Sutton Wildly Enthusiastic About Cuppers

By George WhiteMay 25, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 Ryder CupTiger Woods is definitely in, as are Phil Mickelson and Davis Love. John Daly, Bob Tway and Justin Leonard are teetering. Lee Janzen, Fred Couples and Mark Calcavecchia appear to be out.
Above it all, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton peers intently at the list of who his team might be come September at Oakland Hills. All I do know is that the 12 players from each side show up, said Sutton, and we will decide who the best team of those 24 guys are.
The fact that European captain Bernhard Langer will possibly be handicapped by ineligible players doesnt make Sutton feel any more secure. Jesper Parnevik, Luke Donald, Carl Pettersson and Mathias Gronberg, players who might figure in Langers choice for wild card, have been nixed by the European Tour since they will not play in 11 tour events back home. Sutton will not be soothed by the thoughts of a Euro squad made more beatable by the group's absence.
Every time the Ryder Cup comes along, on this sheet of paper right now, everybody seems to think that the American team is the best, said Sutton, perusing the latest rankings at the recent EDS Byron Nelson Championship.
There's only one thing I can guarantee you - the Europeans always seem to pose a very worthy test because they've won six out of the last nine Ryder Cups. Whoever is on their team, I'm sure it will be testy for the United States to win it, and they're a formidable opponent, always.
Actually, in 1989 the two teams battled to a 14-14 tie, but Europe got the cup because it had won the time before. So Sutton is well aware that Europe has been plenty tough for the U.S. in recent years. Sutton himself has been on four American teams, three of them in the down years.
Now he is charged with pulling the strings, deciding the pairings and then selecting the order in which the American team will go out for singles Sunday. Its an awesome assignment for anyone, and Sutton knows that regardless of what happens, he will receive far too much credit, win or lose. He is particularly aware of the singles situation Sunday.
What I do know would help that situation is for us to do some awesome playing on Friday and Saturday, he said. That would make those decisions much easier, and that's my whole thing - to be ready to go Friday morning at 8 o'clock whoever hits the first shot for the United States (Sunday morning), he has to be ready.
Sutton is very sincere when he says he is pleased with his team should the Ryder Cup be played next week. And he says he particularly likes the zeal of those Americans who will be carrying the U.S. banner.
There's not a guy in the top 25 that I don't like and that I don't think wouldn't have burning desire if they made the Ryder Cup team, because I think they're aware of the opportunity of it, said Sutton.
'I'm not going to single anybody out yet, and the reason why I'm not going to do that is because it's too early to do it. It puts too much pressure on that person if they think I'm already just madly in love with them. But I will tell you that the 15 names right below the top 10, I like them all. And I love the top 10.
The top 10 this week is comprised of Woods, Mickelson, Love, Jim Furyk, Kenny Perry, Chad Campbell, David Toms, Jerry Kelly, Steve Flesch and Chris Riley.
The next 15, in order, are Jonathan Kaye, Jay Haas, Scott Verplank, Chris DiMarco, Fred Funk, Scott Hoch, Jeff Maggert, Stewart Cink, Kirk Tripkett, Tim Herron, Daly, Brad Faxon, Charles Howell III, Tway and Leonard.
And Sutton says that whoever makes the American team, they will have an inspirational captain if nothing else.
You know, we're going to run this a little bit more like a team, he says. We're going to be - I'm going to be more of like a jockey. I'm going to call on them. If they're running fast, I'm going to let them run. If they need a little whip, I'm going to give them a little whip.
I'm pretty emotional. I'm pretty passionate about what I think. There's a darn good chance I might pump my fist even if I don't hit the first drive or the last putt. I'll still be excited about it.
In short, it will be Hal Suttons job to make sure the team is as ready as possible when that day in September rolls around. Sutton will make certain of that. Hey - we have to be ready, no excuses. More than anything else, that will be my job, he says.

The Ryder Cup captaincy is Suttons primary job, he believes, to the extent that his duties take precedence over anything that Hal Sutton does on the golf course this season.
I'm thinking about it all the time, he said. You know, I want to do a good job.
That will maybe play a small part in making us a victorious team, so when you take pride in what you're doing, well, then it can affect what you're doing (on a personal basis.)
But that's all right. I said a few weeks ago, somebody asked me the state of my game, and I said, Does it matter? That's kind of how I feel. It matters to me. I like to play well, but this is the Ryder Cup year, and I'm excited about it.
Related links:
  • Hal Sutton Bio

  • Current U.S. and European Ryder Cup Points Lists

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    LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

    The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

    The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

    The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

    The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

    The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.

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    Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

    An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

    It was too much “socializing.”

    “I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

    Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

    “Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

    Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

    His plan for doing that?

    “Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

    Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

    McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

    Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

    So much for easing into the new year.

    So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

    McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

    “It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

    McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

    If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

    After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

    “It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

    McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

    It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

    “When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

    A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

    A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

    Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

    To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

    Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

    McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

    “I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

    A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

    “I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

    A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

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    Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

    SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

    The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

    Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

    Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

    ''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

    The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.

    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

    ''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

    Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

    ''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

    Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

    He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

    Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

    Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

    He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

    Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.