Enjoy the Cup But Remember Its Not the Best

By George WhiteSeptember 19, 2002, 4:00 pm
To be blunt, no one knows what to expect. Its a golf event that was supposed to be played a year ago, with players who were at the top of their games a year ago. One year is a long time in golf terms, and many of the players in the Ryder Cup arent playing the same caliber of golf they were last year.
But, they are playing 52 weeks later than scheduled because of the tragedy visited upon the United States. The European team voiced its understanding loud and clear. One year undoubtedly scrambled the mix, and captains Curtis Strange and Sam Torrance certainly would have drawn better teams if they were allowed to throw in their cards and re-deal. So much can happen in a years time.
They didnt do that, however. Strange has insisted that this is a tribute to players on both sides who qualified for a Ryder Cup that was to be played in 2001. As such, neither side should think it is the best just because they win, nor should either side think it is inferior because it loses. This one is different ' it doesnt pretend to match to the two best sides of the respective tours. Its largely symbolic, and no one should get too upset or too overjoyed at the eventual result.
But people will be people, and I dont care if they are pitching pennies against a wall, some will chortle all night over a win, mope for a month for a loss.
Phil Mickelson could be the X-Man for the U.S. You know what you will get from Tiger ' solid play, regardless. But Mickelson is the key here - he can be brilliant. Or he can look decidedly average. A good week from him and the U.S. is in. A bad week and the Yanks are in serious danger of defeat.
The Europeans? Three men are vital ' Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington and Colin Montgomerie. One player looks like a known quantity ' Thomas Bjorn has played well the second half of the year and there is no reason to expect him to stumble now. But for Europe to win, at least two of the other three must carry the load.
Harrington has approached a high level at times this year. Sergio did the same last year, but he has been quite inconsistent this year. Montgomerie, the teams mainstay in recent years, appears to be on the downward curve with a balky back. But he might give Europe just enough to squeeze by.
Someone else will pop up and have the week of his life. Will it be Davis Love? Mark Calcavecchia? Paul McGinley? Niclas Fasth? Someone will show up huge and tip the scales Europes way or towards the U.S. Someone who hasnt been particularly significant up til now, but someone who will make their mark on the worlds stage.
This year in particularly, though, youve got to root for good play ' or in several instances, good mediocre play. So many players arent at the apex of their games. So many guys will go out with guts and not much else.
Every Ryder Cup, lip service comes from both sides about how goodwill and sportsmanship will be applauded. Then, once the Cup begins, all that is forgotten. Somehow all the goodwill is past history, and by the third day you have two rabid camps of both players and spectators. Maybe this year will be different. But dont count on it.
I have to admit that I can enjoy a beer-belly softball game as much as a game between major leaguers, if the beer-bellies are fairly even. And as long as the suffering few match the other teams suffering few in the Ryder Cup, who cares if youre not watching a birdie barrage? Men are puking all over the course trying to win, and I, for one, applaud them. Its not the best of golf, but it IS the best of competition.
Full coverage of the 2002 Ryder Cup
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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."