Love takes the hit; Olazabal skips the high road

By Rex HoggardOctober 5, 2012, 4:24 pm

What goes faster than Ryder Cup week? Answer: a four-point U.S. lead – ba-da-boom.

A week removed from the Meltdown at Medinah, Cut Line is still trying to score a hectic week that featured more plot twists than a Clive Cussler tome. Before we put the 39th matches in the books, however, it’s time to applaud Europe’s MVPs (most vocal players) and send out an APB (all-points bulletin) for America’s missing stars.

Made Cut

MVPs. To suggest that the Europeans care more about Samuel Ryder’s golden chalice is a disservice, both to the Americans and the matches.

The U.S. side cares, maybe too much, but there is no mistaking Europe’s passion for the event. From Ian Poulter’s bug-eyed perfection to Rory McIlroy’s inspired sprint to the first tee on Sunday, the Euros have become adept at delivering when it counts.

“It’s a passion I've seen at the Ryder Cup for years and years as a kid growing up, and it's something that comes from within,” said Poulter, the undisputed man of the match with a perfect 4-0 record. “I just love it.”

No, the Europeans don’t want it more than the Americans, they’ve just figured out how to turn their passion into performance.

Tweet of the week: @McIlroyRory “Wow! Did that just happen! Unbelievable performance from all the boys today! Seve (Ballesteros) . . . this one is for you! #Europe”

Editor’s note: Given the gravity of the comeback, we forgive the Ulsterman for his overuse of exclamation points.

Tweet of the week, II: @IanJamesPoulter “On the plane on the way back to Orlando, why does it feel like we robbed a bank? Not sure how long it’s going to take to sink in.”


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Oh, captain. Martin Kaymer’s 6-foot clincher at Medinah’s 18th hole hadn’t hit the bottom of the cup and the hand-wringing had already begun.

U.S. captain Davis Love III failed to adjust on the fly; he allowed his players to dictate the plan when a command decision was in order; he over-thought Sunday’s lineup and allowed the Europeans to build momentum.

Lost amid the armchair quarterbacking was the fact that Love and Team USA had built a four-point lead through two days and Sunday’s singles card, at least on paper, accounted for every possible contingency save one – a suddenly hot-putting European side.

As expected, Love owned the defeat, “If you need to blame somebody for this loss, blame me,” he wrote in a captain’s diary on golf.com. History will not be kind to Love when the 2012 Ryder Cup epilogue is written, but the harsh reality is sometimes you just get beat and no amount of scripting and pop psychology will change that.

Tie-d up. Maybe European captain Jose Maria Olazabal was caught up in the moment, maybe he wanted a measure of revenge for America’s Brookline faux pas. Either way the Spaniard missed the exit for the high road late Sunday at Medinah with the Ryder Cup already decided.

Amid the mayhem of Kaymer’s cup-clinching putt at the 18th, good for a 14-14 tie which assured the Europeans would retain the cup, Ollie told Francesco Molinari, who was locked in a meaningless bout with Tiger Woods at the time, “It's not the same, winning or halving.”

Per the captains' agreement, all matches must be played out to conclusion even if the cup has already been decided, so the American and Italian continued to play with Woods eventually conceding a 4-footer to Molinari to lose the hole, halve his match and give Europe an outright 14 ½ to 13 ½ victory.

There are no hard and fast rules for these types of surreal episodes – although Jack Nicklaus’ famous concession to Tony Jacklin at the 1969 matches, which ended in a tie, would seem to be the gold standard – but at worst, Ollie’s insistence on a victory seems petty and at best an opportunity missed.


Missed Cut

What happens in Vegas . . . News last week that Justin Timberlake will step down as tournament host of the PGA Tour’s Sin City stop was particularly curious considering the event’s move to the FedEx Cup portion of the schedule beginning in 2013.

Seems Timberlake, according to the report, wasn’t exactly the host with the most.

“Justin’s a wonderful person,” Raoul Frevel, the tournament chairman, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “But we tried everything we could to get him more involved with our kids and the hospitals. But it seemed that when the TV cameras weren’t on, he disappeared.”

Just a hunch, but that cheesy poem at last week’s Ryder Cup likely didn’t help Timberlake’s street cred with the Tour either.

Missing persons. You can blame Love, the Europeans' sizzling Sunday putters and even Lombard (Ill.) deputy police chief Patrick Rollins, who rushed McIlroy to the golf course on Sunday, for America’s Medinah meltdown. But for those intent on assigning culpability look no further than the U.S. three-ball of Woods, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk.

Combined, the power threesome contributed 1 ½ points to the U.S. effort, with Stricker posting an 0-4 record including a singles loss to Kaymer, who was a pedestrian 1 over par on Sunday.

“In order to win cups, you have to earn points and we certainly have not earned points,” Woods said before the matches began, his words echoing late into Sunday night in the aftermath of the U.S. loss. “Phil (Mickelson, who actually went 3-1 in Chicago), Jim and myself have been put out there a lot during those years. So if we are not earning points, it's hard to win Ryder Cups that way.”

In match play it is the hot hand, not historical context, that counts, but if the U.S. is going to wrench itself off the Ryder Cup schneid it will need more from its veterans.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.