U.S. win helps distance Medinah memories

By Randall MellOctober 6, 2013, 11:05 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – Nobody was tormenting them singing “ole, ole” in the end.

The European victor’s song, that unrelenting chorus of woe to American ears at the end of Ryder Cups, was nowhere to be heard with “USA” chants ringing across Muirfield Village late Sunday.

This American Presidents Cup victory helped push the echoes of that song and the memories of last year’s loss at Medinah farther away.

The United States’ 18½ to 15½ victory against the Internationals was a soothing tonic for a team that couldn’t seem to stop smiling all week.

U.S. captain Fred Couples is a large reason why. He has led the Americans to three straight victories in the Presidents Cup now.

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“I thought this was as relaxed a team as I’ve ever seen,” assistant captain Jay Haas said. “As much as people want the Presidents Cup to be as intense as the Ryder Cup, Fred won’t let that happen.

“Fred is very relaxed. He just lets these guys play, but I’ll tell you, he doesn’t miss a trick. Fred plays things off, like he doesn’t care, or he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows what he’s doing. He knows these players’ games. He knows the Internationals, and he has good ideas and he gets them across to the team in a very easy manner.”

Nothing seems to get Couples too worked up outwardly during Presidents Cup week. Not even a streaker. Couples was unfazed when a naked woman went racing past him and everyone else around the 18th tee Sunday afternoon.

This is a team that had a pet squirrel as practically its mascot.

This was a team with Tiger Woods doing a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air high five as Matt Kuchar’s “Carlton.”

This Americans clearly enjoy that the Presidents Cup isn’t the Ryder Cup.

“We laughed a lot this week,” Phil Mickelson said. “At first, when the Presidents Cup came about in 1994, I was concerned that having a team event every year would become too much and lose its special feel. But it’s the exact opposite of what’s happened. I feel we’re the lucky side to be able to play in a team event every year.”

When Woods and Mickelson were younger, there was more of an edge between them. Their discomfort with each other was captured in their awkward pairing at the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills. The pairing was team chemistry poison.

That’s changed. Woods is 37 now, Mickelson 43. They’re the heart and soul of the American international teams now. Haas, as an assistant captain over the last three Presidents Cup, has watched their chemistry evolve.

“They are obviously very different personalities,” Haas said. “They needle each other, but I don’t think either one of them is offended by it. They’re having more and more fun together.”

Of course, it’s the winning that ultimately makes Presidents Cup week fun, and the United States is the powerhouse in this event. Sunday’s victory boosts the American record against the Internationals to 8-1-1.

And as much fun as the Americans were having this week running up a huge lead, the Internationals made a hard run in singles Sunday and brought back some familiar fears. The Americans blew a 10-6 lead in the singles at Medinah. The idea the Internationals could come back from a 14-8 deficit grew until Woods finally secured the clinching point in the day’s ninth match.

“It was a tough day,” said Steve Stricker. “There was a scenario brewing much like the Ryder Cup last year, coming down to the end. I think we can all take positives from this going forward.”

Stricker took last year’s loss hard. Europe’s Martin Kaymer beat him at the 18th hole in Sunday singles to clinch the matches. Stricker didn’t have his best game that week. He didn’t win a single point. He hurt thinking he let his teammates down.

So, yes, Sunday’s victory at Muirfield Village was a tonic. Nine of the 12 players on last year’s Ryder Cup team were on this Presidents Cup team.

“Last year still stings,” Stricker said. “If you ask the guys who were on that team, I guarantee every one of them would think that last year at the Ryder Cup still hurts a little bit. So I think it was a good step for all of us to win again.”

More than a year removed from Medinah, the Americans have a lot to feel good about.

This wasn’t just a week worth celebrating the American game. It was a year worth celebrating.

Woods reclaimed the No. 1 world ranking back in late March, ending a nearly two-and-a-half year run of Europeans atop the Official World Golf Ranking. He won five times and was the PGA Tour Player of the Year. He isn’t alone among Americans making their marks. Seven of the top 11 players in the world rankings are from the United States. Americans won the first 14 PGA Tour events of this year, 31 of the 40 played. Americans Mickelson and Jason Dufner won the last two majors. Jordan Spieth was the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.

Really, all that’s missing for the United States to lay a dominant claim on the world’s game is that elusive Ryder Cup.

Somewhere Sunday, Tom Watson had to be beaming. Winning is an American habit in professional men’s golf just about everywhere that matters, except in the Ryder Cup. Watson will be aiming to change that when he leads the United States to Gleneagles in Scotland next year.

The next American Ryder Cup captain has to like what unfolded at Muirfield Village. Woods found another partner in Kuchar. Mickelson and Keegan Bradley continued to gel as winning partners. Spieth, just 20, fared well in his baptism in international team competition. The youngest member of this American team looks like he will be on U.S. rosters for a long time.

If the Americans can keep this Presidents Cup mojo, they might not hear “ole, ole” at the end of the next Ryder Cup, either. That would be the best tonic of all for U.S. PGA Tour pros.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.