Waiting for the Ryder Cup Bounce

By Randall MellOctober 15, 2010, 4:05 am
Watch for the Ryder Cup bounce.

Rickie Fowler’s looking to ride it to another level in his return to golf this week at the Frys.com Open.

The bounce doesn’t necessarily happen overnight, but Ryder Cup rookies who come through in the clutch can see large dividends return to them when they re-join the PGA Tour.

Zach Johnson and Damon Green
Zach Johnson and caddie Damon Green celebrate a victory. (Getty Images)
Nothing more quickly exposes what’s inside a player than searing Ryder Cup heat. There’s no hiding from it like there can be in a major championship. There’s no shooting yourself out of contention early when your game’s off. You’re exposed from the first hole of a Ryder Cup, exposed with every shot, but the confidence built in Ryder Cup heat can last a long, long time.

Just ask Zach Johnson.

Or better yet, ask his caddie, Damon Green.

Johnson’s game reached another level after his first Ryder Cup experience in 2006.

“Playing in that Ryder Cup, pulling off the shots Zach did, it probably changed his career around,” Green said. “I really think it helped him win the Masters.”

Johnson believes it’s no coincidence he won the Masters in the spring of ’07 after his first Ryder Cup showing the previous fall.

“I had won once on the PGA Tour, and I had other opportunities to win, but once I played on the Ryder Cup team, I think that really did catapult my game,” Johnson said. “I think the biggest thing I learned is that I could execute shots under the most extreme situations, meaning under pressure, with all that’s at stake in a Ryder Cup.”

Fowler closed out his first Ryder Cup with four consecutive birdies in Wales 10 days ago. He came from 3 down with three holes to go to steal a half point from Edoardo Molinari, who left the course in a daze.

Fowler may find the memories of the shots he pulled off in that terrific finish will help him hit even bigger shots in the future. Johnson did.

In Johnson’s first match in his first Ryder Cup, he pulled off a series of shots he still draws upon for the confidence they bring.

And it’s remarkable what one clutch shot can do for a golfer’s soul.

In his first Ryder Cup match at the K Club in Ireland four years ago, Johnson and Chad Campbell were paired in foursomes, the alternate-shot format. They were 2 down with three holes to go against Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley when Johnson found himself over the kind of shot that can reverberate through a career. It may sound funny that it could come on the first day of the Ryder Cup, but that tells you the intense nature of that competition, what every hole and every point means to its participants. There’s choking and heroics at every hole. It’s what makes the Ryder Cup so special.

In the middle of the 16th fairway at the K Club four years ago, Johnson stood 250 yards from the pin with a large decision to make. Should he go for the green in two? It was far from a no-brainer, not with water in front of the green and right of the green. It was a tough call with the pin tucked left on a sliver of a narrow green and a steep bank making any miss left an impossible up and down.

“I was thinking 'I can hit this shot,’ but I just didn’t know if it was a smart play,” Johnson said.

American Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman was there, and Johnson consulted with him.

“You need to go with the shot you’re comfortable with,” Lehman told him. “I don’t care what shot you hit, just make sure you’re 100 percent committed to it.”

Johnson turned to Green, who didn’t flinch.

“We’re 2 down with three to play,” Green told his player. “You’re hitting 3-wood.”

Green can still see the shot, the gorgeous line, the beautiful arc, the ball landing at the front of the green and rolling 20 feet from the flagstick.

“It was magnificent,” Green said. “He had to hit a career 3-wood just to get it there.”

A two-putt birdie pulled Johnson and Campbell to 1 down.

“Up until that point in my career, it was the hardest shot I had ever encountered,” Johnson said.

At the 18th, Johnson repeated his feat, hitting yet another 3-wood onto the green at another par 5 to help win the hole and earn a half point in a dramatic charge.

“Those are shots you try to cling to, to keep in your memory banks, not just the outcome, but the memory of walking behind the ball, getting over the ball, your rhythm, the process,” Johnson said.

Johnson said a lot went into his Masters’ victory, the extra offseason preparation he took after the birth of his first son, but he counts the Ryder Cup experience as vital, especially the way he and Campbell closed that first match. Green said Johnson’s big finish actually started at the 15th hole, when he went over to Green with Harrington setting up over a chip shot.

“Zach turns to me and says, 'Padraig’s going to make this chip, and I’m going to knock my putt in right on top of his,’” Green said. “Sure enough, Harrington chips in. The crowd had just gone crazy, and Zach stands over his 15-footer, and he holes it. I’ve got goose bumps right now thinking about it.”

The Ryder Cup’s filled with so many of these moments, turning points in early matches that resonate profoundly, that create a Ryder Cup bounce in the wake of the matches. European players will enjoy them, too. They’re coming over the next year.

Johnson’s first Ryder Cup didn’t end triumphantly. The Americans got squashed, and he lost his singles match. Johnson had the distinction of drawing Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke as his opponent in the most emotional match that year. Clarke was still mourning the loss of his wife, Heather. With Irish crowds cheering him on, Clarke won the match, 3 and 2.

“If there are golf gods, they were certainly with him,” Johnson said. “I just felt like I didn’t have a chance in that match. Darren is a phenomenal player and an even better person.”

Even with that defeat, Johnson got his Ryder Cup bounce. He’s hoping to ride another one into next season. At Wales, Johnson came through with another clutch victory. He tied the matches, 13 ½ to 13 ½, late in singles when he defeated Harrington. It came with more Ryder Cup memories to build future triumphs upon.
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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.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.