Ryder Cup stands alone as golf's grandest spectacle

By Randall MellSeptember 27, 2012, 6:40 pm

MEDINAH, Ill. – The 39th Ryder Cup will be played across a sprawling stage.

That’s what Medinah Country Club is this week.

It's more stage than golf course with this event evolving from a little international team competition into the game’s grandest spectacle.

Giggling girls chased pop star Justin Timberlake across the property in the Captains/Celebrity Challenge earlier this week. His fiancée, actress Jessica Biel, paraded after him in sunglasses and under a parasol. Grown men chased around actor/comedian Bill Murray in the same exhibition wanting to be photographed with him.

Over on the driving range, where the real golfers warmed up, chants of “USA” rolled across Medinah so boisterously you wondered if they heard it all the way down at Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain, the Old Water Tower and the Navy Pier.

This wondrous noise began Tuesday, on the driving range, during practice rounds.

“First practice round, we get to the tee, and there are 10,000 people,” American Ryder Cup rookie Webb Simpson said. “I felt like I was in the final group of a major, and it’s a practice round.”

Bubba Watson was so overwhelmed with the roar he got at the first tee in that practice round that he choked up with emotion sticking his tee in the ground.

“I might have teared up a little bit,” Watson said.

That’s what the Ryder Cup does. It percolates more emotion, more passion, than any event in the game. You saw that with Jeff Overton screaming “Boom Baby” in Wales two years ago after holing a shot from a fairway in the second round. You saw it with U.S. captain Paul Azinger riding around in a cart in front of critical matches, like some crazed cheerleader, exhorting the American crowd to get noisy at Valhalla in ‘08. You saw it with the American players and their wives turning the 17th green at Brookline into a dance floor before the event was even clinched in ‘99.

“Paul Azinger said it the best,” U.S. captain Davis Love III said. “We see the greatest shots ever, more shots holed, more incredible things in this, and I think that you have to have that kind of pressure for there to be the excitement and the competitiveness of this event.

“It's very, very intense. It's almost unfair to the players, but I think these guys love the challenge of that.”

The Americans are favored on their home turf, but they’ve lost four of the last five Ryder Cups, six of the last eight. The competition is expected to be so close that former Euro captain Nick Faldo predicted it would end in a tie.

The importance of every point, every half-point, will ratchet up the excitement.

You will see more fist pumps this week, hear more roars when putts drop, than you will in any other event all year. You’ll sense more hearts breaking, too.

More than any other test in golf, the Ryder Cup makes grown men cry.

Mark Calcavecchia, a tough, gruff American player, famously stumbled down to the beach and wept after blowing his singles match with Colin Montgomerie at Kiawah Island in ’99.

Hunter Mahan fought the same feelings after the Americans lost to Europe in Wales two years ago. He broke down in tears trying to answer questions about his chunked chip sealing Europe’s victory.

Like Watson, U.S. captain Davis Love III has already teared up this week. Love got emotional Wednesday in the interview room talking about Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and how his veterans have gone out of their way to help him.

“I’ve heard the Ryder Cup is exponentially more, in each area, than the Presidents Cup,” said Simpson, who made his American Presidents Cup debut last year. “Just a little more exciting, a little more emotional.”

The Ryder Cup is a strange amalgam. It’s a little bit of the Academy Awards, with players getting red-carpet treatment on their way in and out of the clubhouse. It’s a little bit of the Olympics, with the patriotic flag-waving. And it’s a little bit of rowdy British soccer with the creative chanting.

Notably, all this excitement comes with no purse or prize money at stake. It’s about pride.

“It’s funny, it’s just that little trophy we want to win so badly,” Watson said. “So there’s going to be good shots I’m going to cry about, and there’s going to be bad shots I’m going to cry about . . . It’s just for the love of that little trophy that we want to win, and we want to win for our countries.”

There will be no better place to absorb just how different the Ryder Cup is than on the first tee Friday at the event’s start. It can feel like a frat party.

American and European supporters will do more than chant. Their creative back-and-forth can be comical.

In Wales two years ago, American Stewart Cink was waiting to be introduced when Euros began chanting: “We got more hair!” Cink playfully removed his cap, showing his bald dome.

When Americans began chanting back “We’ve got the cup,” Euros returned fire with “Not for long, not for long, not for long.”

Most championships, the early rounds just set the stage for the back-nine Sunday run at winning. In the Ryder Cup, there’s winning and losing at every hole.

“I've never been so nervous in my life,” said 10-time European Ryder Cupper Bernhard Langer. “There are times where you're just so nervous you're shaking in your shoes and feeling almost out of control. I've felt that a few times in the Ryder Cup.”

It’s just part of what makes it golf’s grandest spectacle.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.