Even with a 10-6 lead, Europe can't get complacent

By Jason SobelSeptember 27, 2014, 7:35 pm

GLENEAGLES, Scotland – Throughout this week, Europe captain Paul McGinley has spoken about the template he’s employed toward managing his team. He’s insisted that there exists a prevalent philosophy within his roster. He’s even suggested that there’s a secret formula which he’ll reveal when – not if – the team wins on Sunday night.

It’s taken some dutiful undercover work and hours of eavesdropping with an ear to the door of the European team room, but I think I’ve finally figured it out. I believe I’ve stolen the plan. And I can now reveal the confidential information.

Drumroll please …

… and the answer is …

Play much better golf than the United States team.

How else to explain Europe’s commanding 10-6 lead entering the final session? How else to explain how the team has once again looked dominant in the team matches? How else to explain how McGinley’s squad seems prepared to win the Ryder Cup for the seventh time in the last eight editions of the event?

Alright, so maybe it goes deeper than simply outplaying the opponent.

Maybe the secret formula also consists of accurate driving off the tee. Consistently hitting clutch approach shots. Often chipping to within gimme range. And – this is an important one – making just about every putt between here and Glasgow.

That must be it, right? Isn’t that all there is to the game?

Well, not if you’re McGinley. Not if you’re building yet another Ryder Cup champion.

“When you're a captain, you go in with a plan,” he explained Saturday evening after his team posted a 3-0-1 record in the final foursomes session. “You have a skeleton plan. Nothing is written in stone. You don't ever write things in stone and you have to react and if you're not able to react, you've got a problem. And me as captain, what I've done, and what I've been planning all week long is this is why you don't see a lot of me on the golf course. I'm plotting our next move.”

Every single player on the roster has bought into the captain’s concepts.

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Justin Rose is one of the world’s best players, a major champion who’s good for a couple of worldwide wins each year. Get him between the ropes at this event, though, and it’s as if he’s armed with Ben Hogan’s swing and Bobby Jones’ putting stroke. So far this week, he’s undefeated in four matches. If there was such a thing as Ryder Cup MVP, they’d be engraving his name already.

Lee Westwood is, to put it bluntly, a fairly mediocre putter when compared with his peers for 103 weeks. Every two years, though, it’s as if his ball is magnetized to the bottom of the cup. He simply wills himself into being better on the greens during these weeks.

Sergio Garcia has been known to sulk at times. He can be pouty when things aren’t going his way. And then he arrives here and he’s smiling and back-slapping and shot-making like the second coming of Seve Ballesteros.

Henrik Stenson hasn’t played in this competition since 2008. In the time since, his game hit rock-bottom, only to rise from the abyss. There have been no signs of those struggles this week, though. Even slightly hampered by a balky back, he’s won each of his three team matches so far.

Victor Dubuisson may not become a superstar, but he will be the latest young European to be labeled a budding superstar for the way he played in this event. It remains to be seen whether he’ll be the next Colin Montgomerie or Nicolas Colsaerts, but the guy called “enigmatic” entering this week has been nothing but consistently impressive.

That list isn’t even including world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who’s only looked very good instead of his usual great this week. Or Ian Poulter, who has played just two matches and only given his best crazy-eyed Poulter reaction a couple of times. Or Graeme McDowell, or Jamie Donaldson, or Martin Kaymer, or Thomas Bjorn, each of whom has made important contributions during the first four sessions of the week.

During this entire week – and, really, even before this week started – McGinley’s theme has centered around complacency. More to the point, trying to keep from a lack of complacency. The team is playing on home turf, it’s gotten used to winning and it has a handful of team members who have already enjoyed bountiful individual campaigns this year.

With one session remaining, McGinley still has to keep his players from getting too relaxed. They already know all too well that a 10-6 lead isn’t insurmountable, because that’s the exact deficit they overcame two years ago.

And so they understand what the captain is preaching.

“We were there two years ago,” McDowell said. “We know what can happen. Complacency is a word that's been the buzzword in our team room this week. We've worked hard to avoid complacency, and believe us, we'll be working hard on that tonight again.”

That could be the secret to winning the Ryder Cup once again. And hey, it doesn’t hurt to play much better golf than the United States team, too.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.