Story 2 Long Time Coming

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 28, 2008, 5:00 pm
Top 10 StoriesFor a short time in September, a golf tournament became more than a golf tournament. It became the closest thing we have in this sport ' and in this country ' to the Olympics.
 
Yielding gasp-inducing moments for seven days, the event remarkably still retains its grasp on our memory banks even now, many months removed. Its nearly impossible to forget the emotion, the intensity and the patriotism elicited in the back hollows of Kentucky that week.
 
Because, forged just down the road from historic Louisville, at a place called Valhalla, for the first time since 1999, the Americans triumphed at the Ryder Cup. And every golf fan felt like they were a part of it.
 
Anthony Kim
Anthony Kim spurred the U.S. team on with his singles victory over Sergio Garcia. (Getty Images)
There was U.S. captain Paul Azingers sublime mix of passion and genius. There was Boo Weekleys comic relief. There was Kenny Perrys vindication. There was Anthony Kims energy; Hunter Mahans emergence; Justin Leonards resurgence and J. B. Holmes sheer power.
 
Likewise, on the other side of the aisle, storylines were woven into a riveting script played out on a bluegrass stage. Nick Faldo took the role as Black Bart, the European captain the Americans could ' to paraphrase Paul Casey ' properly hate. A pied Ian Poulter added a feistiness at a level even he had not prior exhibited. The Englishman may have hit more important shots than any player on either side during that week. And there was the curious absence of a full-point match win by Europes top gun trio Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington and Lee Westwood.
 
Then there was Sunday.
 
Words written for this Web site, in the intoxicating moments that followed the American victory, perhaps best capture that day:
 

'Sunday at the Ryder Cup is a riot of colors; a cooker of pressure; a cauldron of noise; an orgy of national pride; a stampede of fans-gone-wild and a spicy hot mixed grill of emotion and tension for the protagonists.
 
Once you have witnessed one, even if you dont know a halve from a half, as long as you fancy the game, you will be addicted. The winner, at the end of this exhausting, long days, flag-waving journey into night, lays claim to the biggest and best bragging rights in all of golf.
 
That winner Sunday at Valhalla Golf Club was the United States of America by a decisive margin of 16-11. The runner-up was Europe.
 
There were no losers in the strictest sporting sense. But a baked dozen of Europes best players dont really want to hear about that right now. '

 

What a wild week it was. The Europeans knew the crowd would be partisan. But how many really understood what it was like to play golf in an environment more suited to an SEC football game?
 
In fact, the best description of Ryder Cup play heard all week came from broadcaster Renton Laidlaw, in his usual economy of words. Gladiatorial, said the Scotsman.
 
At one point there was a rumor floating around that George 41 Bush gave Weekley a man-hug Saturday afternoon. Great country, isnt it? Kenny Perry, for his part, had a score to settle with the critics who had ripped him for skipping several important events earlier in the season in an effort to build his schedule around the Ryder Cup.
 
It wasnt until October that Azinger, still unwinding, admitted a major regret. Theres only one thing I would have done differently at Valhalla, Azinger said. And that would have been making sure I was on the tee box on the 18th hole in the Friday afternoon fourballs match when Boo Weekley and J.B. Holmes both hit their balls in the water. If I had been, I would have made sure they knew where their tee balls needed to be.
 
I was really kicking myself Friday night, Azinger told FM104.3 The Fan, a Denver-based sports talk radio show. I was by the 17th green and I couldnt get my cart to the 18th tee because of a TV tower. I should have gotten off the cart and just walked through the tower. Fortunately for me, that was my only regret for the week.
 
Yes, the four majors, each for their own distinct reasons, are indeed important and compelling. But the Ryder Cup, more than any other event in golf, is the most mesmerizing; one in which you cannot bear to leave your living room for fear of missing something. To those of us who truly believe that this event is the Super Bowl of golf, the 37th Ryder Cup was a reaffirmation.
 
Successful Ryder Cup teams are like bands of brothers. The more their backs are against the wall, the harder they will fight. This is not to suggest the Americans were better off without Tiger Woods, who was recuperating from reconstructive knee surgery in June. Such a notion is nonsense. But it does strengthen the suggestion that captain Azinger did, in fact, push all the right buttons in Kentucky. And not only were the players lucky for it, so were the fans of golf.
 
Related Links:
  • Top 10 Stories of the Year archive
  • Getty Images

    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

    Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

    ''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


    First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

    ''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

    David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

    The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    ''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

    Getty Images

    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

    Getty Images

    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

    Getty Images

    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

    “I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

    Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

    The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.