NONot Again

By Kraig KannNovember 19, 2004, 5:00 pm
Just when you thought civility and sportsmanship had returned the Ryder Cup to its roots, Luke Donald and Paul Casey visited the media room at the WGC-World Cup.
Now, before I continue, let me say that Ive interviewed both men, and found them just as strong in character as in world class game.
Donald and Casey are teaming at the World Cup this week in Spain, but Tuesday spent time in an interview setting tag-teaming in a rant about Tom Lehman as the chosen Ryder Cup captain, the habits of American players in general, and a general perception of the United States.
Lehmans appointment as captain, by the way, has been a hot topic for many who believe that Lehmans exuberant display (specifically) after Justin Leonards 1999 putt at Brookline was over the top.
ON LEHMAN ' (Casey) If Lehman wins the Ryder Cup back for the Americans, it will be the best captaincy, the best appointment they have ever made. However, I dont think his appointment will be universally accepted on this side of the Atlantic. I dont think a lot of people want to see him as captain. I think a lot of people are just afraid that it might bring up a Brookline-type could be a Brookline-type situation at K Club.
ON LEHMAN ' (Donald) Ive heard reports, you know, about he was the first person to rush on the green at Brookline when Justin Leonard holed that putt. Ive heard a few things that go against what he kind of proclaims as being a very religious and it just seemed a little bit shady to me. I think from what Ive read, the Americans were running out of candidates, and he was kind of a choice that they probably wouldnt have made if a few others had accepted.
ON AMERICANS ' (Donald) I think people who are not Americans can get upset with Americans quite easily. They do seem to be very insular. They make rash comments that are really quite upsetting sometimes. I remember watching Disney and Ryan Palmer said, you know, the Nationwide was the second strongest tour in the world, days after Europe had just thrashed the U.S. 18 to 9 . I guess its a reaction to the Americans way of thinking that they have the best country in the world and they dont really need to leave their country; they have everything there.
ON AMERICANS ' (Casey) I think that, you know, Americans do have a tendency to sort of wind people up. You know, when they are chanting USA, and theres lots of them, it just wants to make you beat them even more, and I think thats the point I was probably trying to get across. They probably failed to realize it really sort of riles us and the rest of the world. I dont hate Americans. I have an American girlfriend, I live in America, I play many events in the U.S. I certainly dont hate them.
OK. If you saw the Sprint Pre-Game Wednesday night, you saw reaction from us, reaction from Colin Montgomerie whos competing at the UBS Cup and some e-mails from viewers.
Heres a sampling of those e-mails sent in to the Sprint Pre-Game that I thought youd like to read.
  • I think its good that there are some early emotions stirring up. Maybe our (U.S.) players will get a little more involved and be ready to win the cup back.
  • Sure, Paul Casey jumps on the anti-U.S. bandwagonbut were everybodys daddy when they need something. What a cheap shot from someone who has reaped the benefits of an education, golf and life here in America.
  • I think Luke Donald has just taken the bullseye off of Montys back and placed it squarely on his own. This is not the first time weve heard these types of comments from foreigners that choose to live in our country for whatever reason. I guess thats the price we pay as Americans for extending our hand to all foreigners from all walks of life.
  • I listened to the show tonight and heard the comments from Luke Donald and Paul Casey. I dont understand there comments being they both lost there singles matches at the Ryder Cup this year and Luke got waxed 5 and 3. So I think he need not talk for his teammates. Please revoke their Visas!
  • You folks just dont get it do you. The comments by these young players were not just about golf but American attitude in general. You are so arrogant it scares the rest of the world you are out of control, the ugly American is well and truly back.
  • Guys, hello! The U.S. is an insular country, no international news, or sports outside of the U.S. All domestic sports finals are called world. Anyway, I think both Lukes and Pauls comments are partly to do with golf and part to do with these other matters. And yes you can live in a country that does have these things that may annoy from time to time..they live here as the PGA is the best tour with the most money. Thats why Im over here - better opportunities and cash! Europeans get frustrated with the general U.S. public that appears to think that the world stops at their border and no other place could possibly compete on comparable levels. I think the younger generation of European players sees this more clearly as now they are competing more and more on the U.S. tour. I can imagine the comments regarding the Nationwide being the No. 2 world tour was the last straw.All this said the comments were not appropriate and I wish Tom Lehman all the best, hes going to need it!
    Ive given this just a days thought, and have some reactions. Lehmans captaincy might be of concern to some, but not to me. His enthusiasm for the Ryder Cup is stronger than most on either side.
    Yes, he jumped for joy on Leonards putt, but hes also one of the most decent, honorable, fair-minded sportsmen that Ive come across ' not just in golf but in any sport. Trust me, he hasnt enjoyed the label hes been tagged with by Europeans after 99, and Im certain he took the job with nothing but the best interests of the Ryder Cup in mind. If anything, its my opinion that hell go overboard with proper political balance during his captaincy.
    I have mixed feelings on the comments by Donald and Casey, which actually furthered a verbal jabbing by Casey in an article in a London paper a few weeks ago. Together the duo is a big part of Europes Ryder Cup future, yet these comments ' attacking in nature ' dont do much for the immediate future of their reputations, or the current state of Ryder Cup fellowship.
    Still, theres always a little shade of harsh reality to any argumentative statements and I find myself actually nodding in agreement that we are a spoiled country to some degree. If people or countries have negative feelings toward America, then there must be some reason for it. And collectively, it never hurts to self-evaluate.
    But if its opportunity that one wants, the United States is as good as it gets. Donald and Casey both chose the United States for college, college golf and a path to future professional success. If I dare to find fault, its about biting the hand that fed you.
    Ive always believed you respect the opportunities given and taken in life, and carefully choose words when talking about them later. A scholarship and a chance to play with the worlds best players is a pretty nice opportunity. Maybe theyve forgotten.
    Nobody has to love the United States. Dont even have to like it. But theres always something positive to take from any experience. Luke and Paul would have been wise to throw in some of the positive along with so much negative.
    Finally, Im worried for the Ryder Cup. I barely had my frequent flyer account updated after the trip to Detroit and now this!
    Hadnt we moved past this? I thought wed kissed and made up. Sutton and Langer talked about mended fences and the renewed priority of sportsmanship for two years prior to an American butt-whoopin by the Europeans. And when it was mercifully over on Sunday, there were no stern words, no quotable lashings to leave us with a bad taste. The score spoke for itself.
    Curtis Strange and Sam Torrance started the difficult process of returning the Ryder Cup to its rightful roots. Sutton and Langer continued it. But suddenly, with comments made by two Ryder Cup rookies, the ego-bruised United States has plenty to rally around and plenty to play for. Brace yourselves; were in for an interesting couple of years.
    But PLEASE.. Lets not go back to where weve been. That wasnt good for anyone.
    Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
  • Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

    "The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

    Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    “Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.