Whatever it is, the European template is working

By Randall MellSeptember 23, 2014, 6:50 pm

GLENEAGLES, Scotland  Under a slate-gray sky, autumn’s chill swept down from the Scottish Highlands with the northwesterly wind that buffeted the European and American Ryder Cup teams in their practice rounds Tuesday at Gleneagles.

While there’s a buzz growing with the 40th staging of these matches at hand, there’s a hush in the land, too.

Apparently, there really is some sort of secret formula to Europe’s domination of these matches over nearly two decades now, but captain Paul McGinley isn’t about to divulge it as he seeks to help the Euros win these matches for the sixth time in the last seven tries and the eighth time in the last 10.

McGinley did more than hint that there’s some architectural construct that’s being passed down from one European captain to the next.

“Can you tell me what his template is?” U.S. captain Tom Watson asked reporters Tuesday.

Ryder Cup: Articles, videos and photos

Template is the word McGinley kept using in his news conference when asked why the Euros keep winning this event.

“There are a number of reasons, and obviously I can’t go into those,” McGinley said. “I’m not privy to what goes on in the American team room. I’m only privy to what goes on in the European team room, and I’m really concerned about getting that template right again this time. It’s not about changing it. It’s about doing what we’ve always done.”

Legends grow large in these parts, where the Americans can at least rest easy that the Scots aren’t reporting seeing the Bean-Nighe doing the U.S. team laundry in the streams around here. The Bean-Nighe are Scottish fairies whose presence is an omen of death. They’re said to be seen washing the clothes of those about to perish.

Have the Euros really figured out some “template” in beating the Americans? Is there really some psychological design to the success? Or is there a little bit of fairy dust being added to the telling.

“We’re doing what we’ve always done,” McGinley said. “We’re going at it again, and I’d like to put a little bit of a cherry on top, a little bit of icing on top and roll it out for whoever the next captain is.”

Whatever the European “template,” Watson knows it has something to do with how the Euros finish matches. Europe won 14½ to 13½ in an epic comeback at Medinah two years ago, winning despite being down 10-4 late on Saturday. Europe won by the same margin at Celtic Manor two years before that, this time prevailing with a clutch finish by Graeme McDowell.

“They’ve been able to pull it out a little bit better at the end,” Watson said. “That’s what I’ve seen. I can’t explain why.”

Certainly, confidence is part of what European captains are building upon. They’ve got that going for them again this week.

“I’ve played on some strong teams, but I tell you, this one is right up there,” Europe’s Lee Westwood said. “We’ve got a lot of very good, world-class players. With the exception of maybe one (the Masters), all the big tournaments this year have been won by Europeans and people on this team. We’re confident without being complacent.”

NBC’s Johnny Miller believes part of the template is that the Euros have a different relationship with the Ryder Cup, and it’s integral to their success.

“My slant on it is that Europe is definitely more a family, and they love the Ryder Cup matches,” Miller said. “They just cannot wait. I mean, the press starts talking about the Ryder Cup the week after the Ryder Cup, and it’s two years away. It’s just a love fest. It’s a team love fest. I think the U.S., they like each other, and they get to know each other better, but I think it’s more a `Gotta win.’ It’s not so much that I love to put my thumb out there and hit it with a hammer.”

Watson will be looking to use American pain to help create a new American template.

“He’s got a very single-minded purpose, and that’s to win the cup back,” American Matt Kuchar said.


Getty Images

Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

Getty Images

Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

Getty Images

13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

Getty Images

McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.