Ryder Cup teams equally matched

By Rex HoggardSeptember 27, 2012, 4:38 pm

MEDINAH, Ill. – On paper this is a push.

Europe has the world No. 1 and the spirit of Seve Ballesteros. The American side has the world No. 2 and the friendly confines of Medinah. Man for man, team for team this Ryder Cup has no room for those who bet the chalk.

Maybe not since the late Ballesteros was in his prime has the biennial, cross-Atlantic grudge match been such a tossup, which would explain the 20,000-plus who flocked to this northwest Chicagoland suburb on Wednesday to watch 24 players practice.

“Both teams are just playing so well, it’s hard to figure out what you do,” U.S. captain Davis Love III conceded. “Why would you sit anybody out? They’re all playing great.”

Ryder Cup: Teams | Articles | Videos | Pics | Social

This week’s buzz was eclipsed only by a palpable feeling of unease. The Europeans have owned this event, having won nine of the last 13 meetings. Just ask them, they will tell you.

“The Europeans since ’95 have been dominant in this competition,” said Justin Rose. A day later his likely partner when play gets underway early Friday Ian Poulter added, “We have been very dominant in the Ryder Cup over the last 10 years.”

Dominant, got it. In politics they call that staying on message, and, with apologies to those who bleed red, white and blue, perfectly justified.

It’s been more than a decade since the U.S. side won consecutive matches (1991-’93) and the American Triumvirate of Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods rank second, third and third, respectively, on the all-time matches-lost list.

When it comes to America’s Ryder Cup fortunes, as U2’s Bono once crooned, “throw a rock in the air, you’ll hit someone guilty.” For his part, however, Woods has owned, perhaps unjustly, America’s failures in the matches.

“In order to win cups, you have to earn points and we certainly have not earned points,” said Woods, who has played on just one winning Ryder Cup team in his Hall of Fame career and has a soft-hitting 15-14-2 record. “Phil, 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.”

Woods, Mickelson and Furyk have searched for answers and partners throughout their Ryder Cup careers. Woods has played with a dozen partners in six matches while Lefty and Furyk have had 13 different wingmen with varying levels of success.

But if the core of the U.S. side can only have painful association with recent history, this year’s lineup features an infusion of new faces sans the scars of past defeats. Brandt Snedeker has never had to watch a European celebration – or, for that matter, played a foursomes or fourball match. Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner and Webb Simpson have never been subjected to a team from the Continent rolling in putts from Valderrama to The K Club.

For Love, what the U.S. team lacks in experience it makes up for in naïve nirvana, young minds uncluttered by ghosts of cups past.

“They may be rookies here at the Ryder Cup, but they’re major championship winners, they’re FedEx Cup winners,” Love said. “They’ve done a lot, they’ve played a lot of great golf, and they’re really comfortable, confident guys.”

They’re also good putters, and as European broadcaster and short-game guru Mark Roe figured earlier this week, Samuel Ryder’s member-member is always, “a putting contest.”

Snedeker, fresh off his $10 million haul at last week’s Tour Championship, is No. 1 on Tour in strokes gained-putting, while Bradley, Simpson and Dufner all rank in the upper third of Tour putters.

But if Love is leaning on the newcomers, European captain Jose Maria Olazabal will, like most of the captains that came before him, depend on three key pairings.

In this the Europeans enjoy an embarrassment of team riches. Rory McIlroy, the world No. 1 who has won three of his last five PGA Tour starts, has played with just one partner (Graeme McDowell) and is 1-1-1 in team play; Luke Donald likely has only one partner he’s interested in, Sergio Garcia who he is a perfect 4-0 with; and Justin Rose and Ian Poulter, the emotional core of the European team, went 2-1 in 2008 at Valhalla.

If Europe is going to win for the first time on American soil since 2004 at Oakland Hills it will likely depend on the play of Ollie’s “Big 3,” if not world No. 1 in particular.

At 23, McIlroy has been affixed with a bull’s eye, according to some U.S. players. That’s lofty ground for someone playing in just their second Ryder Cup. But if the Ulsterman has proven adept at anything, beyond winning majors, it is keeping the hype in context.

“This week I’m not the No. 1 player in the world, I’m one person in a 12-man team, that’s it,” McIlroy said. “It’s a huge compliment that people are saying they want to beat me and whatever. Whoever wants to take me on, they can take me on.”

“Whoever,” of course, would be Woods in a Sunday single’s shootout for cup and country, the desired, albeit unlikely, marquee to finish the week. Yet, as McIlroy pointed out, to make this a two-man show would be to ignore the facts.

In the past, the European side has countered a perceived lack of depth with a handful of go-to pairings, but for the first time all 24 players at Medinah are ranked inside the top 35.

It is a depth of field that makes this Ryder Cup an even-money push, a statistical and psychological draw that may be no good for betting but perfect for all those who favor the show over a sure thing.

Click to check out Golf Channel's and NBC Sports' Ryder Cup coverage.

Getty Images

Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.