Notes Miller Predicts US Victory

By Associated PressSeptember 21, 2006, 4:00 pm
36th Ryder Cup MatchesSTRAFFAN, Ireland -- The data tells Johnny Miller the Europeans should win the Ryder Cup. His gut tells him differently.
 
The outspoken TV commentator said Thursday he's calling for an American win at the K Club this weekend.
 
'This might be their weakest team ever, at least on paper,' Miller said. 'But they've still got enough good players that if they play clutch golf and come together as a team, they can win. And I believe they will.'
 
Miller figures the law of averages will kick in, and Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will finally have good weeks at the Ryder Cup. He says the surest way for the Americans to win is if the team gets pumped up by seeing 'Woods is playing the white-hot golf he's been playing and not going into his Ryder Cup mode.'
 
Indeed, about the only blemish on Woods' career resume is his 7-11-2 mark in Ryder Cup matches. Some theorize his heart hasn't always been in it, that he's too burned out by the time September rolls around. Woods has a way of proving his doubters wrong, however, and Miller says he has a feeling this could be setting up as another one of those moments.
 
'It's the one humbling thing he's got in golf,' said Miller, the two-time major champion who went 2-2-2 in his Ryder Cup career. 'Knowing Tiger Woods, he's finally thinking it's his team. All the patriarchs are gone now. He feels, 'This is my team.' And Tom Lehman told him, 'This is your team.''
 
Miller, who again will be in the booth for the NBC coverage, is generally unflinching with his analysis and unafraid of getting on players' bad sides. Despite predicting a U.S. team win, he was blunt about the drawbacks of the team and American pro golfers, on the whole.
 
'Seven of the top 30 in the world are Americans. That's unfathomable,' he said. 'I can't believe the state of the game in America. ... It's like you've got 12 guys -- three of them are firing a 50-millimeter cannon and nine guys are shooting BB guns. The bottom line is, the U.S. has got to step it up.'
 
TIGER ATTACK
Tiger Woods could save a lot of people a lot of money this week.
 
The Irish bookmaker Boylesports is offering money back on a number of proposition bets if Woods holes the shot that clinches the Ryder Cup.
 
The odds of that happening are slim, simply because Woods probably will be among the first players to tee off in the 12 singles matches Sunday. But the 'Tiger Attack Money Back Special' is out there nonetheless. The refund would go to anyone who bets on which player is going to score the most points for his team or in the overall tournament.
 
Woods is a 9-to-2 favorite to score the most Ryder Cup points, followed by Jim Furyk and Sergio Garcia, each at 9-to-1. U.S. rookie Brett Wetterich is the longshot on the board, at 125-to-1.
 
Boylesports had Europe as a very slight 5-to-6 pick to win as of Thursday afternoon. The Americans pay 5-to-4 if they win.
 
Also, a customer at London-based William Hill placed what the bookmaker said was the world's biggest-ever golf bet -- wagering almost $467,000 (247,000 pounds) on the United States to win at 6-to-5 odds.
 
LIFT, CLEAN AND PLACE
European captain Ian Woosnam said he and American captain Tom Lehman have agreed that if weather conditions are bad, they'd like tournament officials to allow players to 'wipe and place, or whatever you call it in America.'
 
'Me and Tom would prefer to do it that way because, you know, we don't want to see any balls just flying off anywhere,' Woosnam said of lift, clean and place. 'But it is an outdoor sport, and I think the referees are going to look at that very closely. If we play one day up, we might not be playing it the next day. I think it's taking it one day at a time.'
 
Lehman said there hadn't been much conversation about moving up tee boxes to diminish the length of the 7,335-yard course, which has been buffeted by wind and has turned a bit soggy with rain.
 
He said the only discussion on that topic was of shortening the 430-yard par 4 to avoid making players use 3- and 4-irons to approach a green that is surrounded by water on three sides.
 
'Other than that, I think we ought to play the whole golf course,' Lehman said.
 
A lashing rainstorm delayed practice Wednesday, but Thursday was partly cloudy in the mid-60s with a 20-mph wind coming from the southeast. The forecast called for rain later Thursday, followed by partly cloudy and breezy conditions Friday through Sunday.
 
WOOSNAM'S WIFE AILING
Ian Woosnam's wife, Glendryth, was taken to the hospital after feeling sick Wednesday night and Thursday morning. She was released and was on hand for the opening ceremony Thursday afternoon.
 
European Ryder Cup team spokesman Mitchell Platts said Woosnam started feeling bad after a visit to the spa at the hotel where the teams are staying. She felt sick again Thursday morning, so she went to the hospital as a precaution.
 
IS IT LIVE?
In 2004, Colin Montgomerie holed the putt that clinched Europe's outright victory in the Ryder Cup. Or at least that's what the U.S. viewing audience saw.
 
There have been rumblings on this side of the Atlantic from those who believe Ian Poulter, playing behind Montgomerie, actually might have won his match first. But NBC showed only Montgomerie's putt on the 18th to beat David Toms and called it the clincher.
 
NBC golf producer Tommy Roy said if a situation comes up Sunday where two players are lining up for a potential cup-clinching putt at the same time, the network wouldn't choose one or the other.
 
'We'd do double boxes in a situation like that,' Roy said. 'If both are putting live and both have a chance to clinch, we'd go to that.'
 
MAGAZINE PULLED
The major distributor of magazines in Ireland pulled copies of The Dubliner from its shelves Thursday because of a satirical article that insults the wives of the American golfers.
 
Eason's, the major bookseller and magazine distributor in Ireland, said a significant number of customers demanded the magazine be removed from sale.
 
Tiger Woods denounced the article Wednesday in the normally low-profile magazine, which had a headline that described the golfers' wives as 'Ryder Cup filth' -- and claimed Woods' wife 'can be found in a variety of sweaty poses on porn sites across the web.'
 
The article also insulted the wives of golfers Chad Campbell, David Toms and Jim Furyk.
 
The magazine's publisher, Trevor White, said the article 'was written as a satirical piece and in the context of the entire page the publishers believed that readers would not be left thinking that there was any truth in the assertions, it being an absurd parody of the inaccurate tabloid publishing generally. If any contrary impression was given, it certainly does not intend for this, and the publisher unreservedly apologizes.'
 
DIVOTS
An Irishman will be in the first match of Ireland's first Ryder Cup, but the Americans are the visiting team and will launch the first shot. Because of that, Padraig Harrington said he would let Colin Montgomerie hit first for Europe. 'If we were teeing off first, I would probably like to try to hit the first shot,' Harrington said. ... How confident is Tom Lehman in Tiger Woods' putting ability? 'If I had to put my wife and kids' life on the line with somebody making a putt, I would pick him,' Lehman said. ... Stewart Cink, who plays with J.J. Henry in the second best-ball match Friday, is 1-0-1 in best-ball at the Ryder Cup. He paired with Chris Riley for a tie and Davis Love for a win in 2004.
 
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    Woods delofts 2-iron to use off Carnoustie tees

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 1:23 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods has been effective this season hitting a 2-iron off many tees, reverting to a version of the stinger shot he made so popular.

    This week at baked out and brown Carnoustie he went to the next level, adding a new 2-iron to his bag that he bent to 17 degrees, down from his normal 20-degree version.

    “I took a few degrees off of it, just trying to be able to have the ability to chase one down there,” he explained on Tuesday.

    Woods said he still carries the club about the same distance, from 245 to 250 yards, but “it gets to its final destination much differently [on the ground].”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “Obviously, it rolls out whereas mine back home, I've generally liked having it 20 degrees because I can hit the ball into the par 5s as an option,” he said. “This one's not really designed for hitting the ball in the air to par 5s as an option. It's more of a driving club.”

    After playing two practice rounds, Woods said he wasn’t sure how much he would use the new 2-iron given the dry conditions which have led to ridiculously long tee shots, and he said he might adjust the club more if the course doesn’t slow down.

    “If it softens up, it could be a good club,” he said. “If it doesn't soften up, then I might just add a degree to it and keep it a little softer and not have it so hot.”

    The Open is the second consecutive event where Woods has added to his bag. At The National earlier this month, he went with a new mallet-headed putter that he plans to continue to use this week.

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    Europeans out to end the recent American dominance

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 12:59 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In golf’s biggest events, the Americans have left the rest of the world feeling red, white and mostly blue.

    If you’re wondering whether the U.S. currently holds a meaningful title, the answer is probably yes.

    Golf’s four majors? Yep.

    The Ryder Cup? Indeed.

    The No. 1 player in the world? Absolutely.

    The Presidents, Solheim, Walker, Palmer and Curtis Cups? Uh-huh.

    It’s been a popular talking point at the men’s majors, as Europe’s finest players have been peppered about why they’ve all seemingly fallen under Uncle Sam’s spell.

    After all, the Americans haven’t ripped off five major wins in a row like this since 1981-82 – when Justin Rose was still in diapers.

    “I don’t know what I’d put it to down to,” the Englishman said Tuesday, “other than the American boys in the world rankings and on the golf course are performing really, really well. The top end of American golf right now is incredibly strong.”

    Since 2000, the Americans have taken titles at eight of the nine courses on the modern Open rota. The only one they’ve yet to conquer is Carnoustie, and that’s probably because they’ve only had one crack at it, in 2007, when an Irishman, Padraig Harrington, prevailed in a playoff.

    Not since Tom Watson in 1975 has a U.S. player survived Carnoustie, arguably the most difficult links on the planet. But Americans ranging from Dustin Johnson to Tiger Woods comprise six of the oddsmakers' top 10 favorites, all listed at 25/1 or better.

    “America, there’s no doubt about it, and there’s no other way to put it, other than they have an exceptional bunch of players at the moment,” Tommy Fleetwood said. “It just so happens that it has been a run of American golfers that have won majors, but at the same time, they’ve generally been the best players in the world at the time that they’ve won them.

    “You don’t really look at them as a nationality. You just look at them as players and people, and you can understand why they’re the ones winning the majors.”

    Indeed, there’s not a fluke among them.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Since this American run began last summer at Erin Hills, Brooks Koepka (twice), Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed have hoisted trophies. All were inside the top 25 in the world when they won. All were multiple-time winners on the world stage before that major. And all, most ominously for Europe, were 29 or younger.

    “There’s a bit of camaraderie amongst all of them,” Rose said. “I know Brooks and Dustin are incredibly close, and you’ve got Rickie (Fowler) and Justin Thomas and Jordan as a group are all really close. It’s working really well for them. They’re spurring each other on.”

    That’s why there’s even more anticipation than usual for the Ryder Cup. The Americans haven’t won on foreign soil in a quarter century, but this band of brothers is better and closer than those who have tried and failed before them. Couple that with a few aging stars on the European side, and there’s a growing sense that the Americans could be on the verge of a dominant stretch.

    That should sound familiar.

    During an eight-major span in 2010-11, the most common refrain was: What’s Wrong with American Golf? International players captured seven consecutive majors, including six in a row at one point. They took over the top spot in the world rankings. They turned the Ryder Cup into a foregone conclusion. In the fall of 2010, Colin Montgomerie pounded his chest and declared that there’d been a “changing of the guard over to Europe,” and it was hard to find fault in his reasoning.

    “European golf was very healthy a few years ago for a long time,” McIlroy said. “It seemed like every major someone from the island of Ireland turned up to, we were winning it. It doesn’t seem that long ago.”

    Because it wasn’t.

    So even though it’s been more than a year since an International player held any title of consequence, these types of runs are cyclical, and Europe in particular has no shortage of contenders.

    Major drought or not, McIlroy is a threat every time he tees it up. Rose turns 38 in two weeks, but he’s playing arguably the best golf of his career, recording a top-10 finish in a ridiculous 17 of his past 21 starts. Fleetwood is fresh off a runner-up finish at the U.S. Open, where he closed with 63. Jon Rahm is a top-5 machine. Alex Noren just won on the Ryder Cup course in France.

    “I think Tommy, clearly, showed how close the Europeans are to challenging that dominance as well,” Rose said. “So it’s not like we’re a mile behind. It’s just that they’re on a great run right now, and there’s no reason why a European player shouldn’t come through this week.”

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    Links to the past: Tiger's return revives Open memories

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 12:51 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods rekindles his love affair with links golf this week at Carnoustie, which seems about right considering his introduction to the ancient ways of the game began here on the Angus coast.

    It was here on the most brutal of the Open Championship rota courses that a 19-year-old Tiger first played links golf at the 1995 Scottish Open, an eye-opening and enlightening experience.

    “I remember my dad on the range with me, saying, ‘Are you ever going to hit the ball past the 100 yard sign?’” Woods recalled on Tuesday at Carnoustie, his first start at The Open since 2015. “I said, ‘No, I'm just enjoying this. Are you kidding me? This is the best.’”

    During this most recent comeback, Tiger has been all smiles. A new, relaxed version of his former self made calm and approachable by age and the somber influence of injury. But this week has been different.

    During a practice round with Justin Thomas on Monday he laughed his way all the way around the brown and bouncy seaside layout. Much of that had to do with his return to the unique ways of links golf, the creative left side of his brain taking the wheel from the normally measured right side for one glorious week.

    He talked of game plans and strategic advantages on a parched pitch that has seen drives rolling out over 400 yards. At his core, Tiger is a golf nerd for all the right reasons and this kind of cerebral test brings out the best of that off-the-charts golf IQ.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Although there are no shortages of defining moments in Tiger’s career and one can make all sorts of arguments for what would be his seminal moment – from the 1997 Masters to the 2008 U.S. Open –the 2006 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool stands out, based on near-perfect execution.

    In ’06 at Liverpool, which played to a similar shade of dusty yellow as Carnoustie will this week, Tiger hit just a single driver, opting instead for a steady diet of long irons off tees. For the week he hit 48 of 56 fairways, 58 of 72 greens and rolled the field for a two-stroke victory and his third, and most recent, claret jug.

    This Open has all the makings of a similar tactical tour de force. For this championship he’s put a new 2-iron into play that’s more like a strong 1-iron (17 degrees) and imagines, given the conditions, a similar low, running menu.

    “It could be that way,” Woods said when asked the similarities between this week’s conditions and the ’06 championship. “I'm not going to hit that many long clubs off the tees, just because I hit a 3-iron on Monday, down 18, I went 333 [yards]. It can get quick out here.”

    If Tiger ever needed a major championship confidence boost the Carnoustie Open would be it, an inspiring walk down memory lane to a time when he was the undisputed king of golf.

    “[The ’06 Open] is the closest you can compare to this,” David Duval said. “But I struggle to remember that golf course being as fast as this one. It was close, but this one is something else.”

    Ernie Els had a slightly different take, albeit one that was no less ominous to the rest of the field this week.

    “Liverpool is on a sand hill, this has a bit more run to it,” Els said. “But it’s got the same feel. It’s almost like St. Andrews was in 2000. Very, very fast.”

    It’s worth noting that Tiger also won that ’00 Open at the Home of Golf with an even more dominant performance. It is the unique challenges of the links test that make many, even Tiger, consider the Open Championship his best chance to continue his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.

    More than any other Grand Slam gathering, The Open is blind to age and the notion of players competing past their prime. In 2008 at Royal Birkdale, then-53-year-old Greg Norman flirted with the lead until the very end, finishing tied for third; a year later at Turnberry, Tom Watson came within one hole of history at 59 years young.

    “It certainly can be done,” Woods said. “You get to places like Augusta National, where it's just a big ballpark, and the golf course outgrows you, unfortunately. That's just the way it goes. But links-style golf courses, you can roll the ball. Even if I get a little bit older, I can still chase some wood or long club down there and hit the ball the same distance.”

    Whether this is the week Tiger gets back into the Grand Slam game depends on his ability to replicate those performances from years past on a similarly springy course. As he exited the media center bound for the practice putting green on Tuesday he seemed renewed by the cool sea breeze and the unique challenges of playing the game’s oldest championship.

    Coming back to Carnoustie is more than a reintroduction to links golf; for Tiger it’s starting to feel like a bona fide restart to his major career.

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    Woods: New putter should help on slower greens

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 11:35 am

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods’ ice-cold putting showed at least a few signs of heating up earlier this month at The National, where he switched putters and ranked seventh in the field on the greens.

    The mallet-style putter is still in the bag as Woods prepares for The Open, and he’s hoping the heavier model with grooves will prove valuable at Carnoustie.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “To be honest with you, I’ve struggled on slower greens throughout my entire career,” Woods said Tuesday. “So for me, it’s going to help on these greens, for sure.”

    To combat the slower greens, Woods usually applied a strip of lead tape to his putter. But this heavier model of putter doesn’t need the extra weight, and the grooves on the putter face allow the ball to get rolling faster and hotter.

    “You don’t necessarily have to do that with the grooves,” he said of the lead tape. “When I putted with the Nike putter, I didn’t have to put lead tape on the putter to get a little more weight to it. I could just leave it just the way it was. This is the same type.”  

    For all of the talk about his putting woes this season, Woods still ranks 56th in strokes gained: putting. More crucial this week: He’s 102nd in approach putt performance, which quantifies how well a player lag putts.