Deep 6 Americans Face Record Deficit

By Associated PressSeptember 18, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 Ryder CupBLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. --The Americans' comeback was short-lived. The next one will have to be the biggest ever for them to win the Ryder Cup.
Backed by the clutch performance from its English rookies and reliable play from Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood, Europe put the United States in another huge hole Saturday by taking an 11-5 lead and making victory Sunday seem like a mere formality.
Europe looked like it might get swept in the morning, but recovered to win 1 1/2 points to maintain its lead. Then it turned the Ryder Cup into a runaway, sending Tiger Woods and Davis Love III to a crushing loss and whipping up on the rest of their teammates.
The Americans can't even rely on memories from Brookline five years ago, when they trailed 10-6 before staging the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history by front-loading their best players to build momentum and eventually winning on Justin Leonard's 45-foot birdie putt.
Finding their best players is the real problem, not to mention a six-point deficit.
'There's not a lot we can say,' U.S. captain Hal Sutton said. 'We've been outplayed to this point. We'll have to come out charging.'
Europe will be waiting. Even as its fans wrapped themselves in flags and heartily sang 'Ole! Ole!,' the players were cautious to celebrate too early.
'We've got too much respect for the Americans,' Paul McGinley said after he and Padraig Harrington stormed back form an early deficit to beat Woods and Love, 4 and 3. 'The lessons from Brookline have been learned. It's a great day, two really good days. But we have a long way to go.'
Where's Mark James when the Americans really need him?
He was the European captain in 1999 who benched three rookies until Sunday, then sent them out as sacrificial lambs that enabled the United States to stage its rally.
European captain Bernhard Langer allowed three of his rookies to make their Ryder Cup debut Saturday, and two of them shined. Paul Casey and David Howell won the final two holes for a 1-up victory in a better-ball that kept the Americans at bay and sent a surge of confidence through their teammates in the afternoon.
Europe immediately took the lead in the first three matches, but the turning point came in the one it trailed.
Woods, who won earlier Saturday with the ebullient Chris Riley, teamed with Love to win the first two holes and seemed destined to make it a short match.
'I didn't see a way out for us,' Harrington said. 'Paul said to me going up the second hole, 'Look, we're in trouble here. We shouldn't be playing against these guys; we should be playing the course. From here on in, we'll shoot under par.' And that's what we did.'
Woods and Love bogeyed four out of six holes in the middle of the match and lost, 4 and 3.
Phil Mickelson, benched in the morning after his poor play Friday, joined David Toms for the lone U.S. victory in the afternoon, 4 and 3 over Thomas Levet and Miguel Angel Jimenez.
But the European stalwarts were Garcia and Westwood, the only players who have yet to lose a match this week.
First, they held off Jay Haas and Chris DiMarco for a tie and a half-point in the morning.
Westwood teamed with Darren Clarke for a 5-and-4 victory over Haas and DiMarco in the afternoon, and Garcia joined Luke Donald to win 1 up over Jim Furyk and Fred Funk.
After a par on the 18th clinched the match, Garcia retrieved the flag and waved it over his head, then leapt into the arms of his teammates.
The blue on the scoreboard -- European wins -- was undeniable.
With every match that ended, the Americans were losing faith.
'Anything can happen, but we're getting way too far down,' Haas said. 'It doesn't look good.'
Mickelson, Friday's goat and Saturday morning's cheerleader, found enough of his game to score his first point at Oakland Hills, but that was a small consolation.

'I don't know if we want to start a new challenge of coming from five or six points behind,' he said after winning his match. 'Right now, we're fighting to keep our head above water.'
They started going under toward the end of the morning better-ball matches.
Trailing 6 1/2-1 1/2 at the start of a sunny day, the Americans looked like they might erase most of that deficit in one session. They got off to a great start, and the crowd responded with raucous chants of 'USA!' that rang out across Oakland Hills.
At one point, they were poised to win 31/2 points from the better-ball matches, maybe even sweep.
But it all changed in about 30 minutes -- the lead, the momentum, everything but possession of the cup, which looks like it will remain in Europe for another two years.
Furyk made three three straight birdies for a 1-up lead on the 13th hole. After David Howell hit his approach to 3 feet for birdie on the 15th, Chad Campbell finally contributed with a 35-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole to regain the lead with two to play.
But the English rookies showed their mettle.
Howell stuffed his tee shot on the 17th into 8 feet for birdie to square the match. Then, with Howell out of the hole after a poor tee shot, Casey hit to the right side of the green, a difficult two-putt for par. Campbell was just short of the green, and he decided to chip instead of putt through about 6 feet of fringe.
It looked like the worst the Americans could do was a halve.
But Campbell's chip came out a little hot and went 8 feet by, and he missed that for bogey. Casey lagged beautifully over the ridge, calmed his nerves and holed a 3-footer for par to win the match.
They became the first rookie tandem to win their Ryder Cup debut in 25 years.
'That's the biggest part of the week there,' Lee Westwoodsaid. 'It made a massive difference.'
Despite all the early momentum, all the boisterous cheering, the Americans only had to look at the scoreboard to realize they didn't have much to show for it going into the afternoon matches.
Europe 8, United States 4.
And it was all downhill from there.
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    Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

    The Monday morning headline will be …

    REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

    RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

    MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

    JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

    Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

    HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

    LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

    BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

    COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

    Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

    HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

    LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

    BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

    COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

    What will be the winning score?

    HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

    LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

    BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

    COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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    Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

    Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

    This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

    While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

    Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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    Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

    A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

    Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

    Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

    And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”