Unconventional U.S. captures Presidents Cup

By Rex HoggardNovember 20, 2011, 9:01 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – It’s called an Aussie “hook turn,” a white-knuckle, precarious kind of thing that somehow produces order from anarchy.

That’s what International captain Greg Norman had in mind when he front-loaded his Sunday card – dart into traffic from the far lane against a red light and beat the odds. Beat history.

He needed points, fast, and more than a little help from the American side of the Presidents Cup draw.

Early on a windswept Sunday the International ride remained unscathed. By the time the trailing matches reached the turn Norman’s grand plan was staying to script. The home side was up big in the first four matches and leading or all square in four of the next eight.

The problem with the “hook turn,” however, is the law of diminishing returns. Despite the Internationals' hot start, despite closing the gap to 14-16, the oncoming American traffic proved too much for Norman & Co.

For the second consecutive Presidents Cup, Tiger Woods secured the winning point for the United States, dismantling Aaron Baddeley, 4 and 3, in his most commanding performance of the week, and becoming the first captain’s pick to clinch.

“A lot of people have asked why I picked him and how he was going to play,” U.S. captain Fred Couples said. “I think he showed himself that his swing is back and he’s healthy, and that’s more important to me.”

Hoggard: Grading players, captains

Match by match: Singles recaps

Couples answered Norman’s quick-start strategy with a more balanced lineup weighted with veterans late in his card in hopes of undercutting any potential International rally. In order American staples Jim Furyk, David Toms, Woods and Steve Stricker closed out the ninth Presidents Cup, a week that began, fittingly enough, with an unlikely pair of American rookies leading the way.

If Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, Presidents Cup first-timers who led the way in team play with a 3-0 start, made a statement at Royal Melbourne, Woods at least made progress.

For the week he was 2-3-0, matching his worst Presidents Cup record since his rookie start in 1998, and opened with the most lopsided loss in match history, a 7-and-6 hammering by Adam Scott and K.J. Choi.

In between he scratched out his lone team win, a 1-up decision in Saturday’s morning foursome session, and left little doubt in his singles match, making five birdies in 11 holes and closing out the Aussie rookie, 4 and 3.

Through three 'seasons' and as many different winds, Woods navigated the classic layout with near-flawless ball-striking and a faulty grasp of the pitched putting surfaces. On Sunday, following a putting tip from Stricker before his round, he added the missing element.

Woods rolled in birdie putts of 4, 17, 21, 17, 4 and 2 feet on Nos. 2, 5, 6, 10, 11 and 15, respectively – nearly matching his birdie total (eight) for the week. The man who played 16 holes without a lead, or a birdie, never trailed on Sunday and halted what would have been the first Sunday comeback in Presidents Cup history.

“I'm very pleased with the progress I've made with Sean (Foley) and it's finally paying off under pressure. It held up nicely last week at the (Australian) Open and it held up nicely this week,” Woods said.

That the Americans entered Sunday’s final frame with a 13-9 lead largely without the services of Woods is only the tip of one of the most curious Cups.

Simpson and Watson played the perfect leadoff men, blanking the Internationals in three consecutive sessions, while Furyk and Phil Mickelson, who had assumed the role of mentor in recent Cups, also opened with a 3-0 week.

“I have a feeling (Mickelson) probably asked to play with me because I felt like he could get a lot out of me,” said Furyk, the only player to post a 5-0 record at Royal Melbourne. “He’s got a great leadership quality in these events. I struggled this year and he kind of took me under his wing and kind of boosted my confidence.”

In Sunday singles Lefty played like he needed a partner, conceding his first three holes to Adam Scott and three-putting from 5 ½ feet to go 4 down. By the time the Australian finally closed Mickelson out, 2 and 1, the Cup was virtually decided.

If Norman’s Sunday plan fell short, Couples’ collection of victories large and small seemed more of the happenstance variety. On Tuesday night Mickelson and Furyk surprised the captain with their request to play together, and sending a pair of rookies out in the first foursome match – as Watson and Simpson requested – blatantly violates every captain’s conventional wisdom.

If Paul Azinger’s victory at the 2008 Ryder Cup was calculating, Couples’ second consecutive Presidents Cup triumph was, by every measure, by committee.

The “players’ captain” was more interested in going with the flow than finding the perfect formula. Note to future captains – this is not brain surgery.

“One thing we have done in the last four years is, you know, I have Tiger and Phil and Stricker and Jimmy, in the team room making every decision,” Couples said. “We're a team. I'm the captain but we are a team all day long all week long. I'm not telling Jim Furyk when to play and what slot to be in. And then they give me all the information on the younger players, too. So it worked out really well in San Francisco, and it worked out well here.”

For the week Couples defied conventional wisdom and the Americans defied the odds on a layout that was billed as a friendly-confines advantage for the Internationals. To play Royal Melbourne, the pundits figured, you needed experience, the one thing the Americans had no way of gaining.

It’s why Norman burned one of his captain’s picks on Robert Allenby, languishing at 69th in the World Golf Ranking and a decade removed from his last Tour title, but the Australian had history at Royal Melbourne.

For the week Allenby didn’t earn a point while the Americans plowed through even more articles of faith.

“I’ve been so impressed with the way the Americans have adapted to the conditions,” assistant International captain Frank Nobilo said. “You wouldn’t think that. This is supposed to be our home course, but they’ve adapted very well.”

It was in Sunday’s second-to-last group where Couples plowed through the ultimate Cup dogma.

With the U.S. just five points shy of victory, some viewed Woods’ penultimate spot on the Sunday card as an attempt to “hide” a player who had struggled mightily on Royal Melbourne’s greens and posted a 1-3-0 record in team play. To Couples he was an insurance policy.

Where the world saw a liability still rediscovering a putting touch that’s been MIA for two calendars, Couples saw a backstop that would stem the tide if need be, regardless of form or recent history.

In Melbourne’s maze of congested streets the “hook turn” works, against all odds and any reasonable regard for personal safety. At Royal Melbourne it was a maneuver of a different type that extended the Americans' hold on the Presidents Cup to seven matches – the U-turn.

Trump playing 'quickly' with Tiger, DJ

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Updated at 11:14 a.m. ET

An Instagram user known as hwalks posted photos to her account that included images of Tiger Woods, President Trump and Dustin Johnson Friday at Trump National, as well as video of Woods' swing.

Original story:

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.

Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''

Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open

Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.