Captains Know Their Roles
And hes certainly never competed in the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup.
But that will change come the third full week of November, when Howell will be one of 12 representatives for the United States in the fifth Presidents Cup matches.
My No. 1 goal this year was to make the Presidents Cup team, said Howell, who added that there was extra motivation to earn his way to South Africa after Jack Nicklaus was named U.S. captain.
I cant think of a better captain to play for than Jack Nicklaus, he said. Thats kind of too good to be true or too surreal, I guess.
Nicklaus, who won six Masters titles in Howells hometown of Augusta, Ga., is making his second appearance as Presidents Cup captain.
He first did so in Melbourne, Australia in 1998, when the U.S. notched its only defeat in the series. But it wasnt just a loss, it was an uninspired, embarrassing 20 -11 thumping.
I didn't know this until it was all over, but a few of the guys didn't want to be there. We had a meeting (at the Memorial Tournament this year) and I said, 'Guys, this will be a trip of a lifetime. But I want 12 guys who want to play golf.' The last time, too many of the guys weren't interested. As a result, we didn't play very well. If somebody doesn't want to go, please don't go. There is no obligation, Nicklaus said.
The 2000 edition was contested in mid-December, less than two weeks before Christmas. This years event will take place at The Links Course at Fancourt Hotel and Country Club Estate in George, South Africa Nov. 20-23.
There are many reasons to think the U.S., while not a lethargic as three years ago, will still be less enthusiastic than their International counterparts: they are playing the week before Thanksgiving; they are traveling to South Africa; and they, unlike their opponents, have to play an international team competition every year as opposed to every other year.
But it's a matter of pride,' said Nicklaus, who also captained two Ryder Cup teams, going 1-1. 'We should all be proud to be representing our country. I'm proud to be the USA's captain. I think everyone should aspire to make the team and want to play their best. That's all there is to it, really.'
And, for the record, only five of the 12 U.S. team members played in the 2002 Ryder Cup.
The International team is led by South African legend, and Nicklaus friend and foe, Gary Player.
The Presidents Cup is very important in promoting all the great things about South Africa. I think it is very important for our youth, particularly our black youngsters, to have the ability to see someone like Tiger Woods, to see what can be achieved through dedication and hard work, Player said.
So The Presidents Cup is definitely the kind of event that South Africa needs and something that South Africans can be proud of.
This is Players first time as a Presidents Cup captain; though, he did captain the Rest of The World team in the 2001 UBS Cup.
If you win you are a great captain, but if you lose, you're the worst, Player said. I think it's important to bring a sense of camaraderie to the team, make sure that their opinions are incorporated into the team's plans.
I've had several meetings with the players and try to keep in touch by whatever means. You know, the captain can do a lot of things for his team, but he never puts his hand on a club in competition. Once they start playing, it's up to them, not me. All I can do is cheer them on.
The only thing I can affect is through morale. I can get guys excited, get them pumped up a little bit. Maybe helping them with the pairings, he said.
They are going to pretty much pick the pairings themselves. I will pick to some degree. I can make the trip easier for them. Make sure the wives are well adjusted to the whole deal and they are well organized so that the players are free to work on their games and be together. I can't help them physically. They have to play golf themselves.
Aside from their beliefs in the role a captain plays, as well as the mutual respect for one another, the two also share similar thoughts in how to prepare their teams.
I think it's very important to see how they are playing at the time. And it's very important to sit down and talk with them about who really likes to play together. You must have their input and not just make decisions on your own. When it comes down to the end, it's my decision but I will have all the players' input to make it, Player said.
The big issue isn't whether you are a good captain. It comes down to the team. If they play well, they win. If they don't, they lose. I can't do much about that.
Said Nicklaus: The guys will pretty much make the pairings themselves. They know who they like to play with. I don't like putting 'unlike' together. I find if you play a very long hitter with a short hitter, they don't do well together. That's particularly true for Foursomes, but if you are playing Four-ball I don't think it makes a lot of difference. When two guys are paired together, I'm not going to tell them how to play. They'll figure that out among themselves.
The Americans are the reigning champions. They won the 2000 edition, 21 -10 , at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Prince William County, Va.
The biennial event was pushed back a year after the Ryder Cup was moved from 2001 to 2002 following the Sept. 11 attacks.
McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018
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.”
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.
Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open
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.
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.
McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54
Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.
McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.
McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.
McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, five shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.
Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.
“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and 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.”
Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener
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.''
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?''