This might have been worst U.S. Ryder Cup loss

By Randall MellOctober 1, 2012, 2:14 am

MEDINAH, Ill. – The Americans never stood a chance.

Even with a commanding 10-6 lead going into the Ryder Cup’s Sunday singles, they were doomed.

There were just too many mystical forces working against them in a 14 1/2 to 13 1/2 loss at Medinah Country Club.

There were the Europeans playing in Seve Ballesteros’ Sunday blue, the garb once fancied by the man who became a legend escaping from more tough spots than Houdini. The Euros had his emblem on their shirt sleeves. They had his silhouette on their golf bags. Mostly, they showed they had his indomitable spirit in their marrow.

“I think if Seve could have written this script, he would have written it exactly like this one,” Europe’s Graeme McDowell said.

Ballesteros would have liked the way Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia dug themselves out of holes Sunday to win vital matches. Rose was 1 down to Phil Mickelson with two holes to play but poured in birdie putts at the 17th and 18th holes to win. Garcia was also 1 down at the 17th but likewise won the final two holes to defeat Jim Furyk.


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“I have no doubt in my mind that Seve was with me today,” Garcia said. “Because there’s no chance I would have won my match if he wasn’t there.”

There was another force working against the Americans.

There was September in Chicago.

The Americans confirmed no lead is safe in this city in September. Cub fans know this better than anyone, and now the folks who live here have another epic collapse to remember, one as stunning as the Cubs’ blown pennant in ’69.

The way the Americans struggled Sunday, you had to wonder if they were playing on the same type of turf used at Wrigley Field.

You had to wonder if a guard at the front gate of Medinah turned away a restaurant owner wanting to bring his billy goat inside with him to watch Sunday’s finish.

And now you have to wonder if that Chicago cop who helped a desperate Rory McIlroy make his tee time with a police escort will be looking to rent a room from Steve Bartman.

Apparently, beating the Americans has become as easy as rolling out of bed.

Saying he confused the U.S. Central Time Zone with its Eastern Time Zone, McIlroy arrived just 10 minutes before his tee time with the police escort. He didn’t hit a single shot on the practice range but was 2 up on Keegan Bradley after six holes and went on to beat him, 2 and 1.

“We’re all kind of stunned,” American captain Davis Love III said. “We know what it feels like now from that ’99 Ryder Cup. It’s a little bit shocking.”

Love was on that ’99 team that won at Brookline in the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history. The Europeans on Sunday equaled that historic comeback in winning for the fifth time in the last six Ryder Cups, the seventh in the last nine.

With the Europeans charging early Sunday, you had to wonder if ’99 U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw was watching somewhere with a bad feeling about this.

Olazabal was on that European team that lost so epically. He was in the middle of the chaos when Justin Leonard holed an improbable bomb at the 17th at Brookline to set up the United States’ victory. Leonard rolled that putt in against Olazabal.

Asked on Saturday night, if, like Crenshaw, he had a “good feeling” about what was going to happen on the final day, Olazabal said he believed.

“I think the boys understood that believing was the most important thing, and they did,” Olazabal said.

Sunday was a sad day for the Americans, but it was a great day for golf, a spectacular Sunday of dizzying dramatic turns.

The Ryder Cup proved yet again it is the best event in golf, a spectacle even more magical than the Masters, if that’s possible. The golf is so much larger in the Ryder Cup, it feels like it ought to be played on Mount Olympus. The thrills are so much grander, the heartache so much more severe.

Unfortunately for the Americans, they’re becoming more familiar with the heartache.

Steve Stricker felt the sting of another Ryder Cup as deeply as anyone.

With the first five players Europe sent out Sunday winning, the match boiled down to Stricker on the final hole in the second-to-last match. After lipping out a 6-footer for par at the 17th to fall 1 down to Martin Kaymer, Stricker knew the match’s outcome was on him. He had to win the 18th or Europe would retain the cup.

Stricker watched Martin Kaymer halve the hole by sinking a 6-foot putt at the last to deal the Americans yet another Ryder Cup disappointment.

“I just didn’t get it done,” Stricker said. “I’m a little stunned. I can’t really believe what happened to us.”

The Americans have been dealt some bitter blows in the Ryder Cup. There were the back-to-back record routs in 2004 and ’06, but this might have been the worst loss of all. The collapse coming with the Americans feeling as if they had one hand on the cup makes the loss that much harder to swallow.

Tiger Woods endured his fifth consecutive Ryder Cup loss.

No other American Ryder Cupper has ever played on five consecutive losing teams.

Mickelson has now played on seven losing Ryder Cup teams. No American has been on more losing teams.

Mickelson’s Ryder Cup record is now 14-18-6. Woods is 13-17-3. No Americans have lost more matches than Mickelson and Woods.

American veteran Jim Furyk felt the sting, too. He bogeyed the final two holes to lose to Garcia. In a year in which Furyk endured losing the U.S. Open and the WGC-Bridgestone with late stumbles, Furyk drove home just how important the Ryder Cup has become.

“This is the lowest part of my year,” Furyk said.

It was a wild, wondrous Sunday that ended with it feeling like the Americans never stood a chance.


Relive Day 2 Ryder Cup matches Monday at 8 p.m. ET and the singles matches Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET.

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in four months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."