Final Ryder Cup singles match mattered to Olazabal

By Rex HoggardOctober 3, 2012, 5:57 pm

Amid the mayhem of the closing moments at last week’s Ryder Cup, with Europe’s victory celebration in full bloom some 160 yards away and these matches over, in form if not function, Francesco Molinari cast a desperate glance in the direction of European captain Jose Maria Olazabal.

Without a hint of ambiguity, Ollie put both hands on the Italian’s face and informed him what should happen next, “Get focused and do your best,” the captain shouted above the chaos.

Martin Kaymer’s putt on the 18th hole moments earlier sealed a 1-up victory over Steve Stricker and assured the Continent a 14-14 tie, which under Ryder Cup rules meant Europe would retain the cup.

Olazabal, however, had no interest in the tie. Neither did Tiger Woods, who was 1 up on Molinari at the time. Therein rests the distinction that made Sunday’s anchor match such a surreal scene.

Unlike the Presidents Cup, which declares all matches halved in the event the outcome is decided before play is completed, they play them out at Samuel Ryder’s member-member.

“We both, the PGA of America and European PGA, feel that the Ryder Cup is made up of all the matches and even if the result of the overall trophy is known player records are part of golf and part of the Ryder Cup,” said Kerry Haigh, managing director of championships and business development for the PGA of America. “We don’t feel it is right or appropriate if everyone walks off the golf course when the Ryder Cup is done. Not fair to the golf or the fans.”

Woods and Molinari played their approach shots to the final green, which was fully engulfed in the European celebration, and after the American’s par attempt slipped past the hole he conceded the Italian’s par effort, which meant the two would halve their match and Europe would win the cup outright, 14 ½ to 13 ½.

“It was over,” said Woods, who failed to win a match for the first time in his Ryder Cup career (0-3-1). “We came as a team and the cup had already been retained by Europe, so it was already over.”

Molinari was of a similar mindset until being given his marching orders by Olazabal. If the captain wanted a win then he would honor that.

“I thought about giving him the halve on the fairway, but then the captain was there. (He) told me, it's not the same, winning or halving,” Molinari said Sunday. “I just tried to win the hole, to win the tournament, basically.”

It is a subtle distinction that is likely rooted in cultural differences. Americans, as a rule, have no use for ambiguity in sport. U.S. fans deplore gray in the record books and for Woods, as well as captain Davis Love III, there was no solace to be found in a tie.

In fact, the rule to play the matches out is listed in the captain’s agreement, which Love studied and was briefed on before the matches, but in the dark moments after Kaymer’s putt he had no use for small print.

“Whatever Tiger and Molinari do we don’t get the cup. We’re stunned anyway. I stood there thinking, ‘Why isn’t it over? Why isn’t it good-good?’” Love said.

Unofficial protocol suggests it was Molinari’s choice to concede the final match in the name of sportsmanship, although in the Italian’s defense it was the captain’s decision to press on despite precedent to concede the match.

At the 1969 matches Jack Nicklaus famously conceded a 2-foot putt to Tony Jacklin that resulted in a halve and the first tie in Ryder Cup history and just one of two draws in match history. In that instance a tie, which meant the U.S. retained the cup, was fine for everyone involved, yet on Sunday it seems Olazabal had a different plan.

Perhaps for Ollie, raised in a soccer, eh, football culture where nil-nil ties are a way of life, it was a distinction worth playing for. Or perhaps he was not clear on the rules, telling reporters this week, “I know some people might think Francesco should have given Tiger that short putt, but at the end of the day the rules are the rules. It was important to finish the match.”

Or maybe the Spaniard was searching for a measure of redemption following Europe’s loss in 1999 at Brookline, when bedlam ensued following Justin Leonard’s 45-footer for birdie with Ollie still facing a 25-foot birdie of his own.

The appalling American breach of etiquette aside, the difference between the two incidents was Leonard’s bomb ultimately guaranteed a half point (after the Olazabal miss) and an outright U.S. victory, 14 ½ to 13 ½, while Kaymer’s 6 footer at Medinah was for the tie. But at that point Love & Co. clearly had little interest in a consolation prize.

For Haigh, an Englishman and a longtime PGA of America official, the distinction between a tie and an outright victory is very real, albeit utterly lost on the American side late Sunday.

“There certainly is (a difference) from a score standpoint, but in terms of who retains the trophy, obviously that’s clear from the captain’s agreement,” he said.

Late Sunday at Medinah, Love, who was already starting to feel the wrath from armchair quarterbacks everywhere, was pressed for an answer. Why concede Molinari’s 4 footer? Why not play for the tie?

Resolute and, for the first time all week, clearly agitated with the line of questioning, Love wrestled with the notion for a moment, “I have one question, what were we playing for?” he asked reporters. “The cup and they got it.”

In this instance, former New York Jets head coach Herman Edwards had it right, “You play to win the game. Hello.”

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 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.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.