Road Underdogs

By Randall MellSeptember 28, 2010, 10:39 pm

Ryder Cup

Phil Mickelson is the only member of this year’s American Ryder Cup team who was even playing on the PGA Tour when the United States last won the cup on foreign soil.

Tiger Woods was a senior in high school at the time.

Rickie Fowler was barely out of diapers.

It was 1993.

With Tom Watson as captain, with 51-year-old Raymond Floyd winning three matches, the United States defeated Europe 15-13 at The Belfry in England.

“Listen for the quiet,” Watson told his team before that victory.

Team USA bag
Team USA heads into the 2010 Ryder Cup with the odds stacked against them. (Getty Images)
Basically, Watson was telling his players to revel in the power they possessed to shut up opposing crowds with good shots and good putts.

“When you don’t hear those big roars, and it’s quiet for a few holes, you’re thinking this is pretty good,” American Jim Furyk said of playing a Ryder Cup on foreign soil. “But when their putts go in, you’re going to hear some big roars.”

While Furyk expects a respectful crowd, he’s also preparing for something you don’t hear week in and week out on the PGA Tour. He’s preparing to hear cheers when Americans miss putts.

“When you are standing over a 10-foot putt to halve a match and the ball lips out and everyone cheers, it’s not the greatest feeling in the world,” Furyk said. “But I think it’s great. When you hear people cheer when you miss, it’s a learning experience, but I love it. I think it’s the greatest. I think their fans are fantastic, and I enjoy that part of it. If you compete, you appreciate it.”

Americans haven’t had much luck keeping the volume down in Europe since that last American victory over there 17 years ago. And it promises to be loud at Celtic Manor in Wales this week if Europe gets on a roll. Ryder Cup officials are expecting to break the European attendance records set at the K Club in Ireland four years ago, when more than 45,000 fans per day came to see the matches. More than 260,000 fans are expected to attend for the week, twice the population of Newport, the Welsh host of to these matches.

“It’s a huge advantage to have your fans,” Furyk said. “When we were in Kentucky two years ago, those people were going insane. Our fans were going crazy. When you are playing around Valhalla, and you hear the big roars going up, you know the U.S. is doing good. You don’t know what’s happened, but you know someone from the U.S. knocked in a big putt. That’s what the big roar is for. Same thing over there. You hear that, and you get that feeling, they’re coming.”

The power a home crowd possesses to ignite momentum wasn’t lost on Paul Azinger at Valhalla. Someone should have given the American captain a pair of of pompoms. He raced his golf cart just ahead of key matches to whip up the crowds waiting for the action. He’s lucky he didn’t blow out a rotator cuff or two the way he waved his arms and exhorted the fans as he motored around the course there.

With those large European crowds expected this week, with typical cool and wet Welsh weather forecast and with the Twenty Ten Course at Celtic Manor familiar to European players, Ladbrokes sets the odds at 4-to-7 in favor of Europe extending its winning streak at home to four.

Europe’s won the last three competitions on its home turf by a cumulative score of 48½ to 35½ with victories at Valderrama in Spain, The Belfry in England and the K Club.

The Americans got squashed 18 ½ to 9 ½ at the K Club in that last venture overseas.

“I’ve never won a Ryder Cup over there,” Mickelson said. “This will be my eighth team, my fourth opportunity [on foreign soil], and I think it would be very cool if we were able to do that.”

Mickelson was 0-4-1 at the K Club. Overall, he is 3-7-4 playing away games in Ryder Cups, but he isn’t alone in his futility on the road. Woods is 6-7-2 and Furyk 4-7-2.

Europe’s Ian Poulter is a road warrior. He has played in two Ryder Cups, both on the road, but boasts a 6-1 Ryder Cup record.

“Pulse rate was pretty high, to be honest,” Poulter said of plugging his ball on a tee at the first hole of his first Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills outside Detroit in ’04. “It was interesting getting the ball on the tee. Silly as that may sound, if you get up close to some of those guys when they’re trying to put the ball on the tee peg, you will see their hands shaking. 

'You’re fired up. Your adrenaline is rushing, and your nerves are going and that first tee shot is not very nice. So just get up and hit it really hard. It’s amazing. There’s no experience like it.”

Steve Stricker made his Ryder Cup debut two years ago at Valhalla but will be making his first road debut this week.

“I was definitely more nervous at the Ryder Cup than the Presidents Cup, for whatever reason,” Stricker said. “You just feel that sense of history, I guess, at a Ryder Cup, that you’re at something a bit more important. It’s a situation where you get to really learn about yourself, learn how to handle the pressure, and you find an inner strength most times where you can deal with it and hit the shots that are called for. You find yourself feeding off that pressure.”

Europe features six Ryder Cup rookies, the Americans five, but there’s clearly an advantage making your debut in front of a home crowd. Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton won’t have that advantage in their first Ryder Cups.

“It’s a little bit of the unknown, like going to Tour school for the first time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it,” Furyk said. “It’s our job to let those guys know what to expect. But you have some brash guys. Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson, they don’t seem to be fazed by much. Bubba, Overton, Kuchar, too.”

Tom Lehman was captain of that American team that got crushed in Ireland. He’s an assistant captain in a return overseas this year.

“It’s about mental toughness, who is not going to be intimidated,” Lehman told reporters Monday upon the Americans' arrival in Wales. “In Europe, it’s almost like a soccer experience in some ways.

“One of the mindsets we were looking for is those who can say they are going to take a crowd that is very vocal and partisan and try to prove to them what they are capable of and shut them up. Some personalities are very good at that. Some are not.”

Lehman said Tiger Woods is very good at that.

American captain Corey Pavin played on the last American team to win on foreign soil. He was an assistant captain under Lehman in Ireland. He doesn’t expect the crowds in Wales to be anything like soccer crowds.

“I don't see a situation happening out there that people will applaud for bad shots or missed putts,” Pavin said. “The way it's happened the last few Ryder Cups, and being over at The K Club in '06, there's a nice pause if an American misses a putt or hits a bad shot. There's a nice, polite pause before there's applause. And I think that's the way it should be. There might be a comment here and there that somebody makes, but it's few and far between, and I think the fans out there are very respectful of both sides, and I expect the same to happen here.”

Pavin hopes it ends up being a quieter battle than the Europeans hoped it would be.

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm