Time for Europe to Show Its Strength

By Associated PressJuly 17, 2007, 4:00 pm
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- European golf has never been stronger.
 
At least in September.
 
And as long as the players are wearing matching clothes.
 
Europeans boast about their talent every other year in the Ryder Cup, and rightly so. They have beaten the Americans five of the last six times, and beaten them by record margins the last two matches. It now has reached the point that most people recognize Europe as having the stronger team.
 
But the Ryder Cup is only an exhibition, and a highly entertaining one.
 
Majors are what define greatness in golf.
 
And until a European wins a major championship, all that bluster about European strength means nothing.
 
'Now is the time,' Colin Montgomerie said last week at Loch Lomond. 'We spoke about the Ryder Cup team last year in September, about how it was the strongest that it's ever been. And now is the time that I think one of us should come forward. I think we are good enough to come forward now and win.'
 
They sure had their chances last year.
 
Montgomerie squandered his opportunity when he missed the green with a 7-iron from the middle of the 18th fairway at Winged Foot. Sergio Garcia started the final round of the British Open one shot out of the lead and finished seven shots behind Tiger Woods. Luke Donald was tied with Woods going into the last round of the PGA Championship and wound up six behind.
 
And don't forget about Justin Rose. He was one shot out of the lead with two holes to play at the Masters, then promptly took double bogey on the 17th hole.
 
'You look at the Ryder, that validates that we have a core of very strong players,' Donald said. 'We've really dominated it in the last 10 to 15 years. Somehow, we've got to transition that to individual players.'
 
He also referred to the world rankings, where Europe has six players among the top 20; the United States has five.
 
'We obviously are talented enough,' Donald said. 'We just haven't done it yet. But I think it's only a matter of time. When we do, that will definitely validate the Europeans as a bunch of great players.'
 
Montgomerie writes off the eight-year drought as coincidence, that and Woods hogging the Grand Slam events.
 
Nick Faldo, known more for his six majors than his incomparable Ryder Cup record for Europe, is starting to wonder if the very thing that helps his comrades in the Ryder Cup is what holds them back in the majors.
 
Everyone talks about European unity every other September. Faldo sees too much of it the other 23 months of the year. In an interview this week with two British newspapers, Faldo suggested maybe they were too friendly. He noted that a six-pack of major champions from Europe -- himself, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle, Jose Maria Olazabal and Ian Woosnam -- went their own ways.
 
'Now the current generation are all having lunch together, and they go off and play for a million dollars,' Faldo told The Times of London and the Daily Mail. 'It is interesting to me that now they are all so much more chummy.
 
'Is that healthy? I don't know. I'm just posing the question,' he said. 'But the bottom line is the six players I've mentioned won 18 majors, and on the other side you have none.'
 
That would be to ignore Paul Lawrie, which is easy to do.
 
Hardly anyone remembers that Lawrie won at Carnoustie because the memories belong to Jean Van de Velde and his unseemly collapse. Lawrie's name only comes up in conversation as the last European to win a major.
 
Someone asked the Scot if he was shocked it had been eight years since a European won a major.
 
'I think shock is not the right word. I think it's amazing that it's been that long,' Lawrie said. 'But that's where we are. I don't like being the last European.'
 
There have been 32 majors since Lawrie won the British Open. That's the longest Europe has gone without since the 34 majors between Tony Jacklin winning the 1970 U.S. Open at Hazeltine and Ballesteros winning his first major in 1979.
 
The record drought for Europe is 18 years between the 1951 British Open (Max Faulkner) and 1969 British Open (Jacklin).
 
It's hard to criticize the talent. Europe has had 18 players who have combined to produce 42 finishes in the top five since Lawrie hoisted the claret jug at Carnoustie, with Garcia leading the way.
 
If only Thomas Bjorn had not taken three shots to get out of the bunker on the 16th hole at Royal St. George's. Or if Monty had not chunked that 7-iron at Winged Foot. Maybe if Garcia had not taken so many waggles at Bethpage.
 
It's always something.
 
'We've not had anyone who could finish it off,' Jacklin said Tuesday. 'The '80s will be known as the golden age in European golf. Seve led the way, with Faldo, Woosie, Langer, Lyle. All those guys were fantastic. Up to now, I haven't seen anybody. You don't get that many chances in majors unless you're truly great. It's tough to win majors. But it was always tough.'
 
The longer the drought continues, the tougher it will get.
 
'The more any European wins a major, that would help the rest of us,' said Padraig Harrington, who has four top-five finishes in the majors. 'We've proved in the Ryder Cup that there are a lot of good players out there. It's just a question of that little breakthrough.'
 
Until then, the Ryder Cup is about the only thing Europe can claim as evidence.
 
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    Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

    By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

    NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

    Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

    The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

    Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

    The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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    Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

    By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

    It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

    Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

    The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

    The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

    For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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    Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

    By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

    After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

    But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

    Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

    Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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    Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

    By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

    Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

    The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

    “There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.


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    In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

    “To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

    Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

    “To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.