The Other Captains

By David Marr IiiNovember 16, 2001, 5:00 pm
2001 Warburg CupThis week Arnold Palmer and Gary Player captain their respective teams at the inaugural UBS Warburg Cup. Palmer has significant experience leading American teams in international competition. In 1963 he earned four points as the last playing captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup Team. Player is a rookie. During his playing prime there was no opportunity for players outside of Great Britain and Ireland to compete in a Ryder Cup-style event. He's been selected to lead the international team for the 2003 Presidents Cup and his time at Kiawah Island this week will certainly prove to give him some valuable experience.
There are two other captains on hand this week as well, and the draw on the first day has given fans the opportunity to see the 2002 Ryder Cup captains square off in the foursomes format. One can only hope that this match-up lasts throughout the week. Curtis Strange and Sam Torrance will lead their teams next fall in perhaps the most important Ryder Cup in history. The post-Brookline, post-September 11th matches will be the most scrutinized in history, and the men filling out the line-up cards have a huge responsibility.
The teams are set, clothing picked, itinerary determined, what remains is ten months of diplomacy and relationship building. There is a chance to heal some of the wounds opened in 1999 when the magnificent American comeback was tainted by an inappropriate, if somewhat understandable, celebration on the 17th green at the tail end of Justin Leonard's unimaginable comeback.
The men entrusted with this responsibility may seem ill-suited to the task. Both are extremely competitive with quick tempers and not much of a governor between the brains and the mouths. That makes for good sound bites on Golf Central but can also inflame sensitive feelings.
In the roughly two years since they were named captains, however, both have been models of civility and I think that's borne out of the old-school approach each has towards the game. Curtis Strange became the first man since Ben Hogan to successfully defend a U.S. Open title in 1989. His professional career has had terrific highs and horrendous lows; failures at the Ryder Cup and Augusta National soothed a bit by the USGA heroics. He assumed his place in history in dramatic fashion; with a playoff victory against Nick Faldo in 1988 and a one-stroke win in his defense the following year. The decade since his second win has mellowed Strange to some degree, but on his best day he isn't nearly as easygoing as his counterpart.
For all of his fiery competitiveness, Sam Torrance is as much fun outside of the ropes as any golfer you will ever meet. When I went to Loch Lomond to help tournament organizers with their television coverage in the late '90s I asked my father about the European players and tour officials. He had worked with the BBC for a few years and had gotten to know most of the players and their games. At the end of our discussion he told me to find Sam Torrance and introduce myself. Torrance is a legend on the European Tour. He's played more events than anyone in history, played on eight Ryder Cup teams and set the career record for most rounds bought in the pubs and taverns of the European circuit. On Wednesday Sam was overdue for his practice round. He was delayed at the airport due to lost luggage; I was more than a little worried about his mood upon arrival.
At the first tee I walked up and Torrance was changing his shoes. I said 'Hi Sam I'm David Marr' before I could explain the family connection he looked up and said, 'you're not related to Dave Marr are you?' From there he insisted I stay inside the ropes and walk with him for a few holes. He regaled the gallery and me with jokes and stories, all the while playing with borrowed clubs and shoes. Since then he has had the same demeanor each time we meet, and my surname doesn't seem to matter at all. I've watched him interact with fans and galleries in many different settings and he always tries to find a common thread with a person and have fun with it. He pays attention when strangers talk to him and signs anything he's asked.
It's fitting that one of the greatest moments in Ryder Cup history highlighted Sam Torrance. He stood arms aloft and tears streaming down his face in 1985 after making a birdie putt on 18 to win 1-up. In doing so he secured a European Ryder Cup victory for the first time in 28 years. It was fitting that a man who toiled his entire career on the European Tour ushered in a new competitive era of Ryder Cup Matches. Perhaps he will also help return the Matches to an era of civility and sportsmanship.
Getty Images

Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 2:30 pm

Tiger Woods shot his second consecutive 70 on Friday at Carnoustie and enters weekend play at even par for the championship, still in contention for major No. 15.

Getty Images

Scott and Sunesson a one-week partnership

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 2:13 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Adam Scott has been in between caddies for the last month and went with a bold stand-in for this week’s Open Championship, coaxing veteran looper Fanny Sunesson out of retirement to work for him at Carnoustie.

Sunesson caddied for Nick Faldo in his prime, as the duo won four major titles together. She also worked for Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia before a back injury forced her to retire.

But for this week’s championship, Scott convinced the Swede to return to the caddie corps. The results have been impressive, with the Australian following an opening 71 with a second-round 70 for a tie for 16th place.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It's been going great. Fanny is, obviously, a fantastic caddie, and to be able to have that experience out there with me is certainly comforting,” Scott said. “We've gotten along really well. She's picked up on my game quickly, and I think we think about things in a very similar way.”

Scott was also asked about a potential long-term partnership between the duo, but he didn’t sound hopeful.

“It's just for this week,” he said. “It would be up to her, but I don't think she's making plans of a comeback. I was being a bit opportunistic in contacting her and coaxing her out of retirement, I guess. But I think she's having a good week. We'll just take it one week at the moment.”

Getty Images

After tense Augusta Sunday, Rory ready to be aggressive

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 1:51 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy temporarily lost his superpowers during the Masters.  

In one of the most surprising rounds of the year, he played tentatively and carefully during the final day. Squaring off against the major-less Patrick Reed, on the brink of history, with the backing of nearly the entire crowd, it was McIlroy who shrank in the moment, who looked like the one searching for validation. He shot a joyless 74 and wound up six shots behind Reed.

No, the final round was nowhere near as dispiriting as the finale in 2011, but McIlroy still sulked the following week. He binge-watched TV shows. Devoured a few books. Guzzled a couple of bottles of wine. His pity party lasted a few days, until his wife, Erica, finally dragged him out of the house for a walk.

Some deeper introspection was required, and McIlroy revealed a healthier self-analysis Friday at Carnoustie. He diagnosed what went wrong at Augusta, and then again two months later at the U.S. Open, where he blew himself out of the tournament with an opening 80.

“I was worrying too much about the result, not focusing on the process,” he said. “Sunday at Augusta was a big learning curve for me because, even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but I went down swinging and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

And so McIlroy has a new mantra this week at The Open.

Let it go.

Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the repercussions. Don’t play scared.

“I’m committed to making sure, even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving my best,” he said. “The result is the byproduct of all the little things you do to lead up to that. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that, and I just need to get back in that mindset.”

It’s worked through two rounds, even after the cool, damp conditions led McIlroy to abandon his ultra-aggressive strategy. He offset a few mistakes with four birdies, shooting a second consecutive 69 to sit just a couple of shots off the lead.

During a sun-splashed first round, McIlroy gleefully banged driver on almost every hole, flying or skirting the bunkers that dot these baked-out, undulating fairways. He wasn’t particularly accurate, but he also didn’t need to be, as the thin, wispy rough enabled every player to at least advance their approach shots near the green.

Friday’s weather presented a different challenge. A steady morning rain took some of the fire out of parched fairways, but the cooler temperatures also reduced much of the bombers’ hang time. Suddenly, all of the bunkers were in play, and McIlroy needed to adjust his driver-heavy approach (he hit only six) on the fly.

“It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.

McIlroy hit a few “skanky” shots, in his words, but even his bigger misses – on the sixth and 17th holes – were on the proper side, allowing him to scramble for par and keep the round going.

It’s the fifth time in his career that he’s opened a major with back-to-back rounds in the 60s. He’s gone on to win three of the previous four – the lone exception that disastrous final round (80) at Augusta in 2011.

“I don’t want to say easy,” he said, “but it’s felt comfortable.”

The weekend gets uncomfortable for everyone, apparently even four-time major winners who, when in form, ooze confidence and swagger.

Once again McIlroy has that look at a major.

The only thing left to do?

Let it go.

Getty Images

Z. Johnson may have to pay for the jet home

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 1:23 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Zach Johnson will have some bragging rights when he gets back to the ultimate golf frat house on Friday after a second-round 67 moved him into the lead at The Open.

Johnson is rooming with Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Kevin Kisner, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler this week at Carnoustie. It’s a tradition that began two years ago at Royal Troon.

Kisner joked on Thursday after he took the first-round lead that the perks for the house/tournament front-runner were limited: “I probably get to eat first,” he said.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

There is, however, one running wager.

“Two years ago we, I don't know if you call it bet, but agreement that, if you win, you get the jet and you buy it, so we go home,” said Johnson, who added that because of varying travel arrangements, the wager might not be needed this year. “I didn't pay last year. Somebody else did.”

Spieth won last year’s championship at Royal Birkdale.

Despite the expense, Johnson said he didn’t know how much it costs to charter a private flight back to the United States, but it’s a good problem to have.

“I’d be happy to fork it over,” he smiled.