Getting Ready for Ryder Cup

By Tom AbbottSeptember 10, 2008, 4:00 pm
The European Ryder Cup team is split in its preparations for the big match. Some are playing tournament golf, others are spending time at their various homes practicing before getting together for official team practice the beginning of next week.
 
The Virgin Atlantic team charter will depart London at midday on Monday, with those players not already in the States aboard and various other dignitaries, wives and guests in tow. Im assuming players get first choice on the upper-class cabin.
 
Soren Hansen, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Graeme McDowell and Robert Karlsson are all in the field for Mercedes-Benz Championship in Germany this week. A limited field tournament which will give those players a tough week of tournament golf ahead of the Ryder Cup.
 
Lee Westwood wanted to be in the field following his withdrawal from the Omega European Masters with tendonitis but because he hadnt planned to play in Cologne, he didnt enter. He couldnt grab a late entry because all the sponsors invites are taken with big name players ' Stuart Appleby, John Daly, Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer among them. Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose have been spending time at Lake Nona in Orlando, Fla., where each has a home. They even teed it up in a three-ball over the weekend.
 
Nick Faldo certainly has been in contact with the players giving advice and getting ready for the matches. One wonders what Faldo, a master tactician and mind game specialist, will have been instilling in the team and what weaknesses he sees the U.S. side that he will use to fire up his team.
 
The one disadvantage the Americans have is their lack of playing preparation. The PGA TOUR doesnt have an event this week ' to give the players a rest ' but if they dont want to rest and actually want to keep playing then they better dust off their Hooters Tour membership card.
 
The PGA TOUR Playoffs almost force players to take this as an off week. Whereas the Europeans have the option of tweaking their schedule to rest prior and play the week or two before, like Miguel Angel Jimenez and Robert Karlsson. There lies a fundamental difference in the tours ' the European Tour needs a Ryder Cup victory. It helps business, brings in sponsors and gives them a huge amount of pride.
 
Does Ponte Vedra have the same economic reason to win as Virginia Water? I think not. Im not saying the PGA TOUR doesnt want a Ryder Cup trophy to show sponsors, but is its absence a deal breaker? I dont think so.
 
Turning to the darkside
 
One of the greatest true amateurs in the game has gone to the darkside. The traditionalists at the R&A must have choked on their hillbillies when hearing the news last week that Gary Wolstenholme has finally made the decision, at 48, to join the professinoal ranks.
 
Gary wasnt necessarily a true amateur. It wasnt as though he was the owner of the local car dealership who had to take a week off in April because he won the U.S. Amateur. Gary has been playing golf pretty much fulltime ever since Ive known him, and doing extremely well ' twice a British Amateur champion, representing his country 218 times at international level and beating Tiger Woods in the 1995 Walker Cup singles, are among the more noteworthy achievements.
 
Wolstenholme also played in the U.S. Open this year but struggled with the length of Torrey Pines, Gary is a short hitter but has deadly accuracy and a stellar short-game.
 
Wolstenholme will play in the European Tour Qualifying School stage one this week, and hes accepted an invitation to play the Kazakhstan Open next week on the Challenge Tour.
 
Before you chuckle at the host country, take note that the Kazakhstan Open is the richest full-field Challenge Tour event on the schedule, with the winner guaranteed a place on the European Tour next season. The players enjoy the trip to the former Soviet Republic and the views of the Tien Shien mountain range from the course are spectacular.
 
This week in European golf
 
The European Tour plays the Mercedes-Benz Championship in Cologne. The Challenge Tour heads to China for a co-sanctioned event with the Chinese Golf Federation, the Qingdao Golf Open offers a prize fund of $500,000. The LET visits Austria for the UNIQA Ladies Golf Open presented by Raiffeisen.
 

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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.