Press Pass Presidents Cup Too Nice

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 26, 2007, 4:00 pm
Press PassEach week, GOLF CHANNEL experts and analysts offer their thoughts and opinions on hot topics in the world of golf with the Press Pass.
 
Hot Topic
The Presidents Cup is this week. Is the competition too nice or the way all Cups should be contested?
 
Brian Hewitt Brian Hewitt - Columnist, GOLFCHANNEL.com:
Actually, the competition hasnt always been all that nice. Who can forget the infamous singles match in Virginia when Vijay Singhs caddie, Paul Tesori, wore the hat that said; Tiger Who? on the back. Woods failed to see the humor and drummed Big Daddy handily. Yes, the Presidents Cup is more laid back than the Ryder Cup. But there will be nothing laid back this week about the Montreal crowds following Canadian Mike Weir.
 
Mercer Baggs Mercer Baggs - Senior Producer, GOLFCHANNEL.com:
Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player have poured enough sugar over this event to rot all 24 sets of team member teeth. While I respect the notion that these are friendly matches, a little animosity would go a long way to creating some public interest. Ryder Cups are always more entertaining when the two sides are bickering.
 
Ian Hutchinson Ian Hutchinson - Contrib. Writer, GOLFCHANNEL.com:
The tie negotiated by Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player four years ago left me empty and still does. Since then, its been almost syrupy to the point of the Presidents Cup being more of a friendly than true international competition. That doesnt mean that a War by the Shore or Battle of Brookline is necessary. Gentlemanly play is certainly admirable, but the Internationals need to remember that the United States is the defending champ and the dominant team in Presidents Cup history. The Americans need to remember their recent Ryder Cup history and take their frustration out in the Presidents Cup. Now thats entertainment!
 
Hot Topic
Given his recent dominance on the individual level, how will Tiger Woods fare as he once again returns to team competition?
 
Hewitt:
Tiger was raised to be more of a lone wolf than a team player. That doesnt mean he doesnt know the value of teamwork and it doesnt mean he isnt a good guy in the team room. It just means that Tigers nature is beat everybody else on the premises every week. Just one time Id love to see a captain send Woods out by himself, without a partner, in a four-balls match. It wont ever happen. But if it did, I wouldnt bet against him.
 
Baggs:
About the same as he always does in team competitions. He'll proably be around .500 after the first four team sessions and then win his singles match. Tiger certainly wants to win this week -- he always wants to win. But should he lose, the disappointment will last for about 5 seconds.
 
Hutchinson:
Definitely, Tiger is capable of putting it on auto pilot from the last month and that will be sweet for the American team, but having said that, his physical skills have never been questioned. What will truly distinguish Tiger is his leadership, so his contributions off the course will also be an important factor. Theres a big difference between individual and team success and Tiger, more than anybody, should be leading his teams transition from me to we for the Presidents Cup.
 
Hot Topic
Do you like seeing all 12 players compete in every team session, as is the case for the Presidents Cup, or having four players sit out in foursomes and four-ball, like in the Ryder Cup?
 
Hewitt:
I like the idea that the captains have to sit players for the team sessions. It adds an element of intrigue and edginess to the competition. Andrew Coltart didnt play any matches until the Sunday singles at the 1999 Ryder Cup and he drew Woods one-on-one. He never had a chance. And I dont think he was very pleased with captain Mark James.
 
Baggs:
I don't think captains serve much of a purpose in Cup matches, except to pick out some pretty bad looking uniforms. Really their only on-course job is to decide who plays with whom, and who has to sit. I find it far more intriguing when players have to be sidelined.
 
Hutchinson:
Thats such a tough call. If you invite a player, you dont want to waste his time by sitting him down, especially if hes a character player who is aching to compete. However, deciding who plays and who doesnt places a lot of importance on strategy on the part of the captains. Is there anything wrong with distinguishing the Ryder Cup from the Presidents Cup?
 
Hot Topic
Whats the ONE thing you are most looking forward to this week?
 
Hewitt:
Tiger Woods vs. Rory Sabbatini in the final singles match Sunday with the Presidents Cup riding on the outcome of their match.
 
Baggs:
How well Mike Weir performs. He will receive crowd support like no other in Presidents Cup history. He's one of the good guys on TOUR; I hope he plays well.
 
Hutchinson:
A Tiger Woods/Nick OHern showdown in singles would be interesting or how about Canadian homie Mike Weir up against Woods? I think the latter might be the loudest singles match ever. Speaking of Weir, how will he fare in front of his countrymen after being a controversial captains pick by Gary Player? Sunday singles is always the grand finale, the way it should be.
 
Related Links:
  • GOLF CHANNEL Airtimes
  • Full Coverage - Presidents Cup
  • Getty Images

    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.

    Getty Images

    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.

    Getty Images

    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.

    Getty Images

    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.