A Score to Settle at Presidents Cup

By Associated PressSeptember 18, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 PresidentTiger Woods never felt more pressure over a single shot.
 
He barely could read the double break on his 15-foot par putt in the gathering darkness in South Africa. Adding to the jangled nerves was seeing a block of red shirts huddled to the right of the second green, where his 11 teammates watched high drama unfold at the Presidents Cup.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods has a 8-7-0 career Presidents Cup record.
So much for these matches lacking intensity.
 
They have been described as a happier occasion than the Ryder Cup, but it sure didn't feel that way to Woods.
 
'I saw everybody there and kept looking in the opposite direction,' Woods recalled. 'You don't want to know all of your teammates are over there looking at you, hoping you make the putt. You don't want to let them all down.
 
'That was probably one of the best -- if not the best -- putts I've ever made.'
 
Next up was Ernie Els, who felt even more pressure. No one has finished second to Woods more often than the Big Easy, and his 6-footer to halve the hole was equally tough. Els saw his team gathered in their royal blue shirts, along with a home crowd perched atop the knolls surrounding the green.
 
'I was walking with Mike Weir, and Mike said he was more nervous watching these guys putt than he was putting to win the Masters,' Adam Scott said. 'I'm glad it was Ernie putting.'
 
The Presidents Cup delivered everything but a winner two years ago in South Africa. Soon after Els made his putt, U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus and International captain Gary Player realized it was too dark to continue. Considering how these matches had gone, they figured the best thing to do was call it a tie.
 
Now, both teams have a score to settle.
 
'It's a pity we ran out of daylight,' Retief Goosen said. 'But it's quite good now that it ended the way it did, because we can sort of carry on from last time. It was so close. This time, we can go at it again.'
 
But the sixth Presidents Cup matches, which start Thursday at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in northern Virginia, hardly can be called a continuation.
 
The Americans now have a distinct advantage at RTJ, where they have never lost in three previous matches and last time handed the International team its worst loss.
 
There will be no playoff. Nicklaus and Player never liked the idea of putting two names in an envelope to decide the Presidents Cup in a sudden-death playoff, believing it was too much pressure for any one player to carry. Now, singles matches that are tied after regulation will go extra holes until one team has the required 17 1/2 points to win.
 
And while the teams are far stronger than what the Ryder Cup gets -- eight of the top 10 players in the world, with 24 major championships among them -- the International team is missing a key player. Els, who matched Woods putt-for-putt in a playoff of epic intensity, had knee surgery last month and is recovering at home in England.
 
'It was a massive blow to lose your No. 2 player. We've got to do the best we can,' said Player, who returns as captain of the International team that features players from everywhere but Europe.
 
Nicklaus also agreed to return as U.S. captain for the third time in the Presidents Cup, and his first at home. His team was hammered at Royal Melbourne in 1998, and staged a stirring rally in singles two years ago in South Africa.
 
He has no complaints about his team.
 
Woods has won five times -- including two majors -- this year, while Phil Mickelson is coming off his second major title at the PGA Championship. Seven of his 12 players have won on the PGA Tour this year. But despite Els' absence, Nicklaus doesn't see a big advantage for the Americans.
 
'I still think the International team is probably a little stronger than we are,' he said. 'Let's go in there and say, 'Hey, we might be on our home soil, but we might have to work real hard to win this.' I like to keep them hungry.'
 
The last cup competition involving the American men was a disaster. Europe played better and enjoyed itself more in winning the Ryder Cup last year at Oakland Hills, 18 1/2-9 1/2, for its biggest rout.
 
Woods was among those quick to point out that Americans are 1-4 in the Ryder Cup since the Presidents Cup was created in 1994. Some have suggested it is tough for the Americans to play these matches every year.
 
But the Presidents Cup provides the solution, not the problem.
 
The hype is nowhere near what the Ryder Cup gets, and it shows in how loose the U.S. team plays.
 
'Our team is too tight in the Ryder Cup, plain and simple,' Jim Furyk said.
 
Chris DiMarco described the difference as the Ryder Cup having 'genuine hostility, whereas in the Presidents Cup there is genuine respect.'
 
'We want to win the Presidents Cup as much as we do the Ryder Cup,' he said. 'But it's a more relaxed atmosphere.'
 
That can change during the matches, however.
 
DiMarco couldn't spit as he stood on the 17th hole two years ago, all square with Stuart Appleby in a match the Americans had to win to have any chance. Kenny Perry was in tears after his roller-coaster victory over Nick Price, and Price was so distraught he showed a rare bit of rage by slamming the putter over his leg and bending the shaft.
 
Then came the sudden-death playoff.
 
'My first thought was I'm glad it wasn't me out there,' Perry said. 'It was intense. They kept making putt on top of putt, and they were clutch. It made me realize how great those guys really are, to realize their whole team and country were riding on their back, and they were able to stand up to it.'
 
Asked how many players on his team would have wanted to be in his position, Woods laughed.
 
'Probably not many,' he said. 'I didn't want to be there.'
 
What might help the Americans this time around is that the matches are being played one month after the teams were decided. In 2003, the Presidents Cup took place three months later.
 
'The teams are named, and we're ready to go,' Scott said. 'It's going to be some good competition. I'd like to get my hands on the trophy and look forward to the Sunday night celebration. We did a pretty good job celebrating last time, and we didn't even win the thing.'
 
Related Links:
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    Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

    By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

    Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

    European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

    Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.


    Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters


    Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

    Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

    Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

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    Austin wins Champions tour's playoff opener

    By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:35 pm

    RICHMOND, Va. -- Woody Austin knew Bernhard Langer was lurking throughout the final nine holes, and he did just enough to hold him off.

    Austin shot a 3-under 69 for a one-stroke victory Sunday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

    Langer, the defending tournament champion and series points leader, made the turn one shot off the lead, but eight straight pars kept him from ever gaining a share of the lead. Austin's birdie from 6 feet on the closing hole allowed him to hang on for the victory.

    ''It seemed like he couldn't quite get it over the hump,'' Austin said about Langer, who also birdied No. 18. ''I'm not going to feel bad for the guy. The guy's kind of had things go his way for the last 12 years. Now he sees what it's like to have it happen.''

    The 54-year-old Austin finished with an 11-under total for three rounds at The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course. He won his fourth senior title and first since 2016, and said windy and cool conditions that made scoring difficult played to his advantage.

    ''I was happy to see it. I really enjoy a difficult test,'' he said. ''... I enjoy even par meaning something. That's my game.''

    Langer closed with a 70. The winner last week in North Carolina, the 61-year-old German star made consecutive birdies to finish the front nine, but had several birdie putts slide by on the back.


    Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic


    ''I made a couple important ones and then I missed a couple important ones, especially the one on 16,'' Langer said. ''I hit three really good shots and had about a 6-footer, something like that, and I just didn't hit it hard enough. It broke away.''

    Austin dropped a stroke behind Jay Haas and Stephen Ames with a bogey on the par-3 14th. He got that back with a birdie from about 5 feet on the par-4 15th and then got some good fortune on the final hole when his firmly struck chip hit the flag and stopped about 6 feet away.

    ''I always say usually the person that wins gets a break on Sunday,'' he said. ''That was my break.''

    The 64-year-old Haas, the second-round leader after a 65, had a 74 to tie for third with Fran Quinn (69) and Kent Jones (70) at 9 under. Haas was bidding to become the oldest winner in the history of the tour for players 50 and older.

    ''Disappointed, for sure,'' Haas said. ''Not going to get many more opportunities like this, but it gives me hope, too, that I can still do it.''

    The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 move on to the Invesco QQQ Championship next week in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

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    After Further Review: American success stories

    By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 8:35 pm

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the global nature of Koepka's rise to No. 1 ...

    Brooks Koepka is an American superstar, and a two-time winner of his national open. But his rise to world No. 1 in, of all places, South Korea, emphasizes the circuitous, global path he took to the top.

    After winning the CJ Cup by four shots, Koepka was quick to remind reporters that he made his first-ever start as a pro in Switzerland back in 2012. He cracked the top 500 for the first time with a win in Spain, and he broke into the top 100 after a good week in the Netherlands.

    Koepka languished on the developmental Challenge Tour for a year before earning a promotion to the European Tour, and he didn’t make a splash in the States until contending at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.

    It’s a testament to Koepka’s adaptability and raw talent that he can handle the heights of Crans-Montana as well as the slopes of Shinnecock Hills or rough of Nine Bridges. And as the scene shifts to China next week, it highlights the global nature of today’s game – and the fact that the best in the world can rise to the occasion on any continent. - Will Gray


    On the resurgence of American women  ...

    American women are on a nice roll again. Danielle Kang’s victory Sunday at the Buick LPGA Shanghai was the third by an American over the last five events. Plus, Annie Park and Marina Alex, emerging American talents looking for their second victories this season, tied for second. So did American Brittany Altomare. Two years ago, Americans won just twice, their fewest victories in a single season in LPGA history. Overall, women from the United States have won seven times this season.

    The Americans are making their move with Stacy Lewis on maternity leave and with Lexi Thompson, the highest ranked American in the world, still looking for her first victory this year. Yes, the South Koreans have won nine times this season, but with four LPGA events remaining in 2018 the Americans actually have a chance to be the winningest nation in women’s golf this year. With all the grief they’ve received the last few years, that would be a significant feat. - Randall Mell

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    In Buick win, Kang overcame demons of mind and spirit

    By Randall MellOctober 21, 2018, 3:33 pm

    Danielle Kang beat three of the most formidable foes in golf Sunday to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai.

    Anxiety.

    Frustration.

    Anger.

    Kang overcame these demons of mind and spirit to win for the second time on tour, backing up her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory last year.

    “I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said.

    Kang birdied four of the last eight holes to close with a 3-under-par 69, coming from one shot back in the final round to win. At 13-under 275, she finished two shots ahead of a pack of seven players, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (66).

    It hasn’t been easy for Kang trying to build on her major championship breakthrough last year. She started the fall Asian swing having missed three cuts in a row, five in her last six starts.

    “I had to go through swing changes,” Kang said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.

    “I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball. This week I just kept trusting my golf game.”

    Through her swoon, Kang said she was struggling to get the club back, that she was getting mentally stuck to where she could not begin her takeaway. She sought out Butch Harmon, back at her Las Vegas home, for help. She said tying for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week felt like a victory, though she was still battling her demons there.

    “Anxiety over tee balls,” Kang said. “People might wonder what I'm doing. I actually can't pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”

    Kang, who turned 26 on Saturday, broke through to win last year under swing coach David Leadbetter, but she began working with Harmon while struggling in the second half this year.


    Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos


    “I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang said. “Things just weren't going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn't do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn't putt freely.”

    Kang said her anger and frustration built up again on the front nine Sunday. She made the turn at 1 over for the round. She said her caddie, Oliver Brett, helped her exorcise some anger. After the ninth hole, he pulled her aside.

    This is how Kang remembered the conversation:

    Brett: “Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.”

    Kang: “Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.”

    Brett: “Here's a wedge. Just smash it.”

    Kang did.

    “Honestly, I thank him for that,” Kang said. “He told me there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped, and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things changed and momentum started going my way. I started hitting it closer and felt better over the putts.”

    Kang said the victory was all about finding a better place mentally.

    “I'm just so happy to be where I'm at today,” Kang said. “I'm just happy that I won.

    “More so than anything, I'm finally at a place where I'm peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.”