Hooks & Cuts from the Ryder Cup

By Rich LernerOctober 4, 2012, 7:45 pm

Wherever I've gone and whomever I've spoken to, the Ryder Cup is still the rage, hence this latest edition of Hooks & Cuts.

• Ryder Cup or Masters?  The Masters is by far the better pure golf experience.  The Ryder Cup is the better sports spectacle, a frenzied football rivalry played atop a tension wire fully amped from start to finish. 

• This was among the most soul-crushing losses I’ve ever seen in a team sport. The U.S. led by three touchdowns early in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, by 6 runs going into the seventh inning of Game 7 of the World Series and by 15 points with seven minutes left in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.  And it slipped away.  Brutal. 

• I don’t know yet who’s writing it, but rest assured “Miracle at Medinah” will be on sale in the run-up to the 2014 Ryder Cup. 

• They didn’t win, but the Americans played hard and they entertained. 

• Even for all their centuries-old differences and in the midst of the current financial crisis, the countries of Europe, through their itinerant golfers, continue to prove it is possible to create a more perfect union.  The passionate Spaniards are different than the disciplined Germans; the hearty Irish are different than the wry English.  Amazing how a few clutch birdie putts can bridge so many gaps, isn’t it?  They always seem to come together to fight for one all-consuming cause, to beat the mighty Americans, beat ’em again and again and again.

• Did Davis Love’s best quality, his niceness, ultimately cost him?  Phil may have been well intentioned when he told Davis that he and Keegan should sit the afternoon, but who’s the captain?  Davis is, and even if it wasn’t in the original game plan, there’s a time to deviate. That was it.  At a Ryder Cup, emotion and momentum can never be sacrificed when you own it, and Phil and Keegan owned it all.  They were six innings into a perfect game, and Davis went to the bullpen.  As a lifelong Phillies fan, I’m still haunted by Mitch Williams and Joe Carter.

• Phil’s display of sportsmanship, clapping after Justin Rose had made his improbable birdie putt Sunday at 17, was truly a good moment. I suspect Phil spoke for many American fans who could only laugh and applaud the audacity of the Europeans.

• Sneaky critical sequence came Saturday afternoon at 17.  After Tiger hit his iron close the camera cut away to Luke Donald. He appeared not to notice, lost in his own world, and then stuffed his tee shot and made birdie.  Donald and the Euros were out of their funk and into a zone they wouldn’t leave until late Sunday. 

• Speaking of zones, Ian Poulter traveled to Planet Clutch, a distant outpost few have ever visited.  He was so far and away the MVP of the Ryder Cup.  Sunday doesn’t happen if Poults doesn’t unfurl one of the single greatest stretches in cup history on Saturday.  He single-handedly rescued Europe and secured a future captaincy in the process.

• The Americans sent out three fine young major champions and the FedEx Cup champion early on Sunday.  But they’re also what Sir Nick Faldo describes as “twitchy” players.  Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley and Brandt Snedeker are naturally sort of caffeinated players, and without the safety net of a partner and under the suffocating pressure they weren’t steady enough to deliver their best stuff.

• Can we all agree that until further notice we’ll not doubt Rory?  Every time he’s been questioned he’s answered with emphasis.  After the 80 at Augusta, he won his very next major by eight.  After he slumped this summer and people, including me, wondered if he’d lost focus, he decimated the field at the PGA Championship and then won back-to-back playoff events.  Saturday night at the Ryder Cup a few pundits suggested that Rory was fatigued and wouldn’t be able to handle the red-hot Bradley.  Sunday was one final reminder in a season filled with them that Rory McIlroy is without any question the best player in the world.

• Tiger’s simply been a virtuoso soloist.  How else to explain his Ryder Cup record?

• Bradley and Bubba flamed the fans, but stoic Jason Dufner also turned in a stout performance over three days.

Jose Maria Olazabal instructing Francesco Molinari to concede his match to Tiger would have been a magnanimous gesture, but you play to win and I don’t have a fundamental problem with the decision to play it out.  Of course, it would sound different if we were saying, “The Europeans fought back to tie the Americans and retain the Ryder Cup,” as opposed to “the Americans blew a four-point lead and allowed the Europeans to win the Ryder Cup for the seventh time in the last nine tries.”      

• I think the PGA of America will go outside the box for its next captain.  In other words, it may not be David Toms, who like Davis Love appears to be a nice man and well respected.  Paul McGinley, bright and highly regarded, will likely get the nod for the Europeans.  Darren Clarke wants to captain in America and figures to get the call in 2016 in Minnesota.  By then, Phil Mickelson may well be ready, if he’s not intent on playing at 46.

• Feel for Jim Furyk.  Think about how close he was to being a U.S. Open champion, a World Golf champion and a Ryder Cup hero.  Think about how gutted he must be.

• The great European captain Sam Torrance always called his men “boys.” He’d say, “Our boys gave it everything they had.” And therein lies the secret.  Under the crushing pressure, serious men must let go and play like boys.

• I’ve heard from so many friends and fans, from diehard golfers and those who barely play, that it was one of the most compelling sporting events they’ve ever seen.  It was.

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.

Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Ortiz leads LAAC through 54; Niemann, Gana one back

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 8:15 pm

Mexico's Alvaro Ortiz shot a 1-under 70 Monday to take the 54-hole lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship in Chile.

At 4 under for the week, he leads by one over over Argentina's Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Chile's Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann, and Guatemala's Dnaiel Gurtner.

Ortiz is the younger brother of three-time Web.com winner Carlos. Alvaro, a senior at Arkansas, finished tied for third at the LAAC in 2016 and lost in a three-way playoff last year that included Niemann and Gana, the champion.

Ortiz shared the 54-hole lead with Gana last year and they will once again play in the final group on Tuesday, along with Gurtner, a redshirt junior at TCU.

“Literally, I've been thinking about [winning] all year long," Ortiz said Monday. "Yes, I am a very emotional player, but tomorrow I want to go out calm and with a lot of patience. I don't want the emotions to get the better of me. What I've learned this past year, especially in the tournaments I’ve played for my university, is that I have become more mature and that I have learned how to control myself on the inside on the golf course.”

In the group behind, Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who is poised to turn professional, unless of course he walks away with the title.

“I feel a lot of motivation at the moment, especially because I am the only player in the field that shot seven under (during the second round), and I am actually just one shot off the lead," he said. "So I believe that tomorrow I can shoot another very low round."

Tuesday's winner will earn an invitation to this year's Masters and exemptions into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, and final qualifying for The Open.