Euros gracious - and hilarious - in Ryder Cup defeat

By Randall MellOctober 3, 2016, 1:26 am

CHASKA, Minn. – Somewhere in the cosmos, Arnold Palmer must have been shooting the boys a thumbs up.

The European boys.

Yes, Palmer would have loved the American Ryder Cup effort Sunday, been proud of the way they played and conducted themselves, but he would have loved the show the Europeans put on in the media center after they got whipped Sunday at Hazeltine.

After a hard fought loss, rife with some ugly confrontations with boisterous American fans, the Europeans captured the true spirit of the Ryder Cup with their class act.

Over the years, the Europeans have showed us all they know how to win by dominating this event.

And they showed us Sunday they know how to lose, too.

They showed us with good humor and dignity.

They showed us with their ability to stand back and see a bigger picture.

They showed us in the way they continued to love each other in the aftermath of a hard loss, with the kind of camaraderie we kept hearing about in all their victories. Now that we’ve seen them in a loss, we’re more convinced than ever that it’s genuine.

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It’s tempting here to write that the Euros didn’t throw their captain under the bus Sunday night, didn’t point fingers detailing bad decisions leading to their poor play and didn’t demand a task force dissect what’s wrong. It’s tempting to compare them to the Americans after the loss in Gleneagles two years ago, but the Euros don’t know the depth of losing the Americans endured.

Still, it would have been so easy for the Euros to be bitter about this loss, to blame the loss on the raucous nature of the massive, partisan American crowds and the ugly way some fans imposed their will on the competition.

They didn’t, though.

Instead, the Euros credited the American effort. In fact, they even thanked the American assistant captains and players for intervening and trying to help them when the crowds got out of hand.

Clarke captured the nature of the European “team” in the closing ceremony.

“We are Europe and we stand shoulder to shoulder,” Clarke said after congratulating American captain Davis Love III. “We have showed this in the past, and will continue to show that in the future.”

That was Clarke’s theme coming to Hazeltine.

A former rugby player growing up in Northern Ireland, Clarke brought Irish great Paul O’Connell into the European team room this week to talk about Irish rugby’s “shoulder to shoulder” philosophy. These stories sound good after a team wins. The Euros made it more believable in their loss.

“I couldn't be more proud of the guys that I'm surrounded with,” Clarke said. “They did everything I asked of them. They tried their hearts out. They worked hard. They fought hard, but the bottom line is that Davis' team holed a few more putts than we did, and they played better. So when it comes to it, the American Ryder Cup team deserved to win, and we're all gutted and disappointed, but we will be back stronger to fight in two years' time in Paris.”

This Ryder Cup was played on the edge more than any of the 40 staged before it.

This was more raw than the others, more nasty in its partisanship than any of the previous Ryder Cups. Yes, they’ve been rowdy for a long time now, but not like this, not even at Brookline in ’99, when Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie was the focus of American disdain.

Rory McIlroy is a gentleman in a gentleman’s game, but you knew this event was close to getting out of hand when you saw him snarling into so many grandstands, leveling so many celebratory punches at the crowds taunting him. You knew emotions may be getting too inflamed when the normally even-tempered McIlroy taunted the crowd back, putting a hand to his ear and screaming “I can’t hear you!”

It would have been easy for the Euros to leave this loss simmering in bitterness.

Golf’s different than football. You scream an insult in a back swing, and it’s like stepping on the field and tripping a running back racing down a sideline. You’re impacting the outcome more than screaming fans in a football stadium.

That’s what made the Euros march into the media center’s interview room afterward so dumbfounding.

They were already over the loss.

The good humor they showed couldn’t have made their words more sincere.

Lee Westwood was asked if the American fans crossed a line into bad sportsmanship.

“I got called a turd yesterday,” Westwood said, “which is the first time since I was about 12 years old, so it made me feel young again.”

The media center erupted in laughter.

Danny Willett, the Masters champion, got the worst of it from American fans all week after his older brother in England penned an article depicting American sports fans as “greedy, stupid, fat, classless bastards.” His brother made fun of American eating habits, of their love of hot dogs and “pissy beer.”

Willett was asked how it made his first Ryder Cup experience.

“S***,” Willett deadpanned. “Sorry, would you like me to elaborate? Really, s***.”

You had to be there to understand the good-natured dynamic of that admission. Reporters from Europe and the United States alike erupted in laughter.

McIlroy was asked if there was a danger the Ryder Cup was getting too volatile, if maybe alcohol should have been banned from the American venue.

“Not with their pissy beer,” McIlroy clevery deadpanned.

English comedian John Oliver doesn’t get bigger laughs than McIlroy got with that comment.

“No,” McIlroy continued. “People are here, and they are here to have a good time. Geez, I know if I was watching the Ryder Cup, I would want to do the same thing. I'd love to be on the other side of the ropes giving other people abuse. It would be so good. But, unfortunately, I have to play inside the ropes, and that's a great privilege to have.”

McIlroy got the laugh about “pissy beer” because of the disarming things he said before that, because of the gracious, big-picture perspective he displayed when asked if there was a danger European fans would retaliate when the event is played in Paris in two years.

“We wouldn't encourage any sort of retaliation,” McIlroy said. “That's just not who we are.

“We play week-in and week-out on the PGA Tour, and [fans] couldn't be nicer to us. They are welcoming. They greet us like we are one of their own.”

McIlroy said the nature of the Ryder Cup, with fans on the tee boxes first thing in the morning with cans of beer in hand, makes it a different deal.

“So, it has to be expected,” he said. “It is what it is. A couple of people out there crossed the line, but we'll take it on the chin. We'll move on and we'll definitely not encourage anything like that to happen in France next time around.”

Somewhere, Arnold Palmer’s thumb must be up.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.