US Stumbles Woody Makes a Splash

By Associated PressSeptember 28, 2007, 4:00 pm
MONTREAL -- Woody Austin took a plunge, then made sure the rest of the Americans didn't sink with him.
 
Austin provided comic relief that instantly became part of Presidents Cup lore when he lost his balance and fell face-first into the lake along the 14th fairway. But he picked himself up, dried himself off and found redemption with three straight birdies to earn an important halve on a day the International team dominated.
 
The International team won four matches to cut the Americans' lead to 7-5 after two days, and it was truly a team effort.
 
Vijay Singh and Stuart Appleby led the way by handing Tiger Woods his worst loss in team competition, 5 and 4, although there wasn't much Woods and Jim Furyk could do. Singh holed out from a bunker and chipped in for eagle, Appleby made a long eagle putt at No. 12 and they combined to go 11 under through 14 holes.
 
Retief Goosen chipped in for par and Angel Cabrera made a 10-foot birdie on the 18th for a 1-up victory over Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan, the first match since 2003 in South Africa that the International team won on the 18th hole.
 
Geoff Ogilvy picked up another point with a 5-foot birdie on the 18th, right after Lucas Glover made a 15-foot birdie.
 
The cheers again belonged to Mike Weir, who made seven birdies as he and Ernie Els won on the 17th hole.
 
The jeers?
 
Those belonged to none other than Austin and his dive, which was shown on the large video screens across Royal Montreal, along with images of his own teammates doing everything they could to keep from laughing.
 
'You couldn't see who it was because his head was underwater,' Steve Stricker said after teaming with Scott Verplank to deliver the only U.S. victory. 'But you figured it had to be Woody.'
 
The enduring image of Austin used to be the time he walked off the green banging his putter against his head until it broke.
 
The highlight department just found a replacement.
 
'It's funny,' Goosen said as he watched the replay from behind the 16th. 'For years he was known as the guy who banged his head against his putter. And now he's the guy who banged his head against the water.'
 
The Canadian gallery hounded him the rest of the match, alternating chants of 'Marco' and 'Polo' down the 15th hole and screaming out, 'Get in the water!' when he hit a putt.
 
Austin got the last laugh.
 
Rory Sabbatini and Trevor Immelman were 2 up with three holes to play when Austin hit 6-iron into 6 feet on the tough 16th for a birdie, then holed a 15-foot birdie on the next hole to square the match. With the pressure on, Austin's 5-iron from 193 yards on the 18th just cleared a ridge and settled 5 feet for the hole.
 
After Sabbatini made his birdie from 8 feet, Austin closed out the match with his third straight birdie.
 
That kept the score tight going into a pivotal round Saturday, with five matches in the morning and five in the afternoon.
 
It was embarrassing for Austin, sure, but it brightened an otherwise dreary day of clouds and International blue numbers on the board. The Americans went home with broad smiles, and Austin was laughing with them.
 
You might call it a ripple effect.
 
'His effects were far reaching,' Verplank said.
 
Even the International team joined in.
 
'Hey, Woody,' Singh said to him as they passed each other in the interview room. 'The Russian judge gave you an 8.'
 
Moments later, captains Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player huddled in a conference room to announce their foursomes pairings for Saturday morning. Nicklaus had the first pick for the second game -- Mickelson and Austin.
 
'I'm going with Phil Mickelson and Jacques Cousteau,' Nicklaus said.
 
All but forgotten by the plunge was another day of superb play from Austin, a 43-year-old former bank teller who has never played in a team event and is relishing every minute. He delivered the key putts in a halve on Thursday, and he was spectacular even soaking wet on a chilly afternoon, making eight birdies when his team needed them all.
 
It was the birdie he was trying to make that brought Austin so much attention.
 
The tees were moved up on the 14th hole so that it played 293 yards, and Austin pulled his tee shot just into the hazard. Sabbatini was on the green, David Toms already was in the water, and Austin figured he had no choice but to try to get somewhere near the green for a shot at birdie.
 
'I knew deep down I probably couldn't pull the shot off,' Austin said. 'I was doing OK until I stepped on the rock. And once I stepped on the rock, I lost my balance.'
 
He was falling backward, then turned his body and went for the belly flop.
 
'I don't think I look any worse than I always do,' Austin said.
 
But on a more serious note, Austin was never more proud of himself for the way he responded. Theirs was the final match. Toms and Austin had talked about the importance of salvaging something, and Austin delivered.
 
'I've never putted that good under those circumstances. But let's face it,' he said. 'I've never been in those circumstances before. I hope today proved that I'm never going to give up until it's over.'
 
The International team could say the same.
 
It was under stiff pressure starting the day five points behind, knowing that another American rout could put them in a deep hole.
 
Appleby and Singh, who were 0-1-1 against Woods and Furyk in 2005, came through in a huge way. It began on the opening hole when Singh knocked in a birdie from the bunker, and they never let up.
 
'It was their 'A' team and they've beaten us before,' Appleby said. 'We know what Tiger can do. If Jim was off his game, Tiger could beat us by himself.'
 
The other matches were close, but the International team never trailed on the back nine except for the Stricker-Verplank victory.
 
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    HOFer Stephenson: Robbie wants to play me in movie

    By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 4:20 pm

    Margot Robbie has already starred in one sports-related biopic, and if she gets her way a second opportunity might not be far behind.

    Robbie earned an Academy Award nomination for her work last year as former Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding in the movie, I Tonya. She also has a desire to assume the role of her fellow Aussie, Jan Stephenson, in a movie where she would trade in her skates for a set of golf clubs.

    That's at least according to Stephenson, who floated out the idea during an interview with Golf Australia's Inside the Ropes podcast shortly after being announced as part of the next class of World Golf Hall of Fame inductees.

    "We've talked about doing a movie. Margot Robbie wants to play me," Stephenson said.

    There certainly would be a resemblance between the two Australian blondes, as Robbie has become one of Hollywood's leading ladies while Stephenson was on the cutting edge of sex appeal during her playing career. In addition to several magazine covers, Stephenson also racked up 16 LPGA wins between 1976-87 including three majors.

    Robbie, 28, has also had starring roles in Suicide Squad and The Wolf of Wall Street.

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    Monday Scramble: Who's No. 1 ... in the long run?

    By Ryan LavnerOctober 22, 2018, 4:00 pm

    Brooks Koepka becomes golf’s new king, Sergio Garcia enjoys the Ryder Cup bump, Danielle Kang overcomes the demons, Michelle Wie goes under the knife and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble:

    Brooks Koepka added an exclamation point to his breakout year.

    His red-hot finish at the CJ Cup not only earned him a third title in 2018, but with the victory he leapfrogged Dustin Johnson to become the top-ranked player in the world for the first time.

    That top spot could become a revolving door over the next few months, with Johnson, Justin Thomas and Justin Rose all vying for No. 1, but it’s a fitting coda to Koepka’s stellar year that included two more majors and Player of the Year honors.

    For a player whose team searches long and hard for slights, there’s no questioning now his place in the game.


    1. DJ won three events this season, but he wasn’t able to create much separation between him and the rest of the world’s best players.

    Koepka’s rise to No. 1 made him the fourth player to reach the top spot this year, and the third in the past month.

    Who has the greatest potential to get to No. 1 and stay there? Johnson is the best bet in the short term, but he’s also 34. Koepka will be a threat in the majors as long as he stays healthy. So the belief here is that it’ll be Justin Thomas, who is 25, without weakness and, best of all, hungry for more success.  

    2. Koepka had an eventful final round at the CJ Cup. Staked to a four-shot lead in the final round, his advantage was trimmed to one after a sloppy start, then he poured it on late with an inward 29. He punctuated his historic victory with an eagle on the 72nd hole, smirking as it tumbled into the cup.

    It was his fifth career Tour title – but only his second non-major. Weird.

    3. How appropriate that golf’s most underappreciated talent – at least in his estimation – became world No. 1 in a limited-field event that finished at 2 a.m. on the East Coast. Somehow he’ll spin this into being overlooked, again.



    4. Sergio Garcia carried all of that Ryder Cup momentum into the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where he earned the hat trick by capturing his third consecutive title there.

    While the rest of the world’s best gathered in Korea or rested for global golf’s finishing kick, Garcia won the weather-delayed event by four shots over Shane Lowry. Garcia’s foundation hosts the tournament, and he extended his crazy-good record there: In 14 career appearances at Valderrama, he has three wins, seven top-3s, nine top-5s and 13 top-10s.

    Garcia, who went 3-1 at the recent Ryder Cup, became the first player since Ernie Els (2004) to win the same European Tour event three years in a row.

    5. Gary Woodland probably doesn’t want 2018 to end.

    He was the runner-up at the CJ Cup, his second consecutive top-5 to start the season. He made 11(!) birdies in the final round and now is a combined 37 under par for the first two starts of the new season.

    6. This definitely wasn’t the Ryder Cup.

    Four shots back, and the closest pursuer to Koepka, Ian Poulter had a chance to put pressure on the leader in the final round. Instead, he was left in the dust, mustering only three birdies and getting waxed by seven shots (64-71) on the last day. Poulter tumbled all the way into a tie for 10th.



    7. It hasn’t been the easiest road for Danielle Kang since she won the 2017 Women’s PGA.

    The 26-year-old said she’s dealt with anxiety for months and has battled both putting and full-swing yips. Her problems were so deep that a week ago, she stood over the ball for four minutes and couldn’t pull the trigger.

    No wonder she said that she was “pretty stunned” to hold off a bevy of challengers to win her second career title at the Buick LPGA Shanghai.

    “I’m finally at a place where I’m peaceful and happy with my game, with my life,” she said.

    8. In the middle of the seven-way tie for second in China was Ariya Jutanugarn, who will return to No. 1 in the world for the second time this season.

    9. Also in that logjam was another former top-ranked player, Lydia Ko, who had tumbled all the way to 17th. Ko hasn’t been able to build off of her slump-busting victory earlier this summer, but she now has six consecutive top-16 finishes and at least seems more comfortable in her new position.

    “Sometimes you get too carried away about the awards and rankings,” she said. “It just becomes so much. I think it’s more important to keep putting myself there and … shooting in the 60s, and that way I think it builds the confidence and the rankings kind of sort itself out.”


    Here's how Tiger Woods explained his pitiful performance at the Ryder Cup: “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf.”

    Of course, he looked just fine a week earlier at East Lake, where he snapped a five-year winless drought with one of the most memorable weeks of his legendary career. His training wasn’t a topic of conversation there.

    It's reasonable to expect that the emotional victory took a lot of out of him, but if he was so gassed, why did he sit only one team session and go 36 on Saturday? By Sunday night, Woods looked like he was running on empty, so either he wasn't upfront with captain Jim Furyk about his energy levels, or Furyk ran him out there anyway.

    This week's award winners ...  


    Can’t Catch a Break: Michelle Wie. The star-crossed talent announced that she’ll miss the rest of the season to undergo surgery to repair a troublesome hand injury. Maybe one of these years she’ll be able to play a full schedule, without physical setbacks.  

    Grab the Mic: Paul Azinger. Taking Johnny Miller’s seat in the booth, Azinger will call all four days of action at every Golf Channel/NBC event, beginning at the WGC-Mexico Championship. He was the most logical (and best) choice to follow the inimitable Miller.

    Take That, Dawdler: Corey Pavin. It was Pavin – and not the notoriously slow Bernhard Langer – who earned the first slow-play penalty on the PGA Tour Champions in what seemed like ages. The one-shot penalty dropped him to 15th in the event.

    Long Time Coming: Jason Day. His tie for fifth at the CJ Cup was his best finish worldwide since … The Players? Really. Wow.



    The Tumble Continues: Jordan Spieth. In the latest world rankings, Spieth is officially out of the top 10 for the first time since November 2014. A reminder that he finished last year at No. 2.

    Clutch Performances: Andalucia Masters. Both Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Richie Ramsay both moved inside the top 116 in the Race to Dubai standings, securing their European Tour cards for next season. Gonzo tied for fifth in the regular-season finale, while Ramsay was joint 11th.

    That’s Messed Up: CJ Cup purse. As colleague Will Gray noted, the purse for the 78-man event was $9.5 million – or $400K more than the first 15 events of the Web.com Tour schedule combined. The difference between the haves and have-nots has never been larger.

    Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Justin Thomas. The defending champion never could get started in Korea, closing with his low round of the week, a 4-under 68, just to salvage a tie for 36th. Sigh.  

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    Azinger: 'Can't see anybody beating Tiger' at his best

    By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 2:44 pm

    There's a new world No. 1, and a fresh crop of young guns eager to make their mark on the PGA Tour in 2019. But according to Paul Azinger, the player with the highest ceiling is still the same as it was when he was walking inside the ropes.

    Azinger was named Monday as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports, and on "Morning Drive" he was asked which player is the best when all are playing their best. The former PGA champion pondered new world No. 1 Brooks Koepka and former No. 1 Dustin Johnson, but he came back around to a familiar answer: Tiger Woods.

    "I just can't see anybody beating Tiger when Tiger's at his best. I just can't see it," Azinger said. "He's not his best yet, but he's almost his best. And when Tiger's his best, there's more that comes with Tiger than just the score he shoots. That crowd comes with Tiger, and it's a whole 'nother dynamic when Tiger's at his best. And I'm just going to have to say that when Tiger's at his best, he's still the best."

    Woods, 42, started this year ranked No. 656 in the world but had a resurgent season that included a pair of near-misses at The Open and PGA Championship and culminated with his win at the Tour Championship that ended a five-year victory drought. For Azinger, the question now becomes how he can follow up a breakthrough campaign as he looks to contend consistently against players from a younger generation.

    "That's why we watch, to see if he can maintain that. To see what he's capable of," Azinger said. "Now longevity becomes the issue for Tiger Woods. In seven or eight years, he's going to be 50 years old. That goes fast. I'm telling you, that goes really fast."

    When Woods returns to action, he'll do so with a focus on the upcoming Masters as he looks to capture the 15th major title that has eluded him for more than a decade. With bombers like Koepka and Johnson currently reigning on the PGA Tour, Azinger believes the key for Woods will be remaining accurate while relying on the world-class iron play that has been a strength throughout his career.

    "I think he's going to have to recognize that he's not the beast out there when it comes to smacking that ball off the tee. But I'd like to see him try to hit a couple more fairways periodically. That'd be nice," he said. "If he can drive that ball in the fairway, with that putter, we've seen what his putter is capable of. The sky's the limit, boys."

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    Spieth drops out of top 10 for first time since 2014

    By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 2:08 pm

    As Brooks Koepka ascended to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking, a former No. 1 continued a notable decline.

    Jordan Spieth didn't play last week's CJ Cup, where Koepka won by four shots. But Jason Day did, and his T-5 finish in South Korea moved him up two spots from No. 12 to No. 10 in the latest rankings. Spieth dropped from 10th to 11th, marking the first time that he has been outside the top 10 in the world rankings since November 2014.

    Since that time, he has won 12 times around the world, including three majors, while spending 26 weeks as world No. 1. But he hasn't won a tournament since The Open last July, and this year he missed the Tour Championship for the first time in his career. Spieth is expected to make his season debut next week in Las Vegas at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.


    Updated Official World Golf Ranking


    Koepka and Day were the only movers among the top 10 on a week that saw many top players remain in place. Sergio Garcia's rain-delayed win at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters moved him up four spots to No. 27, while Gary Woodland went from 38th to 30th after finishing second behind Koepka on Jeju Island.

    Koepka will tee off as world No. 1 for the first time this week at the WGC-HSBC Champions, where new No. 2 Dustin Johnson will look to regain the top spot. Justin Rose is now third in the world, with Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler and Day rounding out the top 10.

    With his next competitive start unknown, Tiger Woods remained 13th in the world for the fifth straight week.