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 beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

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It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.