My Ryder Cup Team
Simple as this ' the U.S.A has lost its balance in this event and its grip on what it takes to win. However, as I said on 'Live From The Ryder Cup' on Sunday night, the European team deserves far more credit than the United States deserves criticism.
Europe won it because they know how to play and they know how to relax. Period.
I will not question the talent of the U.S. players. I wont criticize their desire to win. I wont pile on Tiger or Phil for that matter. Bottom line ' we need them. I certainly wont harp on captain Tom Lehmans effort to make it all go right. Ive never seen a captain push all the right buttons and come up so empty (on either team.) It comes down to knowing how to do it when the bell goes off on Friday morning.
Before I submit my new-look Ryder Cup team for 2008, take to heart my thoughts about American disposition on the golf course in general. Our players struggle to smile and hug and back-pat and skip and jump and laugh. The emotion the Americans show seems so angry. Its fist pumps and gritting teeth and straight-lipped faces and steely eyes and a general feeling of 'us against them.'
When the United States makes a big putt, its a fist-bump ' not an arm-around-the-shoulder embrace walking to the next tee with a smile.
Do our guys look like a bunch of jolly good fellows? Off the course they might be ' on the course they struggle to come across that way. Europe has no problem acting that way or being that way.
Everyone has their theories. Nobody is a lock. I root for America as I should. Im hardly rooting against Europe, however. Theyre easy to embrace.
So lets make a new team. All bets are off. And for the sake of a balanced team with no superstars, were eliminating Tiger and Phil and Jim Furyk to come up with a hypothetical 12 who will take the course at Valhalla in 2008. The names are here for the criticism and the reason for selection is short and sweet.
Bottom line: what has been used hasnt worked. Ive got 12 captains picks to fix it:
Captain ' Larry Nelson
He deserves it. And recent cups have proven that a captain neednt be so in touch with the PGA TOUR.
Vice Captain ' Brian Hewitt (TGC)
Hes got a lot of vices. He might as well add this one. Plus, its always good to have a journalist in the teams corner for the proper spin.
Vice Captain ' Mark Cuban
Suddenly, theres no undue attention on the players is there?
My leader. Loose and fun. A perennial top 10 in driving distance, total driving and greens hit in regulation.
My grinder. Tough as nails. His swing isnt the best. But his heart is among the best. Europe doesnt care about majors ' neither do I.
Streaky hot, streaky mad, never seen a match he didnt want to win. Remember ' star power is out the window. Were there with a team that has no scouting report.
Third in driving A\accuracy, ninth in putting average. In play and in the hole. That works right? He didnt get enough run at this years Cup. Hed be out there plenty on my team.
Forget what happened at the K Club. Ill take my chances. Hes a team room guy. Hes a teammate. Period. Hell hug a guy until he cries. End of discussion.
Every team needs an over-achiever. Bryant drives it great (sixth in accuracy in 2005) and has just the right chip on his shoulder. Hes no star but hes been a survivor.
Olin Browne ' eighth in driving accuracy this year; fourth last year. Brownes been to Q-school enough to have a Masters degree. Another tough you-know-what. If a match was all-square after 18 ' hed demand extras.
He proved plenty to me at the K Club. Plus, hes just a darned good ball-striker. He smiles a lot, too, and he begins my run of nice guys who dont like to finish last.
Ive always liked Stricker. Go ahead, tell me he cant drive it well. Fine. Hes fourth in putting right now, second to Tiger Woods in scoring average (ahead of Furyk and Mickelson), and fifth in the all-around category. Remember, he started the year with NO EXEMPT STATUS and right now sits 31st in money. In the running for nicest guy on PGA TOUR.
He can make you laugh. He smiles a lot and he can play. Never appreciated, hes suddenly 20th in money. Hey Brett ' theres Sergio ' go get him!
Soft spoken southern boy with a good old heart and a whole lot of game. Sure he struggled when the pressure was on to make the team, but I tell him there is no pressure ' just go play. He can play. Hed be a terrific partner.
In 2005 he was third in putting average and ninth in scoring average. Hes No. 1 (sorry Ben) in slow play. Which is exactly why I put him out first in every session to set the tone for the day. Get em riled up Ben ' its OK with me.
If anyone gets hurt and cant go, Ive got birdie machine Ryan Palmer on call and good guy Joe Durant on speed dial, too. Durant leads the PGA TOUR in driving accuracy, hits a ton of greens. Everyone likes Durant. That works, too.
For the record, Michael Jordan is not allowed to watch. Ill give his tickets to Charles Barkley. Michaels rings would put too much pressure on my team. Barkley doesnt have one. Hell make us laugh and theres no chance hell try to pull an American player aside with a swing tip.
Folks, weve got two years to figure out the right formula to get the Ryder Cup back. I give you two days to get back to me with a better roster. Remember, the best team America could come up with for the last two Ryder Cups has managed to be outscored 37-19.
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead
New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.
The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.
"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."
Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.
It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.
Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.
Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore
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.''
13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest
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 and Hideto Tanihara 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.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
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, and Hideto Tanihara.
Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.
“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.