The Game Loses a Friend
At this year's PGA Championship I had the pleasure of walking a practice round with Jay Haas, Davis Love III, Billy Andrade and Justin Rose. I knew the first three players, but Rose was playing his first event in the U.S. and I wanted to size the lad up. I remembered that Jennifer Mills had told me she spent time with Justin and his father at the Open Championship and found the Rose family to be delightful.
Nothing in the first five holes contradicted that opinion at all. Justin was polite and friendly, even though I'm pretty sure he had no idea who I was or what I was doing. He was fighting a cold, yet had a very strong game. Davis remarked about Justin's demeanor and seemed impressed with the kid's first meaningful trip to America.
On the 14th hole a tall gentleman joined us inside the ropes and introduced himself to me as Ken Rose, Justin's father. I told him my name and he immediately began telling me how much he enjoyed my father's work on the BBC. I had enjoyed Justin's company for the early part of the round, and got a clear understanding of how he became such a fine young man after chatting with his dad.
We talked about golf in the states, and in Great Britain, the rigors of travel and the early struggles that Justin had overcome. I told him that I'd seen Justin so often in our European coverage that I was shocked to find out he'd never played in the states before.
When I wasn't bending his ear, Ken was talking strategy with his son/pupil. They talked about the course and how certain shots fit Justin's game. The relationship between coach and player is often a tenuous one. When family relationships are added the dynamic is interesting to watch. Ken seemed to know just when to apply paternal guidance and when to be soothing and gentle.
Ken seemed so vital and full of life. His mind was sharp and his manner engaging. I knew he was sick, but figured he was in remission. I enjoyed watching a father and son walk the fairways, in synch and enjoying one another's company. It reminded me of the good things in our game, and the care with which those treasures are passed along.
I saw Ken the next day and wished Justin luck in the tournament. I told him I hoped to see him at Augusta. He seemed pleased at my confidence in Justin's performance, but he was focused on the job at hand. As it turns out Justin played very well at the PGA Championship and again the next week at the NEC.
In just two events in America the young Rose showed a game that has blossomed. In an interview at the NEC he said he would pass up the riches of the PGA Tour and compete next year on the European Tour. I couldn't help but think that the son wanted to stay close to his father, and not burden his mentor and only coach with too much travel.
The bonds that are forged on a golf course always seem to have a special strength. People sharing a passion, treating each other in a civil fashion and respecting ancient traditions seem to allow that caring to spill over onto playing companions and the like. In four brief holes I felt I had made a friend in Ken Rose.
Watching Golf Central Tuesday I was terribly saddened to hear of his passing. I felt lucky to have spent part of that day with him in Minnesota. I was happy he got to see Justin play with courage and style in another major championship. I'm sure he saw what I saw in Justin, a young man ready to challenge the game's elite on any stage.
Ken Rose's work with Justin the golfer was complete, though I'm sure he yearned for many more years with Justin the son. Ken was a lovely man taken far, far too early. I hope Justin excels while his dad continues to watch from inside the ropes, out of sight but never far away.
Molinari reflects on beating Woods at Ryder Cup, Open
SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Francesco Molinari might be a useful resource for the European Ryder Cup team.
He’s already beaten Tiger Woods, head to head, at a Ryder Cup and a major.
Molinari was in the anchor match at the 2012 Ryder Cup when Woods conceded on the final hole to give the Europeans an outright victory in the incredible comeback at Medinah. He said the last hole was a “blur,” and it remains the last Ryder Cup that both Molinari and Woods played.
“I’ve improved a lot as a player since 2012,” said Molinari, who lost his previous singles match against Woods in 2010, 4 and 3, “and I hope to show that on the course this week.”
The proof is the claret jug that he now keeps at home.
To win his first major he needed to not only endure the circus that a Woods group brings, but he needed to outlast the 14-time major champion and a host of other worthy contenders to prevail at Carnoustie.
Reflecting on that momentous day Tuesday, Molinari said he initially was dreading the final-round date with Woods.
“If I’m completely honest, I wasn’t exactly hoping to be paired with Tiger, not because I don’t like to play with him, but because, obviously, the hype and with him being in contention in a major, it’s going to be noisy and it’s going to be a lot of people," he said.
“So the most challenging part was probably that moment when the draw came out, but then I quickly managed to think, You know, whatever. I don’t really care. I’m here to do a job, and they can’t really influence how I do my job.”
To thrive in that situation gave Molinari a lot of confidence – especially heading into a pressure-cooker like the Ryder Cup.
Asked whether it’s more pressure trying to win a major or a Ryder Cup – since he’s now done both – Molinari said: “You won’t believe me, but it’s nowhere near. Carnoustie was nowhere near Medinah or in any matching ways. It’s hard to believe, but it’s probably because you play for a team; you play for a continent in our case, and you know about the tradition and what players have done in the past.”
Woods 25/1 to break Nicklaus' record by age 50
With his victory at the Tour Championship, Tiger Woods crept closer to Sam Snead's all-time PGA Tour wins mark. But he also got fans thinking about whether golf's most famous record is once again in play.
Woods has been stuck on 14 career major titles since the 2008 U.S. Open, although he had a pair of close calls this summer. But now that he's again a winner on Tour, oddsmakers at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook created bets on where Woods' career major haul will end up.
The line they drew in the sand? Dec. 30, 2025 - when Woods, now 42, will turn 50 years old.
According to the Westgate, Woods is a -150 favorite to win at least one more major by that time. He's 2/1 to win at least two more, 5/1 to win at least three more and 12/1 to win at least four more. But it'll take five more majors to break Nicklaus' record haul of 18, and the odds on Woods doing that by age 50 are set at 25/1.
There are also odds on Woods' 2019 major prospects, as he's already the betting favorite for the Masters at 9/1. Woods' odds of winning any major next year are listed at +225, while the pessimists can wager -275 that his major victory drought will extend to at least 2020.
There's even a bet for those expecting some serious history: the odds of Woods sweeping all four majors next year at age 43 are 200/1.
All 12 Europeans have history at Le Golf National
SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The European team has plenty of experience at Ryder Cup venue Le Golf National, which has been the longtime host of the French Open.
The question this week is whether it’ll matter.
The only American player to compete in this year’s French Open was Justin Thomas. Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau and Bubba Watson all got a look at Le Golf National before The Open.
Not surprisingly, the European team has a proven track record here – all 12 players have seen the course at some point. Alex Noren won in July. Tommy Fleetwood is a past champion, too. So is European vice captain Graeme McDowell. Francesco Molinari and assistant Lee Westwood also have runners-up here.
“I definitely think it’s a help to us, for sure,” Ian Poulter said. “It’s probably the most-played venue as a Ryder Cup venue for all of the European players that have played. So we definitely have a feel of how this golf course has played in very different weather conditions. I definitely think we have an understanding of how this golf course can play.”
Of course, this setup is no different than what players typically experience as they prepare for a major championship. They’ll play 18 holes each of the next two days, then maybe nine holes on Thursday, as they get a feel for the layout.
“When it’s the best players in the world, and we play on golf courses week-in and week-out where we have to learn a new golf course, it’s difficult to say how much of an advantage it will be,” Fleetwood said. “It can only be a good thing, or it can’t do any harm that we know the course better or that we’ve played it more times.
“Knowledge can only be a good thing. Maybe it’s a little advantage, but it’s the best players in the world that are out here, so it’s not something to look at too much.”
First-tee grandstand 'biggest you'll ever see'
SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The first-tee nerves could be even more intense this week at the Ryder Cup.
If only because of the atmosphere.
The grandstand surrounding the first hole at Le Golf National is unlike anything that’s ever been seen at this event – a 6,500-seat behemoth that dwarfs the previous arenas.
“It’s the biggest grandstand you’ll ever see at a golf tournament,” Tommy Fleetwood said.
“It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t had to hit that tee shot before,” Ian Poulter said. “When I think back (to my first Ryder Cup) in 2004, the stand is nothing like what we have today. So it really is going to be quite a special moment Friday, and it’s going to be very interesting to see.”
Poulter said it’ll be his job to prepare, as best he can, the team’s rookies for what they’ll experience when the first ball goes in the air Friday morning.
“The No. 1 thing I’ve pictured since the Ryder Cup became a goal is that first tee shot,” Fleetwood said. “But nothing prepares you for the real thing. The grandstand is pretty big – there’s no denying that.
“It’s something that everybody wants in their career, so as nerve-wracking as it is, and whatever those feelings are, everybody wants that in their life. So you just have to take it on and let it all happen.”