Why should athletes have to talk after a painful defeat?

By Rex HoggardFebruary 10, 2016, 8:10 pm

For an entire historic season Carolina quarterback Cam Newton spoke volumes, both with his play on the field and into the hundreds of media microphones that were placed in front of him.

Newton is exuberant and outgoing, much like Rickie Fowler, who has made his own competitive statements lately with four worldwide victories since last May.

But on Super Sunday both opted for varying degrees of radio silence in the wake of essentially similar defeats.

Sure, Newton’s loss in Super Bowl 50 will linger longer than Fowler’s playoff defeat at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, but at such heights pain born from athletic performance isn’t necessarily proportional.

This reality of diminishing returns was evident in both star’s post-play press conferences on Sunday.

Subdued and somber, Newton offered just 87 words to the media following the Panthers’ 24-10 loss to the Denver Broncos, with most no more than clipped, two-word responses.

“Got outplayed,” Newton said moments before he bolted the interview area with a quick, “I'm done, man.”

Following Fowler’s playoff loss to Hideki Matsuyama at TPC Scottsdale the game’s quintessential millennial wasn’t much more effusive, answering just four questions, for a total of 240 words, before offering a final emotional response followed by a quick exit.

“I mean, the hard part is having, you know, all my friends and family and Grandpa and my dad who haven't seen me win. But I will be able to kind of hang with them tonight,” Fowler said as he fought back tears. “I’ll be all right. With how good I'm playing, I know I can win. That's the hard part.”

Before you break the Internet debating how misguided are comparisons between Fowler, one of golf’s most likeable if not sometimes guarded players, and Newton, who can be as petulant as he is entertaining, the purpose of this correlation is only to acknowledge the emotions that accompany the enormity of such moments.

“It’s going to hurt because I felt like I had it, especially with the way I was swinging,” said Fowler, who found the water twice on the 17th hole at TPC Scottsdale on Sunday.

“That was a bit unfortunate. I hit it right on line, hit it exactly where I was looking [at No. 17]. That's kind of the unfortunate part to hit the shots that I did and to pull them off and then it kind of backfired.”

To be clear, Newton was not nearly as talkative as Fowler in loss, particularly when asked the keys to Carolina’s defeat.

“Got outplayed,” he mumbled.

But the point is neither player was in much of a mood to talk, and it’s hard to blame them.

It’s all part of the same DNA that makes athletes like Fowler and Newton so entertaining in victory, yet so difficult during emotional defeats.

Some are able to compartmentalize loss better than others. When Jordan Spieth’s birdie attempt at the 72nd hole at last year’s Open Championship rolled wide it cost the 22-year-old more than his name on the claret jug.

Spieth had been vying to win the third leg of the single-season Grand Slam, and yet after he’d signed his scorecard and spoken with the media he joined the crowd behind the 18th green to watch Zach Johnson win the playoff.

Similarly, when Brandt Snedeker struggled to a final-round 77 at the 2008 Masters after heading out in the day’s final group on Sunday he was just as overcome by emotion in his post-round Q&A with reporters, but showed an impressive amount of resilience answering 14 questions.

“You know, I have no clue why I am so emotional. I was laughing outside. I'm crying in here. I couldn't tell you. You know, it's just ...” Snedeker said through tears.

They say players learn more from defeat than they do in victory and in golf the latter is a way of life with even the game’s best players coming up short more times than not. The same can be said of what can be learned about players in victory and defeat. 

While it’s easy to think the examples set by Spieth and Snedeker should be the standard, that entirely too simplistic logic ignores individual personalities.

Fowler’s emotion is a measure of how much winning means to him, not a weakness to be corrected.

A few days after his post-Super Bowl press conference, Newton summed it up best: “You show me a good loser and I'm going to show you a loser.”

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.