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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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.