Americans Fight Back Pull Within a Point
And they did so without the help of Tiger Woods.
With over 40,000 raucous ' but respectful ' fans on hand at The Belfry, Europe stormed to a 3-1 advantage after the morning four-balls. Still leading by two, at 4-2, the U.S. picked up a point and a crucial half by David Toms and Phil Mickelson to narrow the deficit.
Toms and Mickelson were 3-down with four to play when they won 15, 16 and 17 against Scotlands Colin Montgomerie and Germanys Bernhard Langer. Langer missed the green after Montgomerie hit the fairway at 18. Mickelson missed the fairway, but Toms hit the green.
Unfortunately for the Americans, the pin was on the back of the massive two-tiered putting surface and Toms couldnt muscle the ball within 80 feet.
Ball on the green, Mickelson used a wedge to chip 12 feet past the hole, from where Toms was unable to convert the par save.
'I have to tell you that was a lot of guts to try to hit a shot like that and get it close for his partner, where most of the people would have probably putted it,' U.S. captain Curtis Strange said of Mickelson's chip shot. 'I'm not going to second guess Phil Mickelson. I never wondered why he was doing it.'
Montgomerie nearly chipped in for birdie, but his ball coasted 10 feet past the cup. Langer then missed on the low side.
Still not in pocket, Mickelson had to make a three-footer ' which he did ' for the half.
'The half point was huge...huge from the numbers part of it, but huge for our pysche,' said Strange. 'If we do well Sunday afternoon, we might look back at that match and say that might have been the one that turned it around.'
After a dismal performance in the morning session, the team of Scott Verplank and Hal Sutton came off the bench to give the Americans a lift. They defeated Dane Thomas Bjorn and Northern Irelands Darren Clarke, 2-and-1.
Verplank, playing in his first ever Cup match, and Sutton were 2-down through 12 holes, but won 13, 14, 16 and 17. All but 16 were won with pars.
'You talk about the half point earlier, for (Sutton) to come out and do that, you can't believe what it does for his and the team's psyche of confidence,' said Strange.
The victory was surprising considering Bjorn and Clarke had taken out world No. 1 Woods and Paul Azinger in an epic four-ball morning match.
The Europeans combined to shoot a better-ball 10-under 62, while the Americans shot 63.
Two-down with two to play, Woods made a 12-footer for birdie at the 17th to force a final hole. Azinger then stuffed his approach shot at 18 to a foot.
'That's why Paul Azinger was picked on this team to suck it up and hit a shot like he did on the last hole,' Strange said.
After conceding the birdie, Bjorn rolled home a 20-footer to halve the hole and win the match. He sprung from the ground and into Clarkes arms as the two celebrated the triumph.
Woods traded in Azinger for good friend Mark Calcavecchia in the afternoon. The two were all square through 10 holes with Spain's Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood, until the Englishman made a 25-foot birdie putt at the 11th.
Woods had a chance to halve the hole, but missed a three-footer. He then missed another three-footer that would have halved the 12th. The two teams tied each of the next five holes, giving Westwood and Garcia a 2-and-1 win.
'I just missed two crucial putts on 11 and 12. It turned the entire momentum of the match on 11,' Woods said.
Said Strange of Woods: 'He doesn't feel real good right now, and that's good. He's disappointed, which is good. He probably feels as though he let the team down a bit, which is good. And it makes you come back hungrier the next day.'
With his pair of defeats Friday, Woods Ryder Cup record dropped to a paltry 3-8-1. Calcavecchia suffered his first loss in alternate shot; his record is now 4-1-0.
Westwood, because of his struggles the past two seasons, was a question mark in European captain Sam Torrances mind. But he more than proved himself Friday.
The 29-year-old from Worksop made three birdies in a four-hole stretch to help lead his team to a 4-and-3 victory over David Duval and Davis Love III in four-balls. He and Garcia were the only two players to earn two points on the first day.
'As I say, the boy has a lot of talent, and he proved it this week,' Torrance said of Westwood.
Veterans Montgomerie and Langer never trailed in their first match, a 4-and-3 victory over Scott Hoch and Jim Furyk, and were cruising in match No. 2 until the 15th hole.
'We're going in disappointed,' Montgomerie said, but added, 'We're 4 to 3 up. And I'm sure if you'd ask Sam at the start of the day, I'm sure he would have taken that. To lead after the first day is a very important thing.'
The Mickelson-Toms team was the only one of the Americans to win in four-balls.
Like Sutton and Verplank, Stewart Cink came off the sidelines to help his squad. He paired with Furyk and beat Irishmen Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley, 3-and-2. Harrington was the only European player to compete in both Friday matches and fail to earn a point.
As promised, U.S. captain Curtis Strange played all 12 of his team members on Day 1. Torrance kept Swedes Jesper Parnevik and Pierre Fulke and Welshman Phillip Price on the bench.
Saturdays matches will consist of four foursomes (alternate shot) in the AM, and four four-balls (better-ball) in the PM. They will play 12 singles matches on Sunday. A team must win 14 points to win the Matches. Being the defending champions, the U.S. can retain the Cup by earning a 14-14 tie.
Full coverage of the 34th Ryder Cup Matches
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia
This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.
The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.
Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.
The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.
A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.
And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.
Green jacket tour
Man of the people
Ace at 17th at Sawgrass
Departure from TaylorMade
Squashed beef with Paddy
Victory at Valderrama
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18
Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf
Well, this is a one new one.
According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:
“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”
Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.
“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.
The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.
“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”
The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.
Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.
Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.
PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation
Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.
The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.
The statement reads:
The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.
Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.
The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.
The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.
The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.