England Soars into World Cup Lead

By Sports NetworkNovember 19, 2004, 5:00 pm
04 WGC-EMC World CupSEVILLE, Spain -- The English tandem of Luke Donald and Paul Casey combined for an 8-under 64 in Friday's alternate-shot format to take a commanding lead after two rounds of the World Golf Championships - World Cup. The duo stands at 19-under-par 125 and is five ahead of the team from Austria, Markus Brier and Martin Wiegele.
Brier and Wiegele could not get up and down for par from a greenside bunker at the 18th at Real Club de Golf Sevilla. That bogey gave them a 2-under 70 and a two-round total of 14-under-par 130.
The English team was one back in third place after Thursday's opening round, but wasted little time in getting the top spot on the leaderboard. The pair birdied four in a row from the third to go two clear of the field.
Donald and Casey, both of whom represented Europe in this year's Ryder Cup, did not relent. Casey drained a 20-foot birdie putt at the eighth to go three ahead, then Donald knocked the team's third to 10 feet to set up another Casey birdie putt at the par-5 ninth.
The duo kept their huge margin even when they ran into trouble. At the 10th, Casey drove into the right rough, and Donald hit the approach well left of the green. Casey pitched to 20 feet and Donald sank the par putt to keep their large lead.
Donald's second at the par-4 12th spun back to 3 feet. Casey tapped in the birdie putt, then holed a 5-footer for birdie at 14 after Donald blasted out from a greenside bunker. The English team made it three in a row at 15 when Donald's approach from a fairway trap came up 18 feet short. Casey converted the birdie try to give England a six-shot advantage.
The Austrian team clawed back with a 6-foot birdie putt at the 13th. They trailed by five and looked like they might gain another stroke when England appeared to be in danger at the par-5 16th.
Casey drove in the water right and after a drop, Donald hit a fairway-metal from the rough that just cleared a lake guarding the green. Casey chipped 5 feet short of the flag, but Donald drained the par-saving putt.
At the 18th, Donald's second landed over the flag in the back rough. Casey chipped 8 feet past the hole and Donald played too much break in his putt. The team made bogey and saw its lead slip to four.
But Austria, who played in the final group on Friday thanks to sharing the first-round lead with Ireland, also had problems at 18. The team was over the green in two and also failed to save par, giving England a five-shot lead with two rounds to play.
'I think we played very solidly today,' said Donald. 'I think our plan was to give me a lot of iron shots and leave Paul with all of the putts. He's putting great right now. That kept our momentum going.'
So England has a five-shot lead, but does that mean they will play conservatively on Saturday?
'The beauty is we've got four-ball tomorrow,' said Casey. 'There's no reason to hold back with two balls in play tomorrow. We'll try to put together something in double-digits, 10-under or plus. Hopefully we'll be in a good position for Sunday.'
The Austrian team was a shocking co-leader after the opening round considering they were not even qualified for the tournament. They missed the mark by three strokes in a qualifying event last month in Mexico, but when Thailand withdrew, the Austrian side got a spot.
Austria started poorly with a bogey at the third, but rebounded with a birdie at the eighth. They combined for three birdies in a four-hole span from the 10th to get into a share of second with Ireland, but Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley fell on hard times on the back nine.
Harrington and McGinley, who won this event in 1997, was in second throughout much of the second round, but disaster struck at the par-5 16th. McGinley needed to roll in a 35-footer for bogey, but came up almost 4 feet short. Harrington made the putt for double bogey and parred out for a 1-under 71.
The Irish team is tied for third place at 13-under-par 131 with the defending champion South Africa (Rory Sabbatini & Trevor Immelman, 65), Sweden (Fredrik Jacobson & Joakim Haeggman, 67), the United States of America (Bob Tway & Scott Verplank, 67), Japan (Shigeki Maruyama & Hidemichi Tanaka, 69) and host country Spain (Miguel Angel Jimenez & Sergio Garcia, 68).
Australia's team of Nick O'Hern and Stephen Leaney posted a 4-under 68 and are alone in ninth place at 12-under-par 132. Marcel Siem and Kariem Baraka of Germany carded a 3-under 69 and are in 10th at minus-11.
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    Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

    Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.


    Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

    Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

    Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

    Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

    Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


    Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

    Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

    Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

    Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

    Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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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.