Steady hand of Colsaerts keeps Euros alive

By Randall MellSeptember 29, 2012, 1:32 am

MEDINAH, Ill. – Apparently, Nicolas Colsaerts did not fly a European charter to the 39th Ryder Cup.

He rode Pegasus.

That wasn’t the only gift from Zeus he appeared to bring to Medinah Country Club Friday in what will be remembered as one of the great rookie debuts in Ryder Cup history. He brought a quiver full of lightning bolts with him.

Colsaerts, 29, was the lone bright spot for Europe in an otherwise dismal afternoon for the Euros.

He virtually beat Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker by himself in fourballs.

With former No. 1 Lee Westwood disappearing so completely his face may show up on milk cartons in Chicago Saturday morning, Colsaerts proved too much for a rejuvenated Woods and his struggling partner, Steve Stricker.

Colsaerts made eight birdies and eagle in defeating Woods-Stricker 1 up.

Westwood didn’t contribute a single birdie.

“It felt wonderful to be able to produce and deliver on such a big stage with a lot of eyes on you and this unbelievable atmosphere,” Colsaerts.

The first player from Belgium to compete in a Ryder Cup, Colsaerts didn’t look like a Ryder Cup rookie in his first match. He looked like he was genetically designed with DNA from Bobby Locke and Ben Crenshaw, two of the greatest putters who ever lived.

“Nicolas probably had one of the greatest putting rounds I’ve ever seen,” Woods said.

With his 10-under total, Colsaerts was a shot better than Woods and Stricker’s combined best-ball score.

Even Westwood joked about Colsaert’s other-wordly performance.

“I didn’t really have a lot to do,” Westwood cracked. “He brought me in to read a putt on the 15th, and I panicked. I wondered why he was even asking me, because everything he looked at went in. I mean, why ruin it now? So it was an amazing, amazing round of golf.”

The point was important for the struggling Euros, who lost the first three matches in the afternoon fourballs. The win left the Euros down 5-3. A clean American afternoon sweep would have left the Euros in a large hole at 6-2.

“Nicolas did something very special today,” European captain Jose Maria Olazabal said. “He had one of those days he will remember the rest of his life.”

While Woods struggled miserably in the morning, he found something in the afternoon. He threw a few lightning bolts of his own making seven birdies. Colsaerts just kept answering.

“I don't think there has ever been a better debut than that,” Westwood said. “I can't imagine anybody has ever made eight birdies and an eagle in their debut against somebody like Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, two of the more established partnerships. I can’t imagine anybody’s ever shown up and done something like that before.”

Colsaerts is a most unlikely Ryder Cup participant. Golf isn’t a popular sport in Belgium. It is estimated there are fewer than 60,000 players in the country, whose population is a little over 10 million. A little more than two years ago, Colsaerts wasn’t among the top 1,300 players in the world.

With his game slumping, Colsaerts lost his European Tour playing privileges and stepped down to the Challenge Tour in ’09. He fought his way back. He won the Volvo China Open for his first European Tour title last year and won the Volvo World Match Play Championship this year for his second title. With his terrific power, with the match-play prowess he displayed beating Europe’s best this year, Olazabal made him one of his two captain’s picks.

Colsaerts arrived this week saying Fred Couples was his idol growing up, and he looked Couples-cool under pressure.

“You never know how people are going to react in their first round at the Ryder Cup,” Westwood cracked. “I think he took to it quite nicely.”

Colsaerts made five putts of 20 feet or longer. He holed an 8-footer for his eagle at the 10th.

His most impressive putt, however, came at the 17th.

With the Euros' 1-up lead in jeopardy when Woods stuffed a 7-iron to 3 feet, Colsaerts drained a 20-foot birdie putt. Woods had to make his short birdie just to halve the hole. Colsaerts, an unusually even-tempered player, couldn’t hide his excitement after making the putt.

“You just can’t predict those things,” Colsaerts said. “I told Lee going to the 18th tee that it was my first uncontrolled reaction. Everything comes out of your veins and eyes, and it’s pretty special.”

So was his handshake with Woods afterward.

“On 18, when somebody like Tiger Woods looks at you and goes, `Great playing, man,’' Colsaerts said, 'you understand you've done something pretty good.'

Simpson WDs from RSM, tweets his father is ill

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:45 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Following rounds of 67-68, Webb Simpson was in 12th place entering the weekend at the RSM Classic before he withdrew prior to Saturday’s third round.

On Saturday afternoon, Simpson tweeted that he withdrew due to an illness in his family.

“Thanks to [Davis Love III] for being such a great tournament host. I [withdrew] due to my dad being sick and living his last days,” Simpson posted on Twitter on Saturday afternoon.

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Simpson’s father, Sam, caddied for his son during amateur events, and Webb Simpson started playing golf after following his father to the course on family vacations to North Carolina.

“My dad is probably the kindest man I know. He’s always been the guy who knew everyone, everyone knew him, everyone wanted to be around him,” Simpson said in a 2015 interview with David Feherty. “He taught me the game. He’s always been one of those dads who loved to be active with their kids.”

Before play began on Thursday, Luke Donald withdrew after being hospitalized with chest pain. Tests indicated the Englishman’s heart was fine and he returned home to undergo more tests.

New old putter helps Kirk (64) jump into contention

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:43 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Chris Kirk’s ball-striking has been nearly flawless this fall. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for his putting.

In four events this season, Kirk ranks 143rd in strokes gained: putting, but his fortunes have changed this week, thanks at least in part to a return to something familiar.

Kirk switched to an older style of putter similar to the one he used on the Tour in 2010 to earn his PGA Tour card.

“It's nice to be back in contention again,” said Kirk, who is alone in second place, three strokes behind front-runner Austin Cook. “It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow.”

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Kirk is 25th in strokes gained: putting this week and has converted several crucial putts, including a 30-footer for birdie at the 17th hole on his way to a third-round 64.

His putting is similar to 2013 when he won the RSM Classic, and his improved play on the greens has given the 32-year-old confidence going into Sunday’s final round.

“I'll probably be relatively comfortable in that situation, and thankfully I've been there before,” Kirk said. “It's still not easy by any means, but hopefully I'll be able to group together a bunch of good shots and see what it gives me.”

Rookie Cook (66) handling RSM like a pro

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:24 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Of all the impressive statistics Austin Cook has put up this week at the RSM Classic – he is first in strokes gained: tee to green, strokes gained: approach to the green and scrambling – the one number that stands out is 49.

That’s how many holes Cook went this week without a bogey or worse, a moment that prompted his caddie, Kip Henley, to joke, “The dream is over.”

That loss of momentum at the 14th hole didn’t last long, with the PGA Tour rookie making birdie at the next hole on his way to a third-round 66 and a three-stroke lead.

“Bouncing back from any bogey with a birdie is nice and helps get the number right back. Being my only bogey of the week so far, it was really nice to be able to get that back on the next hole,” said Cook, who leads Chris Kirk at 18 under par. “Going into tomorrow with a three-shot lead instead of a two-shot lead I think is crucial.”

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Although this is the first time Cook has held a 54-hole lead on the Tour, in fact it’s just his fourth start as a Tour member, he has experienced Sunday pressure before. In 2015, he began the final round at the Shell Houston Open one stroke off the lead held by Jordan Spieth.

“Back then my game was good as well, but mentally I've grown a lot and matured a lot and been able to kind of just let small things on the golf course roll off my shoulder instead of getting tied up in one little small mistake,” said Cook, who closed with a 75 at the ’15 Shell Houston Open to tie for 11th.

Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME

By Nick MentaNovember 18, 2017, 8:47 pm

Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.

Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)

What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.

Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.

Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.

Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.

Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.

Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.