A Tale of Two Continents at Ryder Cup

By Associated PressSeptember 16, 2006, 4:00 pm
36th Ryder Cup MatchesTom Lehman stayed up all night agonizing over his captain's picks for the Ryder Cup before finally picking up the phone and telling Davis Love III and a few others that it ripped his gut apart not to be able to take them to Ireland.
 
Ian Woosnam, meanwhile, walked into a bar and casually told Thomas Bjorn he wasn't going to be on the European team.

Oh, and barkeep, while I'm here would you mind pouring me a pint?
 
'In a bar,' a bitter Bjorn said. 'That kind of sums it up.'
 
Trouble on the European team? Hardly, because Bjorn didn't wait long before apologizing to everyone around for any disparaging comments he made about the pint-sized European captain.
 
Besides, nothing much shakes these Euros. They beat up on Tiger Woods on a regular basis, know how to play alternate shot, and don't tremble at the thought of having to make a 5-footer on Sunday afternoon with the pride of a continent at stake.
 
All good reasons why they've won four of the last five of these things, and are the favorites to be hoisting seed salesman Samuel Ryder's cup above their heads at The K Club.
 
But there's more to it than that. There has to be, because the recent European dominance of the cup makes no logical sense.
 
America has the best players in the world, including the top three in the world rankings at last glance. And Americans win the major championships, something a European hasn't done since Paul Lawrie won the British Open seven years ago.
 
Yet somehow they get drubbed almost every time they put a flag on their shirt.
 
Just how is it that Colin Montgomerie can't come close to sniffing a par from the fairway on the final hole of the U.S. Open, yet can't lose when playing for national pride? How does Sergio Garcia manage to elevate his game for his teammates when he can't do it in the final round of a major championship?
 
And how can the greatest player of his time -- perhaps all time -- play so miserably when he has to play with someone else?
 
Maybe it's because the Europeans take it more seriously than the Americans. More likely, it's because they don't take themselves as seriously as the Yanks.
 
When Woods took the rookies of the U.S. team out for dinner at a fancy steakhouse one night last month the golf world was astonished. So apparently were the rooks, one of whom, Brett Wetterich, had never met Woods.
 
Contrast that to the on-course leader of the European team. When he's playing the PGA TOUR, you can usually find Monty in the corner booth of the local Chili's. Across the pond, he's likely as not to be joining the lads in the hotel bar for an after-round libation.
 
Americans try their best to manufacture camaraderie every two years for players whose idea of conversation with each other at any other time is limited to 'You're out.' They bring in fine chefs, stock a room with every toy and game imaginable, and hope some serious bonding goes on.
 
Lehman went one step further this year, convincing Woods and Phil Mickelson to leave their private rides home and go on a charter with the team to Ireland for two days. Once there, they practiced their games, learned the names of some of their teammates, and practiced how to get along with each other.
 
With the Europeans, it's already there.
 
They know each other, socialize with each other, root for each other. Like the Americans, most of them are millionaires. Unlike the Americans, they don't act as though being rich and playing golf for a living was their birthright.
 
Most of them are stuck on a minor league tour that zigzags through Europe and Asia, playing mostly before small and apathetic crowds. The Ryder Cup is their moment in the spotlight, their time to shine.
 
They've now won seven of the last 10 of these events, which, by the way, never seemed to mean that much when the Americans were regularly whipping the British. Even Woods says -- and the oddsmakers agree -- that they will be the favorites in Ireland.
 
With good reason. Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk may be the top three players in the world but they're a combined 20-28-7 in the Ryder Cup. The current U.S. team is a pathetic 31-39-10 overall, and will start four players who have never played a Ryder Cup match.
 
The Europeans, meanwhile, are 75-42-21.
 
In the end, it's not the numbers that really matter. What matters is the Europeans understand how to take an individual game and make a team sport out of it.
 
It's something the Americans have yet to figure out.
 
And a few days in Ireland isn't likely to change that.
 
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    Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

    Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

    “I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

    “It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

    The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

    “All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

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    Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

    He picked up his clubs three times.

    That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

    This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

    Not that he was concerned, of course.

    Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

    “It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

    At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

    “I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

    Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

    Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

    Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

    In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

    That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

    “He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

    “I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

    Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

    Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

    So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

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    Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

    By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

    Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

    Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

    Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

    He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

    “I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

    “With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”

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    Reed's major record now a highlight, not hindrance

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 2:46 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The narrative surrounding Patrick Reed used to be that he could play well in the Ryder Cup but not the majors.

    So much for that.

    Reed didn’t record a top-10 in his first 15 starts in a major, but he took the next step in his career by tying for second at the 2017 PGA Championship. He followed that up with a breakthrough victory at the Masters, then finished fourth at the U.S. Open after a closing 68.

    He’s the only player with three consecutive top-4s in the majors.

    What’s the difference now?


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “The biggest thing is I treat them like they’re normal events,” he said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I’ve always gone into majors and put too much pressure on myself, having to go play well, having to do this or that. Now I go in there and try to play golf and keep in the mindset of, Hey, it’s just another day on the golf course. Let’s just go play.

    “I’ve been able to stay in that mindset the past three, and I’ve played pretty well in all three of them.”

    Reed’s record in the year’s third major has been hit or miss – a pair of top-20s and two missed cuts – but he says he’s a better links player now than when he began his career. It took the native Texan a while to embrace the creativity required here and also to comprehend the absurd distances he can hit the ball with the proper wind, conditions and bounce.

    “I’m sort of accepting it,” he said. “I’ve gotten a little more comfortable with doing it. It’s come a little bit easier, especially down the stretch in tournament play.”