Ryder Cup Week Begins With a Smile and a Shake

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 23, 2002, 4:00 pm
SUTTON COLDFIELD, England -- Around 3:20 PM, Sam Torrance and Curtis Strange entered the media centers interview area and shook hands.
Finally, finally, huh? Strange said with a relieved laugh.
Indeed, answered Torrance.
While the 34th Ryder Cup matches wont officially begin until Friday morning, the two captains set the weeks tone with their friendly banter Monday afternoon.
Strange arrived with most of his U.S. team an hour prior to the press conference; guards armed with automatic weapons waited for their presence. Ten of the 12 men representing the defending champions made their ways from Kilkenny, Ireland, site of last weeks World Golf Championships-American Express Championship, to Sutton Coldfield, England, home to this years Cup venue, The Belfry.
Strange said Hal Sutton and Stewart Cink, both of whom played in the PGA Tours Tampa Bay Classic after not qualifying for the American Express, were due to arrive later in the day.
Some of Torrances European team arrived on the same flight as their American counterparts. Seven of the teams members played in the AmEx. Even Colin Montgomerie made the trip after complaining for weeks that his back might prevent him from attending.
I knew two weeks ago he was going to be here fit, but he was just stringing you boys along. It gave you something to write about, Torrance said.
Captains selection Jesper Parnevik arrived a day early. The Swede was the only playing member on either side to stay at The Belfry (team members from both sides will stay on site all week) Sunday night when a 4.8 earthquake ' the largest in 10 years in Britain ' rattled the area.
Jesper got a fright. He ran out on the balcony, starkers (naked), I believe, Torrance said. We didnt know what it was, whether it was something explosive.
Parnevik was understandably shaken; he was in New York City during last years terrorist attacks.
Of course, the events of September 11, 2001, are the reasons why this Ryder Cup was postponed a year. Three years removed from the last competition, the captains expressed an anxious desire to get it going once again.
The buildup has been great, said Torrance, but this has been the week weve all been waiting for, and were here.
Since, and even before the postponement, several issues have enveloped these Matches.
Strange and Torrance said Monday they were 100 percent sure there would be no over-enthusiastic incident such as the one on the 17th green Sunday at Brookline in 1999. They also continued to support their present team ' regardless of current form.
But there were a few new topics of conversation.
Torrance, a man whose golfing core is molded in the Ryder Cup, was asked what he thought about the comments Tiger Woods made last week in Ireland, when the worlds No. 1 said he could give you one million reasons ' as in the first-place prize money ' as to why he would rather win the American Express than the Ryder Cup.
I think we would probably chip in and pay a million to win this week, Torrance said of his team.
Torrance, however, did note that the credit card company sponsored Woods and it would have been horrific to say hed rather win the Ryder Cup than the American Express.
Strange said he also understood Tigers statement and that, I think we both know when Tiger Woods plays, hes ready to play, so hes the least of my concern.
Naturally, Woods has been a primary target in the press. Aside from his declaration that money trumped the matches, he was quoted as saying this weeks regimented schedule would be a hindrance to his normal routine.
Again, Strange is not worried.
Its been handled. Hes a team player. We had dinner Sunday night and we discussed some of those things, Strange said. When you come here youre going to be a part of a team.
Strange is quite pleased with his team heading into the week. Woods won in Ireland, and many of the others put together some positive ' if only slightly ' results, including Sutton and Cink, who both tied for 41st in Florida.
Strange added that, while impressed with most everyones play, he was not about to let the events in Ireland and Tampa change his plans for this week.
Last week everybody played pretty well. Im happy, Strange said. I didnt see anything that would change my mind or what I basically have written down.
Practice rounds will begin Tuesday. Neither Strange nor Torrance would disclose who might be paired with whom. Torrance said he was in the middle of working out his pairing sheet when he remembered he had a press conference to attend.
Two weeks ago, Strange said he planned to play everybody at least once before the Sunday singles ' believing it was the proper thing to do. Torrance, however, has no such intentions.
I think it would help on Sunday if everybody has played, but if somebody isnt playing well, Im not giving points away so they can have a free game.
Full coverage of the 34th Ryder Cup
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Golf's Olympic format, qualifying process remain the same

By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 6:25 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Potential Olympic golfers for the 2020 Games in Tokyo were informed on Monday that the qualification process for both the men’s and women’s competitions will remain unchanged.

According to a memo sent to PGA Tour players, the qualification process begins on July 1, 2018, and will end on June 22, 2020, for the men, with the top 59 players from the Olympic Golf Rankings, which is drawn from the Official World Golf Ranking, earning a spot in Tokyo (the host country is assured a spot in the 60-player field). The women’s qualification process begins on July 8, 2018, and ends on June 29, 2020.

The format, 72-holes of individual stroke play, for the ’20 Games will also remain unchanged.

The ’20 Olympics will be held July 24 through Aug. 9, and the men’s competition will be played the week before the women’s event at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

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Webb granted U.S. Women's Open special exemption

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 6:22 pm

Karrie Webb's streak of consecutive appearances at the U.S. Women's Open will continue this summer.

The USGA announced Monday that the 43-year-old Aussie has been granted a special exemption into this year's event, held May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek in Alabama. Webb, a winner in both 2000 and 2001, has qualified for the event on merit every year since 2011 when her 10-year exemption for her second victory ended.

"As a past champion, I'm very grateful and excited to accept the USGA's special exemption into this year's U.S. Women's Open," Webb said in a release. "I have always loved competing in the U.S. Women's Open and being tested on some of the best courses in the country."

Webb has played in the tournament every year since 1996, the longest such active streak, meaning that this summer will mark her 23rd consecutive appearance. She has made the U.S. Women's Open cut each of the last 10 years, never finishing outside the top 50 in that span.

Webb's exemption is the first handed out by the USGA since 2016, when Se Ri Pak received an invite to play at CordeValle. Prior to that the two most recent special exemptions went to Juli Inkster (2013) and Laura Davies (2009). The highest finish by a woman playing on a special exemption came in 1994, when Amy Alcott finished sixth.

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Notah: Driver is Tiger's No. 1 pre-Masters concern

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 5:49 pm

Tiger Woods mounted a Sunday charge at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, sending shockwaves through Bay Hill when it looked as though he might finally claim PGA Tour victory No. 80.

But the charge came to an end at the par-5 16th, where Woods had missed wide-right three days in a row before going OB-left on Sunday en route to bogey.

Woods’ API performance featured just a handful of drivers each day, as firm and fast conditions allowed him to make frequent use of a 2-iron off the tee.

That strategy led to a second top-5 finish in as many weeks, but if Woods wants to win again, if he wants claim another major, he is going to sort out his issues with the big stick.

A guest Monday morning on the Dan Patrick Show, Golf Channel’s Notah Begay believes the driver will be a focus for Woods in his pre-Masters preparation.

“Project No. 1 over the next two weeks is going to be the driver. … Any time he has to turn a shot right to left with trouble on the left, he struggles a little bit,” Begay said.

“Off the sixth tee, off the ninth tee, there was some errant shots. And then we saw the really horrible tee shot yesterday at 16. He talked about in the post-round comments. He just didn’t commit to a shot, and the worst thing that a professional athlete can do to themselves to compromise performance is not commit.

“And so he made a terrible swing, and that’s the miss that is really difficult for him to recover from, because the majority of his misses are out to the right. So, when you eliminate one half of the golf course, you can really make your way around … a lot easier. When you have a two-way miss going, which sometimes creeps into his driver, it really makes it difficult to take out some of the trouble that you’re looking at when you’re standing on the tee box.

“So he has to focus in on trying to find some way to navigate Augusta National with the driver, because it’s a course that’s going to force you to hit driver.”

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McIlroy trails only Woods in Masters betting odds

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 5:47 pm

After rallying for victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rory McIlroy is once again among the betting favorites for the upcoming Masters.

McIlroy was available at 16/1 at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook last week, listed behind six other players. But after his three-shot win at Bay Hill, his odds were trimmed to 10/1, leaving him behind only betting favorite Tiger Woods.

Next month will mark McIlroy's fourth opportunity to close out the final leg of the career Grand Slam by slipping into a green jacket. Here's a look at the current betting odds, with the first round only 17 days away:

8/1: Tiger Woods

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas

14/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose

16/1: Jason Day, Jon Rahm

18/1: Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson

25/1: Paul Casey, Bubba Watson

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Tommy Fleetwood, Hideki Matsuyama

40/1: Henrik Stenson, Marc Leishman

50/1: Alex Noren

60/1: Matt Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen, Adam Scott, Tyrrell Hatton, Thomas Pieters

80/1: Branden Grace, Brian Harman, Tony Finau, Charley Hoffman, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay

100/1: Zach Johnson, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Webb Simpson, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Daniel Berger, Kevin Kisner