Nelson passed over, yet again, for Ryder captain

By Rex HoggardDecember 12, 2012, 5:45 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – This isn’t about long overdue mulligans or shattering the status quo or even phone calls that were never made. When you’ve lived 65 full years, validation is in the eye of the beholder and for Larry Nelson, three major championships and a loving family provide all the validation one could ask for.

But as Nelson finished his breakfast on a dreary central Florida morning on Wednesday there was no hiding the hurt.

“If they had made a decision a little earlier and let me know. If they had just called us and said, ‘We’re going another direction,’ I’d have been fine. I’m fine anyway,” Nelson said in his signature soft-spoken southern drawl. “The way it’s come down and to have someone say that they did contact me when they didn’t, that didn’t make sense.”

That “someone” was PGA of America president Ted Bishop, who was asked by XM Radio’s Matt Adams on Wednesday’s “Fairways of Life” show to comment on reports that he hadn’t contacted David Toms or Nelson about the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup captain’s vacancy.

“The statement you just made is not true,” Bishop said flatly but later clarified his comments to GolfChannel.com and did talk with Nelson Wednesday afternoon.


Report: Watson to be named '14 Ryder Cup captain l Video: Nelson 'disappointed'


Semantics aside, neither Bishop nor anyone else at the PGA of America ever contacted Nelson or anyone associated with him regarding the 2014 Ryder Cup captaincy. Or the 1995 or ’97 Ryder Cup captaincies, for that matter.

In fact, Nelson couldn’t recall ever getting a call from PGA HQ even after he won his two PGA Championships. But then the man who led a U.S. Army “A-team” during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam doesn’t really have much interest in protocol or perceived slights.

Nelson is quick to point out that Tom Watson, who will be named the ’14 U.S. Ryder Cup captain on Thursday in New York according to various reports, will be an extraordinary leader with an impeccable record. Like most of the golf world, however, he just doesn’t understand the process.

“There are a lot of people who have been Ryder Cup captains with less credentials and some that have been chosen with more credentials,” Nelson said. “It’s not that you sit back and say that you should have been. I think there are plenty of guys that should have been (captain) but have not. It’s just a little bit of a crying shame when you pick someone to do it twice when there are a lot of people out there who haven’t done it once that deserve it.”

Nelson would never call it a slight, that kind of self-indulgent sentiment is not in his DNA, but the oversight dates back to late 1993 when, according to Nelson, Lanny Wadkins suggested that he should captain the 1995 team at Oak Hill in New York and Nelson would then take his turn in 1997 against the late Seve Ballesteros in Spain.

“That to me was a done deal,” Nelson said. “I assumed everyone would be good to their word and I would captain in ’97.”

For the record, Nelson didn’t receive a phone call when the PGA bypassed him in ’97 and picked Tom Kite either.

“It’s amazing through all this I’ve never gotten a call,” he said. “I don’t understand it. It’s not sour grapes, I’m just flabbergasted.”

That the PGA of America seems poised to break from the traditional mold for captains is something of a competitive necessity given the U.S. side’s 2-for-9 record in the last 11 matches. That they would go back to the well and name Watson, the last U.S. captain to win a match in Europe, also dovetails with what Bishop said this week, “we’ve done something a little bit different this year.”

What is surprising is that Nelson was apparently never considered, at least not to the point that it warranted a phone call.

In late 2008, in the wake of the U.S. victory at Valhalla, your scribe cornered a PGA official and asked if the organization would consider giving Paul Azinger, whose “pod” system and proactive style wrested the Americans off of a three-match losing streak, a second term.

“We have more qualified potential captains then we do available spots,” was the official’s response.

And yet here we are on the verge of naming the first second-term captain in the modern era and another snub, and not just for Nelson but for a host of viable candidates.

“There are people – Hale Irwin, Mark O’Meara – who have not been named captain that deserved it,” Nelson said. “Watson would be a great captain. I have no problem with that. It is an honor. It is a selection. It’s not earned. But I just don’t understand the selection.”

In a moment of awkward clarity we asked Nelson, who has a 9-3-1 record in three Ryder Cup starts, what he would have said had the PGA of America called him and asked what kind of captain he would be for the ’14 matches in Scotland?

“There is a level of desire to use the talent the way it’s supposed to be used. I’m talking about the 12 guys that are on the team,” he said. “Being able to prepare them for the team matches and the individual matches, that’s important and I think I’d have been able to do it.

“When you go overseas you’re kind of in your own little group. It’s kind of like going to a warzone, basically.”

With that Nelson – who is likely the last chance the PGA of America had to name a man who has actually led troops into harm’s way a captain for their faux Ryder Cup battle – set out for a practice round at this week’s PNC Father/Son Challenge with, of all things, his cell phone gripped tightly in his right hand. Waiting, it seems, for a phone call that is two decades overdue.

Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

So much for easing into the new year.

So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

“It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

“It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

“When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

“I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

“I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

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Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.

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McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, five shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''