Its the Majors That Really Matter

By Associated PressSeptember 26, 2006, 4:00 pm
CHANDLER'S CROSS, England -- Now that the Ryder Cup is over, golf returns to normal.
 
Of the 19 flags that rippled in a cool breeze Tuesday morning at The Grove, none was a blue banner with 13 gold stars. They were from Northern Ireland and South Africa, Canada and Australia, the United States and England.
 
Chad Campbell, Brett Wetterich and Jim Furyk walked down the first fairway as friends, but not teammates. Phil Mickelson has gone back on vacation, if he ever left. No one will pick up a ball from anywhere but the bottom of the cup.
 
Everyone is responsible for his own golf. Only one player gets the trophy.
 
The winner gets $1.3 million.
 
The only winning streak anyone is talking about involves Tiger Woods, the best in the world when he's playing for himself. While his streak ended two weeks ago at the World Match Play Championship about 30 miles down the M25 at Wentworth, a victory in the American Express Championship would be his sixth in a row at PGA TOUR events.
 
Ah, this is more like it.
 
Sure, Woods successfully defending his title at this World Golf Championship would only emphasize that Americans care more about their own achievements than winning a 17-inch golf trophy named after an English seed merchant.
 
But that's how it should be.
 
Golf is an individual game. Legacies are built on personal success, not team play that happens one week out of the year. Think of the players who are linked with their performance in team events, and you'll find guys who have never won a major, some who have never won many tournaments at all.
 
Colin Montgomerie. Sergio Garcia. Chris DiMarco.
 
No one has won more points for Europe than Nick Faldo, but that's only a postscript on the resume of a six-time major champion who won back-to-back at the Masters and once made 18 pars in his final round to win the British Open.
 
The Europeans are not just winning the Ryder Cup -- three in a row, five of the last six -- but dominating. Just don't get the idea that Europe is dominating the world of golf.
 
How else to explain why their players have been shut out in the last 29 majors?
 
'We've got a lot more top-10s in the majors, we've got more wins in the majors, we've got more tournament wins,' Stewart Cink said. 'In every category, we outpace them.'
 
The exception, of course, is the Ryder Cup.
 
But does that matter?
 
We give the Ryder Cup too much credit for its place in the game. It is a wonderful exhibition, and because it is so different from the 72 holes of stroke play seen the majority of the year, it is by far the most exciting tournament in golf to watch.
 
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, consider what has followed: the Presidents Cup, the Seve Trophy, the Royal Trophy, the UBS Warburg Cup (now extinct, thankfully), the Lexus Cup and something called the Handa Trophy, which pits senior U.S. women against senior women from the rest of the world.
 
All of them were or still are promoted as being styled after the Ryder Cup.
 
But these matches only decide which team gets the trophy. It doesn't make the Americans a bunch of chops, nor does it make the Europeans a world power.
 
Perhaps the most telling match of the Ryder Cup was when Garcia and Luke Donald defeated Woods and Furyk in a foursomes match Friday afternoon. Garcia played in the final round against Woods at the British Open and got smoked. Donald was tied for the lead with Woods in the final round at the PGA Championship and fell apart.
 
As partners, Garcia and Donald are 4-0 in foursomes play at the Ryder Cup.
 
'It's match play over 18 holes, and anything can happen in an 18-hole sprint,' Woods said. 'You play a stroke-play event, all you're looking for is one shot over 72 holes. It's more of a marathon. It's about being consistent. It about never making big numbers. You could be three down after the first nine holes ... you've got 63 holes to go.
 
'In match play, it can turn pretty quickly.'
 
The Ryder Cup was never that big of a deal before World War II, when the United States won four matches and Britain won twice. After the war, when Britain took far longer to recover, the Americans won the Ryder Cup 18 out of 19 times before the other side caught up. Britain first got help from Ireland in 1973, then all of continental Europe in 1979.
 
Just like the America's Cup, it became a big deal when the Americans started losing.
 
Now, the PGA of America wants it to be a big event because the Ryder Cup has become its biggest moneymaker. Europe needs it to become a big event -- and needs to win -- to help increase sponsorship for its tour.
 
No doubt, the top 12 Europeans as a whole are equal to the top 12 Americans, and Ian Woosnam probably was right when he said Europe is strong enough now to field two teams.
 
It's also possible that Europeans are about to catch up in the four Grand Slam events, as they did when their 'Big Five' of Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam and Sandy Lyle combined to win 16 majors.
 
Europe had eight players finish in the top 10 at majors this year, including three who played in the final group: Kenneth Ferrie at the U.S. Open, Garcia at the British Open and Donald at the PGA Championship. Montgomerie was a 7-iron away from winning at Winged Foot.
 
That still shouldn't change the dynamics of the Ryder Cup.
 
It's still an exhibition, golf entertainment at its finest, and nothing more.
 
One of the famous stories about Woods as a child was that he kept a list of Jack Nicklaus' achievements on the wall in his bedroom.
 
It's safe to say that list included nothing about the Ryder Cup.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - 36th Ryder Cup Matches
     
    Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Getty Images

    Koepka: Second-place finishes becoming 'annoying'

    By Al TaysMay 28, 2018, 12:02 am

    Brooks Koepka didn't go down without a fight.

    Trailing Justin Rose by four shots going into the final round of the Fort Worth Invitational, Koepka shot his second 7-under 63 of the week - and made up precisely one shot. He finished solo second at 17 under par, three shots behind Rose.

    He could only marvel at the Englishman's performance in closing with a 6-under 64.

    "It was pretty impressive," he said. "Justin played well. Hat's off to him. Any time you can come into a lead with four shots and play the way he did today, that's impressive."


    Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

    Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


    Although Koepka was pleased with his own play - especially his putting - he said it felt "annoying" to come in second. Again.

    "I feel like we've had so many second-place finishes," he said. "Always seem to run into a buzz saw, whatever it is."

    Since May of 2016, Koepka has five solo second-place finishes and one T-2. But he also has a U.S. Open title, won last year at Erin Hills. He'll attempt to defend that title June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills. "It's nice to finally be playing well and get going into the season," he said. "Kind of peaking right where I need to be."

    Getty Images

    Minjee Lee birdies 18 to win on her birthday

    By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:59 pm

    ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Minjee Lee's task was simple: A birdie on No. 18 would win her the tournament. It was a manageable par 5, the easiest hole on the course in the final round.

    After a good drive, her second shot came closer to trouble than much of the gallery probably realized.

    ''I almost clipped the tree,'' Lee said. ''I overcut it a little bit, but it finished out in a good position.''

    Lee's shot came to rest just to the right of the green, and from there it was a simple chip and putt for the birdie that gave her a one-stroke win over In-Kyung Kim at the LPGA Volvik Championship on Sunday. Lee, who turned 22 on Sunday, won for the first time since 2016. It was the Australian's fourth career victory.

    Lee three-putted for a bogey on No. 17, dropping into a tie with Kim, who finished her round about the same time. So Lee needed a birdie to win on 18. The 18th hole was 470 yards Sunday. There were 44 birdies there in the final round.


    Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


    ''The tee was up,'' she said. ''I was pretty confident that I could get there in two if I had a good drive.''

    Lee made her winning putt from about 3 feet. She finished at 4-under 68 and 16 under for the tournament. Kim (67) shot a 32 on the back nine and birdied No. 18, but it wasn't enough to force a playoff at Travis Pointe Country Club.

    ''I kind of knew that 16 was the number and I mean, I give my best,'' Kim said. ''I make some good shots and birdies.''

    Moriya Jutanugarn (65) finished third at 14 under.

    Lee took a two-stroke lead into the final round, and that was her margin over playing partner Stacy Lewis before Lewis (71) bogeyed No. 7 and 8. Kim emerged as the biggest threat to Lee when she birdied four of the first five holes on the back nine. Lewis is playing four months' pregnant with her first child.

    Kim and Lee were briefly tied at 15 under, but then Lee made a tap-in birdie on the par-5 14th, while Kim bogeyed 15. Lee saved par on 15 despite a wayward drive into a bunker.

    ''I wasn't sure where I was score-wise then. That par 5 is reachable in two, so I think a lot of people would have made birdie there,'' Lee said. ''The next tee shot I just pulled into the bunker. ... I think that was really important for me to hole that par putt just to keep the momentum going.''

    Lee had gone 38 consecutive holes without a bogey before making one on the par-4 17th. That, combined with Kim's birdie on 18, left the two golfers tied, but Lee still had the 18th to come.

    Su Oh (68) and Lindy Duncan (69) finished at 13 under, and Megan Khang (67) was another stroke back. Lewis finished at 11 under along with Ariya Jutanugarn (69) and Danielle Kang (70).

    Lewis birdied three of the first six holes, but Lee did as well.

    ''It's hard to get close when somebody does that,'' Lewis said. ''She played great all day and played solid. When she needed to make a par putt, she did, and didn't make any mistakes.''

    Lee lost this event by one stroke last year. Shanshan Feng, the 2017 winner , finished tied for 21st this time.

    The LPGA has had a different winner in each of its 13 tournaments this year. The U.S. Women's Open starts Thursday at Shoal Creek.

    Getty Images

    Spieth: Improvement is 'right around the corner'

    By Al TaysMay 27, 2018, 10:50 pm

    Not that Dallas native Jordan Spieth didn't enjoy the two-week home game that is the AT&T Byron Nelson and the Fort Worth Invitational - he certainly did. But he's eager to get out of town, too.

    "It was a great showing these last couple weeks by the fans," Spieth said after closing with a 2-under 68, a 5-under total and a T-32 finish. "Obviously extremely appreciative here in DFW. Wish I could do more. These couple weeks can be a bit taxing, and it's awesome to kind of have that support to carry you through.

    "So, you know, I had a great time these couple weeks on and off the golf course as I always do, but I'm also really excited to kind of get out of town and kind of be able to just go back to the room and have nothing to do at night except for get ready to play the next day."


    Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

    Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


    Spieth will have that experience this coming week in Dublin, Ohio, site of the Memorial. He's hopeful of improving on his T-21, T-32 finishes the past two weeks, and he thinks the main thing holding him back - his putting - is ready for a turnaround.

    "I think good things are about to come," he said. "I feel a good run coming for the second half of the season. Today was - each day I've felt better and better with the wedges and the putter and the short game; today was no different. My only bogey being just kind of trying to do too much on a par-5; 3-wood into the hazard.

    "So, you know, I'm getting into where I'm not making bogeys, and then soon - the not making bogeys is great, and soon I'll get back to the five, six birdies around and shoot some low rounds.

    "So I know it's right around the corner."

    Getty Images

    Broadhurst fires 63 to easily win Senior PGA

    By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:45 pm

    BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Paul Broadhurst wishes he had played this well in his 23 years on the European Tour.

    ''I know a lot more about my swing now and I guess you get that with age and experience,'' the 52-year-old Englishman said after shooting an 8-under 63 on Sunday to win the Senior PGA Championship by four strokes and match the best 72-hole score in tournament history.

    Broadhurst finished at 19-under 265 at Harbor Shores for his second senior major victory. The 63 was the best fourth-round score by a winner. Rocco Mediate also shot 19 under at Harbor Shores in 2016.

    Also the 2016 British Senior Open winner, Broadhurst led the field with 26 birdies and passed third-round co-leaders Tim Petrovic and Mark McCarron with a 4-under 31 on the back nine.

    Petrovic was second after a 69. McCarron had a 70 to tie for third at 14 under with Jerry Kelly (65).


    Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship


    Broadhurst earned a career-high $585,000 for his fourth PGA Tour Champions victory and moved to the top of the money list. He won six times on the European Tour, was a 1991 Ryder Cup player for Europe and has three European Senior Tour victories.

    ''It was really a special week,'' he said. ''It got a little bit tense out there. I knew I was playing well but I didn't seem to making any progress against Tim Petrovic. He was side-by-side on the back nine it seemed.''

    He learned his lead was three strokes standing on the 18th tee when his caddie asked a television announcer.

    ''So we put my driver away and reached for the rescue club,'' he said. ''If I made a 5 there that would be fine.''

    Broadhurst started the round two strokes behind Petrovic and McCarron, birdied the first hole and was tied with Petrovic for the lead by the turn. He took his first lead with a birdie on the 12th hole, led by two after 16 and birdied the final two holes, including a dramatic 40-foot putt for birdie at the 18th hole.

    ''I guess it would have been a bit of anti-climax if I would have three-putted the last green, but that would have given Tim a chance of holing his second shot,'' he said. ''I actually spoke to my caddie about that going down the last - we don't want to three-putt and five him the opportunity because stranger things have happened in golf. To see it go in the middle of the hole was just a special feeling.''

    Petrovic said missed birdie putts on Nos. 7 and 8 were costly, but it might not have mattered with the way Broadhurst was playing.

    ''In hindsight it was all for naught,'' he said. ''He was so far ahead of us. Hat's off the guy. It was a great week - we just got beat. When he made the putt on 18 ahead of us I almost started clapping in the fairway and waving a white towel. It was well-deserved. That was great playing. He won the championship for sure.''

    Broadhurst shot 72 in the first round, started rolling in putts with a 66 in the second round and was 15 under on the weekend. In addition to the leading 26 birdies, he topped the putts per greens in regulations numbers for the tournament as well with a 1.574 average.

    ''I wasn't aware I made that many birdies,'' he said. ''That's pretty impressive around this course.''

    He said his game has long been unpredictable.

    ''I'm not blessed with a consistent swing like Bernhard Langer, but when it's on, it works,'' he said. ''If I'm putting well, then anything can happen, really.''