Ryder Cup can learn from Presidents Cup

By Jason SobelSeptember 15, 2012, 9:48 pm

There’s a lot to like about the Presidents Cup. There really is. It’s a fun little competition that gives us a reason to stop watching football during an autumn weekend every other year and finally gives the people of Australia, Korea, Canada and South Africa reason to be unified under one flag.

Let’s be real, though. Calling it better than the Ryder Cup is like declaring Kourtney the craziest Kardashian. Nobody this side of Fiji would actually believe it – and even the Fijians know they’re biased.

And yet, there are a few valuable lessons that Ryder Cup organizers could learn from their black-sheep cousin.

One is the idea of a four-day event. Let it breathe, people. There’s no reason to force-feed five sessions of golf into 72 hours. In today’s world, when money rules the roost – and don’t be naïve; the Ryder Cup is all about money – this would give the bean-counters an extra day of ticket sales … and souvenir sales … and television revenue. It’s a win-win for everybody.

Another is that every player competes during the first two sessions and only two from each team ride the pine during the third and fourth sessions. Got a guy on the back end of the roster you’d like to hide? Tough luck. This isn’t baseball and there shouldn’t be any pinch-hitters in the dugout. There would be gobs more intrigue to the Ryder Cup if it adopted this format.

All of which leads to the single greatest attraction of the Presidents Cup over its biennial brethren.

There is no greater drama in off-course competition than when the captains and assistants meet prior to each session and plot their players against each other. One team announces its opening pairing – or individual player, in the case of Sunday’s singles matches – and the other counters, back and forth until each lineup card is filled.

It’s like a fantasy draft. Hold the fantasy.

The Ryder Cup is a dramatic, gut-wrenching contest that doesn’t need many improvements, but this would be a major upgrade, like installing a turbocharged engine into an already souped-up sportscar.

Without seriously amending the event, it would ratchet up the importance of captains. No longer would they simply order their men from top to bottom and hope for the best, instead turning it into a game of psychology and strategy that is currently lacking from the proceedings.

Just think of all the potential entertainment we’ll probably miss at Medinah in the singles matches alone.

When Davis Love III calls on mercurial Phil Mickelson, his counterpart Jose Maria Olazabal could choose Lee Westwood in a match-up of players who have seen nearly as much success as and even more heartbreak than anyone over the past two decades.

When Olazabal puts forth volatile Sergio Garcia, Love could fan those flames by matching him against Bubba Watson in what could be a flammable pairing with plenty of gamesmanship.

And it goes on and on.

Dustin Johnson could get Nicolas Colsaerts in a match-up of Bash Brothers that would feature two of the game's longest hitters.

Luke Donald might find himself against Matt Kuchar, two of the game’s steadiest, most consistent players trading birdies and making par from everywhere.

Webb Simpson might square off against Graeme McDowell in what would have been a U.S. Open playoff three months ago had the European’s final-hole putt held its line.

Ian Poulter could see his fiery demeanor possibly extinguished by mellow Jason Dufner in the starkest contrast of styles we’ll ever witness.

And of course, the pièce de résistance: Tiger Woods versus Rory McIlroy.

I want to see it. You want to see it. Hell, even they want to see it.

Asked recently about the potential of facing Woods in singles at Medinah, McIlroy brazenly said, “I'd love Tiger to go out first and kick his ass.” When Woods was posed with a question about being ready for such a defeat, he smiled and coolly stated, “No.”

There are two ways this clash of the titans could happen. The first is by Love and Olazabal conspiring behind closed doors to ensure that each player is slotted in the same place for his team, meaning that when the lineups are revealed – surprise, surprise – they’ll be magically matched.

The other is by sheer luck.

There are 479,001,600 potential combinations of singles matches. Tiger and Rory would play against each other in 39,916,800 of them. In real terms, there’s a 1-in-12 chance of it happening – or 8.33 percent.

Expand that to having them play in a specific spot in the lineup – remember, McIlroy coyly mentioned the words “go out first” – and the odds fall to 0.69 percent.

So there you go. We have a 1-in-144 chance of each captain sending his best player out in the first singles match – or the fourth, or the eighth, or the last.

It’s a shame that odds are so low for the one individual match-up everybody is craving. There aren’t many times we can watch the Ryder Cup and glumly whine, “This would never happen at the Presidents Cup…” but this could very well be one of them.

If Woods and McIlroy are to face each other, it will have to be the work of divine fate or a back-room, wink-wink deal between captains. That’s too bad. There should be a way the Ryder Cup can give the people – and the players – what they want.

Getty Images

Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

Getty Images

13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

Getty Images

McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

Getty Images

Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."