In Search of Passion

By Rex HoggardOctober 6, 2010, 1:00 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – During the dark days of the American Ryder Cup experience, back when Mark O’Meara was openly wondering where all that cup cash was going and David Duval started referring to the event as an exhibition, it became good sport in media circles to question how badly the U.S. side really wanted to win Samuel Ryder’s golden keepsake.

It was clean and easy and utterly incorrect, but then how else could one explain a nine-point loss to a marked paper underdog in 750 words or less?

For some reason it made more sense to dismiss the matches as an overblown spectacle than cop to the reality that their 12 were that much better than our dozen. Call it rationalization on a national scale.

So it seems perfectly apropos that Hunter Mahan, the man who just four years ago eluded to the idea that if the Americans were to be paid for their biennial services they would somehow take the event more seriously, put an emotional end to the “they just don’t care as much” complex.

“(Graeme McDowell) played – he just beat me today,” Mahan stammered in broken words and with heartbroken clarity.

Mahan, an original Tour robot tucked neatly inside a pair of wraparound sunglasses and a steady diet of clichés, was gutted and speechless by his loss to McDowell in Monday’s final singles match.

All those who made it through those dark Ryder Cup nights secure in the notion that if only the Americans cared enough they would be unstoppable suddenly had nowhere to hide.

The unfiltered emotional truth of an American twenty-something can set you free.

“I've never cried after losing other than at the Ryder Cup,” Jim Fuyrk said. “We know what it means to us. Whatever you all thought in the past, whatever you've all written in the past, it's your observations, the way you feel. But that judgment really, I mean, we know what it means. I'm glad maybe finally you've all figured it out. And I'm sorry it's in this way.”

The myth of American indifference began manifesting itself in 1985 when the Europeans won for the first time since 1957. Since that five-point beat-down at the Belfry the Europeans have won nine of the next 13 meetings.

There were exceptions to the rule, like in 1991 when the U.S. survived a one-point slugfest at Kiawah Island, 1999 at Brookline and again in 2008 when Paul Azinger seemed to singlehandedly lift the Americans. Most everything in between, however, went the European’s way.

They want it more. They jell better as a team. They feed off the emotion of the event. Bull.

“It’s crazy,” three-time Ryder Cup player David Toms said on Tuesday at Sea Island Resort. “There’s a feeling that the European team, which is made up of people from an entire continent, has more pride than someone from the United States. That’s insane.”

In retrospect maybe the Americans wanted it too much.

Boo Weekley, a rookie on the 2008 team, has never had much use for a sports psychologist, but he remembers Azinger sitting him down at Valhalla and talking to him about deep breathing and extra practice swings.

The two-time Tour winner had to be convinced that nothing good comes from death-gripping an 8-iron.

For the modern American Tour pro the emotion of a Ryder Cup is counterintuitive to the way he’s been taught to play the game. At a major stoicism is a defense mechanism. At a Ryder Cup it’s a liability, at least in the media’s eye.

“I didn’t want to let down my team, my family. I sure as hell didn’t want to let down the USA,” Weekley said. “Here we were in the heart of the country. Kentucky, my kind of country with rednecks, and I really didn’t want to let anyone down.”

During those dark days it was the American stars, specifically Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, who took most of the heat for what was perceived as U.S. indifference.

Turns out nothing could have been further from the truth.

“There’s definitely passion,” said Ben Curtis, a member of the 2008 team. “I remember Furyk and Phil saying we need to win this. We have to win this. They’d been on so many losing teams and wanted it so bad.”

In many ways what goes on behind the closed doors of the U.S. team room belies the passion the Americans have for the event, and last week captain Corey Pavin went to great lengths to assure that what happens in the U.S. locker room stays in the U.S. locker room.

The need for an inner sanctum is certainly understandable, but to be a fly on the team room wall is to understand how passionate the Americans are about the matches.

“Maybe they should let some of you guys (into the team room) to see the emotion,” Toms said.

But then it’s hard to imagine a more poignant, and painful, myth buster than the one Mahan struggled to deliver on Monday at Celtic Manor. Majors have been won and lost with a fraction of the emotion Mahan showed with one simple sentence.

“I almost broke down and started crying for Hunter myself,” Weekley said. “I would have done the same thing. I probably would have cried because I let my team down. The press should look at that and see that’s what the Ryder Cup means right there.”

The reality is the Europeans simply outplayed the U.S. team last week. But they didn’t want it more. Just ask Hunter Mahan.

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.