With flair, Spain claims first International Crown

By Randall MellJuly 27, 2014, 11:30 pm

OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Beatriz Recari sized up the International Crown trophy during the gala on the eve of the inaugural matches and made a bold claim.

“We’re taking that home with us,” Recari said.

Recari was having fun, but she wasn’t kidding. The Spaniards were on a mission. They won Sunday with bravado that would have made the late match-play maestro Seve Ballesteros proud of his fellow Spaniards.

With a staggering sweep of all four of its singles matches on Sunday, Spain ran away with the first playing of the international team event. Recari, Carlota Ciganda, Belen Mozo and Azahara Munoz all closed out their singles victories before reaching the 18th green.

“We just like to trash talk,” Mozo cracked good-naturedly. “It’s how we are. We accept trash talk back. We like it, we embrace it. It’s how competitive we are.”

The quartet paraded away from Caves Valley Golf Club with the trophy and their individual sterling silver crowns as part of their winner’s haul.

“It means so much to us, for our country,” Recari said. “We feel the flag. Our blood boils when we hear the anthem, and when we see the flag. That's for you to have an idea of what it means for us. We're just so stoked that we did it, and that we can take this trophy back home.”

Mozo clinched the crown, rolling in a 12-foot birdie putt at the 16th hole to close out a 3-and-2 victory against Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn with two matches still on the course.

“I had absolutely no idea,” Mozo said, not knowing what was on the line as it was happening. “I just wanted to make the putt. You don’t understand how much.”

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Ciganda made a strong statement early. Insisting she be the first Spaniard sent out in singles, Ciganda came out on fire against Korea’s Na Yeon Choi, a formidable competitor and winner of the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open. Ciganda birdied the first on her way to an 8-and-6 thrashing of Choi. She birdied seven of 12 holes and didn’t lose a single one.

“The first time I looked up at the leaderboard was the fifth hole and Carlota was already 5 up,” Munoz said.

The Spaniards claimed 15 points over the four-day competition, with a victory worth two points and a halved match worth a point. Sweden finished second with 11 points with Korea and Japan tying for third with 10 points each.

Motivation was never lacking for the Spaniards, who arrived believing they were better than the fifth seed they carried. They really found fuel, though, after losing both of their matches to the Americans on Friday, which dropped them from first to last in Pool A.

“I think that worked in our favor, because we were so upset that we were determined that we were going to win every single point left for the rest of the tournament,” Recari said.

The Spaniards made good on their bold claims once more. After the Americans swept them, they didn’t lose another match, winning all of their Saturday fourballs and their Sunday singles.

Leaving the 18th hole after the American sweep, Mozo told LPGA chief communications officer Kraig Kann to “keep shining my crown.” She carried that sterling silver crown with her into the media center after the victory. They all did.

“We are named now the best country in the world and that is huge,” Munoz said. “So, hopefully, golf in Spain is getting more and more popular, but I think this is really, really, really going to help.”

Spain arrived believing it had an advantage in a team format because its members have played so much together in team events. They’re all between ages 24 and 27. They all grew up playing together under the Spanish Golf Federation. They won European Amateur Team Championships together.

Ciganda, Munoz and Recari helped the European Solheim Cup team beat the Americans for the first time on American soil last year. Ciganda and Munoz even won the NCAA Championship together in 2009 as teammates at Arizona State, playing here at Caves Valley.

“I think the reason why we're so good is because we have the Spanish Federation that has supported us since day one,” Mozo said. “We have an amazing program, and we have been raised playing together at training camps, tournaments around Europe, and that was our thing.”

They have their crowns to prove it.

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x