 2018, 4:15 pm

‘Driver vs. Driver 2 Presented by Wilson Currently in Production; Sports Broadcaster Melanie Collins Returns to Host

Morning Drive: Driver vs. Driver 2 Judges Announced

Golf Channel and Wilson Golf announced today the panel of judges and host for the second season of Driver vs. Driver, the innovative television series that follows aspiring golf equipment designers as they compete for the opportunity to have their driver idea or concept transformed into the next great golf driver from Wilson. The show is currently in production and will premiere this fall.

Joining judge Tim Clarke, President of Wilson Golf, are two newcomers to the series: 9-time National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star and current NHL on NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick – an avid golfer with a single digit handicap and a self-described golf equipment junkie; and PGA Professional, golf coach, equipment reviewer and social media influencer Rick Shiels.

“Golf is a big passion of mine, and personally I enjoy learning about new equipment and concepts,” said Roenick. “To be able to see this side of the business in how equipment is developed first-hand is fascinating. Being a part of the process in reviewing driver concepts and narrowing them down to an ultimate winning driver that will be sold across the country is a tremendous honor.” 

“Jeremy, as an avid golfer, and Rick, as a coach, equipment reviewer and golf professional, bring incredible, real world insights and different perspectives to the show and this process,” said Clarke. “I’m excited to work alongside these two judges to push the boundaries of innovation and bring a next-generation driver to golfers around the world.”

Sports broadcaster Melanie Collins returns as the host of Driver vs. Driver 2. Currently a sideline reporter for CBS Sports’ college football and basketball coverage, Collins hosted the inaugural season in 2016 and formerly co-hosted Golf Channel’s competition series, Big Break.

Production for Driver vs. Driver 2 began in the fall of 2017 and will continue through the summer, including this week at the PGA Merchandise Show. The series is being produced by Golf Channel, whose portfolio of original productions include interview series Feherty hosted by Emmy-nominated sports personality David Feherty, high-quality instruction shows School of Golf, Golf Channel Academy and Playing Lessons and a slate of award-winning films.

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Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right)