Bet on the Vets for Ryder Cup Victory

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 16, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 Ryder CupEvery two years, the European Ryder Cup captain looks into his stable and surveys his horses. He usually has two kinds in there: stallions and Clydesdales.
The stallions are often young and wild, bundles of nerves and energy. Theyre ready to run and run. Yet, they often spend more time than not tied up inside the stalls.
When it comes time to win the Ryder Cup, the European captain saddles up his Clydesdales and rides his big horses right into the winners circle.
The Europeans have never relied too much on their stallions ' their rookies, unless they had to (see 1999). They win with their Clydesdales ' their veterans.
Two years ago, none of the four first-time European Ryder Cup team members produced a winning record ' while two of the three American rookies did. Nonetheless, Europe won back the cup by three points ' the largest margin of victory since 1985.
In 99, Europe had seven rookies to just five vets. Captain Mark James opted not to play three of those seven until the singles session, and built up a four-point lead heading to the final day. Five of the seven rookies lost on Sunday ' including the three without a match under their belts, and Europe lost the cup.
It goes without saying ' though well write it: Experience wins the Ryder Cup.
Bernhard Langer knew this when he selected Colin Montgomerie as one of his two captains picks.
Montgomerie is the most decorated Ryder Cup player on either side. He has played in six Matches, compiling a 16-7-5 overall record. His 18.5 career points are 8 points higher than anyone else on either team (Davis Love III has 10).
Europe and the United States each have seven players with Ryder Cup know-how on their team and five rookies.
The Americans feature Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Love, Jim Furyk, David Toms, Jay Haas and Stewart Cink. The Europeans counter with Montgomerie, Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia, Darren Clarke, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Lee Westwood and Paul McGinley.
Both teams are very close on paper, said Golf Channel analyst and six-time European Ryder Cup team member Peter Oosterhuis. The Americans might have a slight advantage. The world rankings favor them; they have the major champions. But Europe always seems to make a match of it dont they? More than a match, they seem to win.
The names may favor the Americans, but the numbers fall in favor of the defending champions.
Europe has won or retained the cup six of the last nine times the biennial matches have been contested.
And they can chalk up that record to the Big E ' Experience.
The Europeans won 15 points two years ago at The Belfry. Of those points, 12 came courtesy veterans. Rookies ' individually or as a partner on a team ' helped contribute only three points.
As previously mentioned, the U.S. had just one rookie in 1999 to the Europeans seven ' its the only Ryder Cup the Americans have won out of the last four.
Two years prior, the Europeans had five rookies, and they helped give their squad a five-point lead heading into the final day. But with the cup on the line, it was the veterans who accounted for 3 of the four singles points won on Sunday that allowed them to claim victory.
Philip Walton, a rookie on the European team, will be forever remembered for earning the final point that won the 1995 Matches. But he and fellow first-timer Per-Ulrik Johannson provided only two points the entire week. The Europeans won because they had only two rookies to the Americans' five. And on that Sunday, the European veterans pounded the U.S. rookies into submission in the singles.
This time, each team will have seven old hands on board. And U.S. captain Hal Sutton isnt afraid to use the European strategy of taking the veterans to the whip, while the rookies sit and cheer from the sidelines.
We are going to take 12 egos up there, and everybody thinks that they are going to play a part in winning the 2004 Ryder Cup, Sutton said. The truth is, some will play a bigger part than others. That is just the reality of it and I hope everybody can accept that and understand their role.
In comparing the Seasoned Seven, the Europeans hold the advantage in almost every category ' pertaining to the Ryder Cup.
The seven European veterans have a combined 37-30-13 Ryder Cup record; the U.S. has a 31-35-13 record. The Europeans are 16-11-3 in foursomes; the U.S. 10-13-5. The Europeans are 15-11-6 in four-ball; the U.S. 11-16-5. The Euros, however, are 6-8-4 in singles, while the U.S. is 10-6-3.
Montgomerie and Harrington are not only the only European players to post a winning singles record, theyre the only Euros to have won a single singles match. On the other hand, Mickelson, Love, Furyk and Toms have winning singles records, while Tiger is 1-1-1. Haas is 0-2-0, while Cink is 0-1-0.
Sam Torrance said two years ago that out of the shadows come heroes. And true there are players like Walton or Phillip Price, who defeated Mickelson in singles in 2002, or McGinley, who made the cup clinching putt in 02, who add the final straw that breaks the other teams back.
But its the heavyweights who dog pile on top of the Americans to give such players that opportunity.
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    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 4:45 pm

    Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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    J. Korda fires flawless 62, leads by 4 in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 23, 2018, 12:48 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand – Jessica Korda shot a course-record 62 at the Honda LPGA Thailand on Friday to lead by four strokes after the second round.

    Playing her first tournament since having jaw surgery, Korda made eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record for the event.

    ''That was a pretty good round, pretty special,'' she said. ''Just had a lot of fun doing it.''

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    Korda is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda. She leads from another American, Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course.

    Minjee Lee of Australia is third and a shot behind Linicome on 11 under after a 67. Lexi Thompson, the 2016 champion, is fourth and another shot behind Lee.

    Korda is making her season debut in Thailand after the surgery and is playing with 27 screws holding her jaw in place.

    She seized the outright lead with a birdie on No. 15, the third of four straight birdies she made on the back nine. Her eagle on the last meant she finished with a 29 on the back nine, putting her in prime position for a first tour win since 2015.

    ''The best part is I have had no headache for 11 weeks. So that's the biggest win for me,'' she said. ''Honestly I was just trying to get on the green, get myself a chance. I birdied four in a row and holed a long one (on 18). I wasn't expecting it at all. It was pretty cool.''

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    Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1

    By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2018, 1:25 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tiger Woods had what he called ''easily'' his best round hitting the ball, and he didn't even break par at the Honda Classic.

    Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course, and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.

    ''When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, 'Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,''' said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.

    Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.

    Woods had only one big blunder - a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt - in an otherwise stress-free round. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.

    ''It was very positive today,'' Woods said. ''It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.''

    It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.

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    Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double bogey and shot 72.

    Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.

    The Swede is a nine-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 16 in the world, though he has yet to make a connection among American golf fans - outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, from his college days at Oklahoma State - from not having fared well at big events. Noren spends time in South Florida during the winter, so he's getting used to this variety of putting surfaces.

    ''I came over here to try to play some more American-style courses, get firmer greens, more rough, and to improve my driving and improve my long game,'' Noren said. ''So it's been great.''

    PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Morgan Hoffmann - who all live up the road in Jupiter - opened with a 67. There's not much of an advantage because hardly anyone plays PGA National the other 51 weeks of the year. It's a resort that gets plenty of traffic, and conditions aren't quite the same.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who now lives primarily in West Palm Beach, also came out to PGA National a few weeks ago to get a feel for the course. He was just like everyone else that day - carts on paths only. Not everyone can hole a bunker shot on the final hole at No. 9 for a 67. Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot his 67 with a bogey from a bunker on No. 9.

    Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.

    ''One bad hole,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes.''

    It came on the easiest hole on the course. Woods drove into a fairway bunker on the par-5 third, laid up and put his third shot in a bunker. He barely got it out to the collar, used the edge of his sand wedge to putt it down toward the hole and missed the 3-foot par putt.

    He answered with a birdie and made pars the rest of the way.

    ''I'm trying to get better, more efficient at what I'm doing,'' Woods said. ''And also I'm actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.''

    Woods played with Patton Kizzire, who already has won twice on the PGA Tour season this year. Kizzire had never met Woods until Thursday, and he yanked his opening tee shot into a palmetto bush. No one could find it, so he had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Kizzire covered the 505 yards in three shots, an outstanding bogey considering the two-shot penalty.

    Later, he laughed about the moment.

    ''I was so nervous,'' Kizzire said. ''I said to Tiger, 'Why did you have to make me so nervous?'''

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    Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda

    By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 11:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods called the greens “scratchy” on PGA National’s Champion Course.

    Rory McIlroy said there is “not a lot of grass on them.”

    Morgan Hoffmann said they are “pretty dicey in spots, like a lot of dirt.”

    The first round of the Honda Classic left players talking almost as much about the challenge of navigating the greens as they did the challenge of Florida’s blustery, winter winds.

    “They looked more like Sunday greens than Thursday,” McIlroy said. “They are pretty crusty. They are going to have a job keeping a couple of them alive.”

    The Champion Course always plays tough, ranking annually among the most challenging on the PGA Tour. With a very dry February, the course is firmer and faster than it typically plays.

    “Today was not easy,” Woods said. “It's going to get more difficult because these greens are not the best . . . Some of these putts are a bit bouncy . . . There's no root structure. You hit shots and you see this big puff of sand on the greens, so that shows you there's not a lot of root structure.”

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    Brad Nelson, PGA National’s director of agronomy, said the Champion Course’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are 18 years old, and they are dealing with some contamination, in spots, of other strains of grasses.

    “As it’s been so warm and dry, and as we are trying to get the greens so firm, those areas that are not a true Tifeagle variety anymore, they get unhappy,” Nelson said. “What I mean by unhappy is that they open up a little bit . . . It gives them the appearance of being a little bit thin in some areas.”

    Nelson said the greens are scheduled for re-grassing in the summer of 2019. He said the greens do have a “crusty” quality, but . . .

    “Our goal is to be really, really firm, and we feel like we are in a good place for where we want them to be going into the weekend,” he said.