Euros Have Had Shaky Time Too

By George WhiteSeptember 5, 2006, 4:00 pm
A disclaimer here at the outset ' this column and $2.87 will get you a cup of java at Starbucks. The past 10 Ryder Cups have proven that nothing is more foolhardy than to try to predict a winner before the first tee is pushed in the ground.
Nonetheless, you read a couple of weeks ago in this corner that the Americans have struggled the past couple of months. Tiger has been sensational, of course. Jim Furyk has been steady. But the other 10 have been up-and-down ' and some a lot more down than up.
Today, its Europe turn to stand up and be dissected. And if youre searching for some nugget that might favor the U.S., read on.
The Euros spent last week playing on home soil, of course, and it is exceptionally difficult to get a good read when the gents from the two sides are not competing at the same tournament. The lads competed in the BMW International in Germany last week, and since primarily Europeans were playing, then it isnt really surprising that a European (Henrik Stenson) won. Look at it as an intramural match ' or, if you will, as world-class competition.
So, with that nervous interjection, here is a look at the 12 who make up Europe:
DAVID HOWELL ' Went through a lackluster late summer in which he missed three cuts in seven events before finishing T4 in the BMW. And, he hadnt finished better than T35 prior to the German tournament. Has fought knee and shoulder injuries this summer.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE ' Missed the cut in three of the four majors this year. That may or may not be telling in the Ryder Cup ' probably not, considering what he has done in past matches. And in his last nine tournaments in Europe, hes finished T14 or better in seven.
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL ' Only Euro to take a pass on the BMW, even though he was in danger of being passed. But with the exception of the European Tours Open de France early in July when he finished T10, he hasnt had a top 20 berth. He did finish T21 in the U.S. Open and T22 in the WGC-Bridgestone.
HENRIK STENSON ' One of two rookies on the European squad (the U.S. has four), Stenson won the aforementioned BMW. He also finished T14 in the PGA, which was not too shabby. However, in his six previous tournaments, his highest finish was a T22 with one missed cut.
LUKE DONALD ' An emerging stroke-play star that American fans must watch closely. His line reads thus this summer: Barclays T5, U.S. Open T12, Cialis Western T21, Scottish Open T2, British Open T35, Deutsche Bank (Europe) T15, PGA T3, WEC-Bridgestone T8, BMW T6.
SERGIO GARCIA ' Another fellow who bears watching ' after missing the cut in the U.S. Open, Garcia finished T5 in the British Open T3 in the PGA in his last two majors.
PAUL CASEY ' Since U.S. Open when he finished 15th, hes been all over the map won at Gleneagles and 15th in the U.S. Open, but missed the cut at Europes Deutsche Bank, 71st in British Open, T53 International, and missed the cut at the PGA. Then, he finishes T4 at the WGC-Bridgestone before landing at T13 at the BMW. Anyone care to guess what his form will be in a couple of weeks?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON ' This is a man who missed the cut in both the British Open and PGA. However, he has several good efforts this summer, including a T2 at the Booz Allen, a second place in Europes Open de France, and last week a playoff loss at the BMW.
ROBERT KARLSSON ' The other European rookie, Karlsson has won two events in Europe and lost a playoff in another. However, in international competition, he finished T35 in the British Open, T29 in the PGA and T62 in the WGC-Bridgestone.
PAUL MCGINLEY ' A real puzzle here- missed the cut in both the majors in which he played (the U.S. and British Opens). And he would have missed the cut in the WGC-Bridgestone (he finished T66 out of 76 in this no-cut event.) And, he missed the cut last week in the Euro tourney at the BMW. However, it should be mentioned that he has had knee problems this year.
LEE WESTWOOD ' He withdrew at the WGC-Bridgestone after shooting 79-67-74. However, he tied for second at Europes Deutsche Bank and tied for 29th at the PGA. One of captain Ian Woosnams wild-card picks, along with:
DARREN CLARKE ' Theres no use trying to predict where this tortured soul will find himself in his return to play after the tragic death of his wife. However, he swears he will be ready. And dont forget that the Cup will be played in the Republic of Ireland, and Clarke is from Northern Island.
All this analysis, and Woosnam says it is futile. Stroke play is stroke play. When it comes to match play, it's a different competition, he says.
I think we've gone into other matches where the guys have not been playing well and we've come out winning. And I think, you know, it's a different kind of beast all together playing in the Ryder Cup. And it's all about bonding, friendliness, being a team. And that's getting each other excited and playing together and pulling our strengths together to fetch the best out of each player.
And of course, hes right.
Ever see a kid go though the farce of whacking a piata? Thats what its like trying to figure out who should be favored. By reputation, Europe has by far the most illustrious players. And, the Euros will be playing at home, in Ireland. But the Ryder Cup is all about intangibles. And we wont know who has the edge in intangibles until the start play at the K Club.
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Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

"It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.

Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery

A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.