The Man of the Matches

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 24, 2006, 4:00 pm
36th Ryder Cup MatchesIn the land of Guinness, Europe once again was brilliant. In the Ryder Cup competition, the United States once again was not.
 
Little more can be said than those two statements, in terms of the winning and losing of this event. For further proof, check the final score: Europe 18 , U.S. 9 ' just as it was two years ago.
 
Darren Clarke
Darren Clarke raises a pint of Guinness to the European victory.
From top to bottom, start to finish, this European team was just plain better than their American counterparts. They beat them with brilliance, beat them with class.
 
They proved to be, arguably ' or maybe overwhelmingly ' the best European team ever comprised.
 
In surmising this 36th edition, it would be pointless to harp on the Americans shortcomings. For any fault one can find in captain Tom Lehman or Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson or the team as a whole, there is no need to waste time and effort and writing space in doing so.
 
Just give credit where credit is due. Tip your cap to the Europeans and applaud them. They deserve it wholeheartedly.
 
Outside of Dublin, Ireland, Irish eyes were not only smiling this Sunday at the K Club; they were weeping. Shedding tears of joy and empathy for one of their own.
 
Darren Clarke didnt clinch the winning point for the Europeans. He didnt produce the most points. But his performance in his native country was equal parts spectacular and emotional.
 
Clarke, who lost his wife, Heather, to cancer six weeks ago this Sunday, made every unimaginable shot imaginable. He won all three of his matches.
 
But this week was about more than just results for the Northern Irishman. That was evident when he completed his singles victory over Zach Johnson.
 
After being conceded the winning putt by his opponent, he let it all go; everything that he had been trying so hard to keep hidden, to keep all to himself, he finally relinquished for the world to see and share in.
 
Clarke broke down, his eyes flooded with tears, showing everyone how great his loss was, and how much this week meant to him. He hugged his caddie and didnt want to let go, just as Woods had done immediately after winning the Open Championship in the wake of his fathers death, also to cancer.
 
He received a hug from Johnson. He received a hug from his captain, Ian Woosnam. He was physically embraced by all those who had emotionally embraced him throughout his ordeal, including Tiger, who gave him both a hug and some comforting words that will forever remain between these two friends.
 
Clarke, if he didn't already know, discovered something very important this week: he is loved.
 
It's done a lot for me for people to show me how much they care,' Clarke said. 'And it's done a lot to show how much they cared about Heather, and that means a lot to me. It's been a difficult week.
 
The saga of Darren Clarke, a widowed father of two young boys, transcended this Ryder Cup. It added the human quality that a competition such as this one ' one seen by so many as a matter of life and death ' really needed.
 
After all was said and done, and the Europeans had won the Cup for the fourth time in the last five contests, Clarke stood with his mates on the balcony of the clubhouse hotel. With a bottle of champagne in his left hand and a pint of Guinness in his right, he downed the latter in one great gulp.
 
He then raised the glass to an adoring crowd of thousands. The tears on his cheeks had been wiped away, replaced with beads of alcohol streaming down his face. And he smiled. One great big grin. For perhaps the first time in a very long time, he was genuinely happy.
 
As Sergio Garcia said during the celebration: '(Right now), he may be the happiest man alive.'
 
The Ryder Cup is a wonderful competition, one of the best team events in all of sports. But, whether American or European, accept it for what it is.
 
This is an event, a game.
 
Winning is wonderful; losing is painful. Winning can help heal wounds. It can bring excitement to life. But losing is not death. Not even close.
 
Darren Clarke can attest to both.
 
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
 
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  • Scoring - 36th Ryder Cup
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  • Watch: Pros try to hit 2-yard wide fairway in Dubai

    By Grill Room TeamNovember 18, 2017, 5:20 pm

    While in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour prestented a little challenge to Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay, Nicolas Colsaerts and Soren Kjeldsen. On a stretch of road outside of town, the four players had to try and hit a 2-yard wide fairway. Check out the results.

    Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai

    By Associated PressNovember 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the season-ending Tour Championship as he attempts to win a third straight title on the European Tour and a second career Race to Dubai crown.

    The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for a 7-under 65 Saturday and overall 15-under 201.

    The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.

    Rose is looking to be Europe's season-ending No. 1 for the second time. His leading rival for the Race to Dubai title, Tommy Fleetwood, is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

    Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.

    ''So, last day of the season and I've got a chance to win the Race to Dubai,'' Fleetwood said. ''It's cool.''


    DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

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    Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Race to Dubai title, is tied for 13th on 10 under after a 67.

    Fleetwood had a lead of 256,737 points going into the final tournament and needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

    Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey.

    Rose, who made some long putts for birdies apart from chipping in on the 13th hole, looked to be throwing away his advantage on the par-5 18th, when his second shot fell agonizingly short of the green and into the water hazard. But with his short game in superb condition, the reigning Olympic champion made a difficult up-and-down shot to stay ahead.

    ''That putt at the last is a big confidence-builder. That broke about 18 inches right-to-left downhill. That's the kind of putt I've been hoping to make. That was a really committed stroke. Hopefully I can build on that tomorrow,'' said Rose. ''I know what I need to do to stay at the top of the leaderboard. If I slip up tomorrow, he's (Fleetwood) right there. He's done everything he needs to do on his end, so it's a lot of fun.''

    The last player to win three tournaments in a row on the European Tour was Rory McIlroy, when he won the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in 2014.

    Fleetwood was 1 over after seven holes but turned it on with a hat trick of birdies from the eighth, and then four in a row from No. 13.

    ''I wanted to keep going. Let's bring the tee times forward for tomorrow,'' quipped Fleetwood after closing with a birdie on the 18th. ''Just one of them strange days where nothing was going at all. A couple sloppy pars on the par 5s, and a bad tee shot on fifth and I was 1-over through seven on a day where scoring has been really good ... Ninth and 10th, felt like we had something going ... it was a really good last 11 holes.''

    If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon: