Europes Next Leader
I first went to my home in London for 10 days of golf, eating, drinking and more golf, with a little Ryder Cup viewing thrown in for good measure. Then it was off to the Boulders resort in Carefree, Ariz., to host the ING Shotmakers Shootout, an hour-long skills challenge youll see later in the year on Golf Channel. Finally, I had my first foray into the world of live LPGA golf doing interviews at the Navistar in Prattville, Ala., where the weather was glorious and the tournament produced a marvelous finish. That all seems a while ago, though, as last week I was back in the host chair for Golf Central and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
This gets me to this: the search for a 2010 European Ryder Cup captain. At St. Andrews last week, the European Tour Tournament Committee was planning to discuss the matter. Instead, their attention was turned to debating a rise in the number of tournaments needed to retain European Tour membership. A decision was made to move this from 11 to 12, beginning with the new Race to Dubai in 2009.
This will make it slightly more difficult for players to play both the PGA and European tours, but it is hardly a significant difference and one that I personally cant see stopping players from featuring on both scenes. Anyway, the point is: the Ryder Cup decision will be discussed in a meeting in Abu Dhabi in January. Committee member and tour veteran Barry Lane said last week: Im sure it will be top of the agenda at the next meeting. But Thomas Bjorn has hinted it may take longer to decide such an important position.
So who are the contenders and who is going to get the nod?
Jose Maria Olazabal:
A lot of hype surrounds Olazabal, vice-captain to Nick Faldo at Valhalla and a veteran of seven Ryder Cup Matches. Ollie has now played through several generations of European Tour stars; the problem is he still nurtures ambitions of playing. He said after the defeat at Valhalla that he wouldnt give a commitment to any captaincy offer before years end. He still hopes to play a couple of tournaments in the final few months of 2008 with a view to returning to 100 percent fitness and potentially qualifying as a player in 10. Ollie will be 43 in February, so time is on his side; he could realistically play in another three Matches. But injury worries stack against him. Jose Maria has played just six times in the past 14 months, struggling with back and shoulder problems. Olazabal will not be picked yet; his turn should come in the U.S., where hes twice been a Masters champion. Put him on the list for 2012 or 2016.
The 1988 Masters champion and 1985 Open champion was an assistant to Ian Woosnam in 2006 at the K-Club and is in the prime-time of captaincy years. Just making his way onto the Senior circuit, Lyles chances of ever playing a Ryder Cup are finished, but he is still mad keen on the game and keeps an eye of whats going on. In March he told me that he considers himself at the top of the list for 2010 captaincy. I think not. My view would be wait for 2012. Like Olazabal, Lyle achieved a great deal of success in the U.S., winning the Players Championship and the Masters. He lives part of the year in Florida and plays the Champions Tour. Give Sandy his time in 12.
The winning captain in 2006, Woosnam proved to be a great choice and has been credited as master strategist and team leader for the Euros efforts in the record-equaling victory at the K-Club. Ian has now staked his claim on captaining in his native Wales at Celtic Manor in 2010. I give an endorsement to Woosie; hed be perfect for the captaincy once again, and it would be fitting to have him as leader when the Cup is played for in Wales for the first time. He is a little terrier, a battler someone Europe will need against what is sure to be a U.S. team buoyed by their win in Kentucky and possible Presidents Cup victory in San Francisco (in 2009). Woosnam would be my choice.
The Others category would contain: 1) Nick Faldo. Never the most popular of figures, Faldo has had his time and sadly couldnt get the win. I doubt whether he will ever feature again as either a captain or vice-captain. 2) Colin Montgomerie. He is too young and still holds desires of playing, Monty should captain at Gleneagles in 2014, when the Matches return to Scotland for the first time since Muirfield in 1973.
Any others wishing to apply should send a resume to the tournament committee before January. Thomas Bjorn is right; it might take a few meetings to come to a decision on Europes next captain.
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If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it
NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.
She says she always gets nervous starting a round.
You don’t believe it, though.
She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .
Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .
Or disarming ticking bombs . . .
“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.
Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.
Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.
Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.
At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.
She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.
She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.
And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.
There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.
Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.
It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.
Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.
Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.
“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”
About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.
Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.
“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”
David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.
“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”
Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.
Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . .
“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.
Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.
“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”
Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.
“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.
Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.
National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.
The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.
Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.
These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:
Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.
This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.
“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”
Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.
In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.
If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.
“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”
Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.
Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.
''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''
The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.
The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.
''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''
Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.
''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''
First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).
Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.
''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.
''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''