Azinger Its OK to Applaud Euro Mistakes

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 19, 2008, 4:00 pm
Ryder CupLOUISVILLE, Ky. ' U.S. captain Paul Azinger knows the Ryder Cup is as much about sportsmanship as it is about golf.
 
Sportsmanship, however, takes on a little different hue during the Cup. Azinger told fans at Valhalla it was OK to applaud when the Europeans make a mistake.
 
Azinger knows it doesnt sound sporting, but he has played on enough U.S. Ryder Cup teams to know cheering against the opponent is common practice in Europe.
 
Essentially, you know, when we go over there, they cheer when we miss, Azinger said. I dont think that the American fans are really into what the Ryder Cup is all about in the fact that, you know, there is that other element.
 
Azinger stressed it wasnt a slam on European fans. In fact, he praised them.
 
If we lose a hole or we miss a putt, they cheer, Azinger said. I dont think the American fans get that part. Golf is, everybody oohs and aahs, but the European fans, they get it. The American fans, they dont, and they are not used to that.
 
Theyre not used to having massive pep rallies either at the Ryder Cup, but thousands of fans packed the pep rally. Azinger planned on attending the event alone and even ordered his team to stay behind to rest up for the long Friday ahead.
 
When Azinger hopped on the bus with his 13th man shirt on, he found the rest of the team waiting for him.
 
He just looked at us and said, Good to see my authority is being followed as the captain, Hunter Mahan said.
 
A MESSAGE FROM TIGER
 
One of the more meaningful text messages that Paul Azinger received on the eve of the Ryder Cup came from the one player he wished he had on the team ' Tiger Woods.
 
He sent me one last night that said, Kick their (behind), Azinger said after the morning matches. I told him the team was in a good place, practicing well and very prepared. And to call me if he had any input.
 
There was no need for Woods to call. The United States had a 3-1 lead in the morning, the first time since 1991 that it won the opening session of matches.
 
PHILS PATIENCE
 
Phil Mickelson rarely shows much of a temper, but he couldnt help himself Friday morning.
 
With his foursomes match all square, and Europe inside 4 feet for a birdie attempt, Mickelson was trying to hold his chip from just off the 10th green. He turned around and glared at photographers right after his ball made contact.
 
Someone had clicked his camera early, causing a distraction.
 
Cmon, guys, Mickelson complained. Who did that?
 
He didnt let it go there. Mickelson panned the cluster of photographers, trying to figure out the culprit. Once he identified the photographer, Mickelson stared at him.
 
Im going to ask you to be removed, Mickelson said. That is so uncool.
 
Police and marshals walked toward the photographer, who quickly ducked outside the ropes until they caught up to him. Later, he was seen cleaning out his locker.
 
LAST MAN SITTING
 
European Ryder Cup rookie Oliver Wilson, a surprise wild card selection by Faldo, was the only player on either team to sit out Fridays matches.
 
Faldo introduced Wilson during the Opening Ceremonies by saying maybe youve not heard of him, but you will soon.
 
Apparently, soon wont come until at least Saturday.
 
The 28-year-old Wilson has yet to win on the European tour, though he has been remarkably consistent this year, posting four runner-up finishes and seven Top 10s.
 
GET THIS MAN A CLUB
 
Michael Jordan is a veteran Ryder Cupper.
 
The retired NBA great and current managing partner of the Charlotte Bobcats was on hand Friday at Valhalla Golf Club, marking the sixth consecutive time Jordan has attended the matches. He stood on the porch of a corporate skybox behind the 14th tee Friday, a perfect vantage point to watch a U.S. surge that began on the back nine and gave the home side a 3-1 lead after the morning alternate-shot competition.
 
Just before the Kenny Perry hit his tee shot, Jordan showed that while he no longer plays, hes still as competitive as ever. Despite a growing lead for the Americans, Jordan said, Theres no such thing as a lead thats too big. Weve got to get them all.
 
Then he looked over at the tee and like the fans on every side of him, yelled, Cmon Kenny! before putting an ever-present stogie back in his mouth.
 
Jordan wasnt the only American luminary rooting on the home team. Former president George H.W. Bush stopped by during the afternoon foursomes round, wearing the same shirt as the U.S. team.
 
MONTYS HERE, SORT OF
 
Longtime European Ryder Cup star Colin Montgomerie failed to make the team for the first time since 1989.
 
Still, Montgomeries presence was felt at Valhalla, sort of. A group of European fans toted a life-size cardboard cutout of Montgomerie around the grounds.
 
The cutout was done up to make the Scotsman proud. The figure was adorned in a red tartan plaid kilt and a blue waistcoat with silver button and a sash. A look also modeled by the men who brought the cutout.
 
The Europeans could have used Montgomerie and his 20-9-7 Cup record on Friday morning.
 
There were actual, live, former European Ryder Cuppers in the crowd. Frenchman Thomas Levet, a member of the 2004 team, walked along with Englishmen Ian Poulter and Justin Rose during the morning round, even helping a marshal replace a stake at one point.
 
BATTLE OF THE STANDS
 
Before the players ever made it to the first tee Friday, the battle within the gallery had already begun.
 
Waiting for the first foursome to finish up on the practice range, U.S. fans began a rousing U.S.A. chant. Euro fans, several wearing the Euro teams blue flag with gold stars as a cape, responded with a sing-songy Eurrrr-up, Eurrrr-up. They followed it up with the ubiquitous Ole chant heard often at European soccer matches.
 
Undaunted, U.S. fans fired back with a chant of soccer sucks as the stands ' the Euros included ' laughed.
 
Related Links:
  • U.S. Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • European Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • Full Coverage - 37th Ryder Cup
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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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    McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

    Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

    The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

    McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.