No 5 Europe All Alone in Ryder Cup Heaven

By George WhiteDecember 24, 2004, 5:00 pm
2004 Stories of the YearEditor's note: We are counting down the top 10 stories in golf for the 2004 season. This is Story No. 5.
Mickey Wright said it in 1981, in an interview in Golf Digest. When Im playing my best golf, Im in a fog standing back watching the earth in orbit with a golf club in your hands.
That was the way the European Ryder Cup looked this year. Every drive was straight, every iron was just the right distance, every putt homed in true to the cup. The Euros appeared in a fog, but they could do no wrong. Result: they mauled the Americans by nine points, 18 - 9 .
They have that intangible, said defeated U.S. captain Hal Sutton.
35th Ryder CupThey had it from the very first match, Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington slated to go out against Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. The Americans, playing at home at Oakland Hills in Detroit, were overwhelming favorites to win. But Montgomerie made an eight-foot putt for birdie on the first hole of the three-day matches, and the Euros were off and running. Montgomerie and Harrington blew a big hole in the Americans battle plan with a 2-up victory, and Europe never once trailed the entire week.
They led 3 - 1 after that first morning session, 6 - 1 at the end of the first day.
Just when it looked like the Americans were getting a little momentum after two successive wins to start Day 2, more unlikely European stars showed up. This time it was a pair of rookies, Englishmen Paul Casey and David Howell, who stemmed the tide with a 1-up win over Jim Furyk and Chad Campbell.
That's the way we've been all week - no matter what is going on, the other guys are going to pull for each other, said Darren Clarke. That's why at the end of the week, we have ended up with as many points as we have.
At the end of the second day, it was 11-5, Europe. And then, in a rousing display of European team spirit, the final day was a celebration of Euro singles superiority. Europe won that day, 7 - 4 and won the Cup by a very convincing margin.
In the end, it was a matter of who had the most skill on the greens.
We all know they are great players, all 24, and it does come down to who makes the putts, said European captain Bernhard Langer.
Bottom line is, they can all hit good tee shots and hit the green most of the time, but whoever makes the putts wins most of the time anyways, and that's what we said. Hal and I said that early in the week when we had press conferences - the team who will putt better will most likely be the winner.
And the Europeans seemed to have the edge in team spirit from the word go, said Montgomerie. We're a closer-knit team. We're one of the closest teams in international sport; we must be. It's amazing how well we play for each other, and that's huge.
I'm not saying that the Americans don't. They play for the country or whatever, that's right. But we really do play for each other. And it's amazing how we pull for each other from the word go, from the moment we get on that plane on Monday morning how we are as one. It's amazing how our record here is, belies our ranking in the world.
Was it the best team Europe has ever had? It certainly seemed that way. Montgomerie emphasized that point.
It's as good a team as we have had, he said, nodding in agreement. And it does bode well for the future. It's as good a win. We're all individually fantastic, you know, but as good a team as we have had and it all goes well for the next time around.
Monty personally had a rocky year this year with a divorce and a golf game that was sorely lacking, Montomerie-wise. But all the personal things meant nothing when it came to the Ryder Cup.
Personally it means nothing, OK? said Montgomerie. Personally it means nothing. This is all about a team event. Personally it means nothing to me. I've said that many times. That putt was not for me at all; that was to get 14 1/2 points, which we're required to do.
But I must admit here that we have come here with the best team I've been associated with. Team. All 12.
In the end, it was difficult for Langer to express himself ' the results were too overwhelming.
It's hard to put into words, he said. I can't talk enough about these 12 guys here, the three assistant captains that I had, the caddies, the wives, even the staff. I mean, just everybody did an outstanding job. They all gave 100 percent, and sometimes more.
As I said earlier in the year or in the week, the players do the job. You know, I can only prepare the way and make them feel comfortable, encourage them and provide everything they need. But in the end, they are the ones who hit the shots and hole the putts, and they have done an incredible job.
For Langer, it would seem to have been sweet revenge for that time back in 1989 when he missed the six-foot putt that gave the U.S. the win at Kiawah. But its foreign to his nature to be boastful.
I'm not that sad or depressed about Kiawah, to tell you the truth, Langer said. I was down for a couple of days, but, you know, every time I got up in the morning, looked in the mirror, I knew that I gave 100 percent out there. As long as I do that, it doesn't matter to me whether I have success or failure.
It's a famous story of which President is it of the United States (Abraham Lincoln) who failed, whatever, 12 times and then he finally became president. You gain success through failure or you learn about things. And I've had some great experiences as a player in the Ryder Cup. I've had some other ones. And this obviously was my first time as a captain. And I don't think it can get any better than this has been this week, just from the very beginning.
I knew that we would have a great time once we got here. And they actually exceeded everything that I was hoping for.
Related Links:
  • 2004 Year in Review
  • 35th Ryder Cup Matches
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    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

    Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

    In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

    “I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

    The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

    Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

    The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

    The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

    “My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

    It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

    Tweet of the week:

    It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

    The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

    Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    “I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

    McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

    He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

    Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

    “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”