The best preparation comes from off the course

By Doug FergusonSeptember 29, 2010, 11:05 pm

Ryder Cup

NEWPORT, Wales – Preparations for the Ryder Cup were intense and inspirational. There was laughter and a few tears. One thing players from both sides agreed on was the importance of rallying behind the flag.

And that was before anyone hit a shot Wednesday.

A rain-filled day at Celtic Manor shifted the attention to the team rooms, and even that became somewhat of a contest.

U.S. captain Corey Pavin gathered his troops for a motivational speech by Maj. Dan Rooney, a decorated F-16 fighter pilot from Oklahoma with the rare distinction of being an Iraqi war veteran and a PGA professional.

“It was pretty emotional, actually, but a good kind of emotion,” Pavin said. “It was very quiet when he was talking.”

The voice in the European team room was over the telephone, and it was chilling – Seve Ballesteros, the symbol of European pride and determination in the Ryder Cup. The Spaniard, stricken with a brain tumor, is unable to travel.

“We have enough motivation in our team room,” captain Colin Montgomerie said. “I was after some passion. And by God, I got it.”

Ballesteros sounded like he wanted to tee it up himself.

“Go get them so hard that they’ll all be caddies in the future,” Ballesteros told them, according to the Swedish Golf Federation website.

Europe, 1 up.

Montgomerie’s squad waited more than an hour to tee off because of a steady rain that drenched Celtic Manor. Once the players arrived on the first tee, the captain was delighted with what he saw. Martin Kaymer, Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell and the caddies were wearing wigs that resembled the mop top of Rory McIlroy.

Montgomerie said the 21-year-old Northern Irishman in his first Ryder Cup, was “quite upset” about press coverage of his rift with Tiger Woods. McIlroy was quoted six weeks ago as saying he would “love to face” Woods at the Ryder Cup, and Woods offered a terse, “Me, too,” in his press conference Tuesday.

“It was getting out of hand, tabloid-wise,” Montgomerie said. “So what we decided to do was find seven wigs – which God knows how people do that, but they do, especially ones looking like that – and the caddies and the players that were playing with him decided that we’ll get Rory on the first tee and make him feel part of the team again.

“And that was the right thing to do. He played magnificently today. So we’re all back on level terms again.”

Phil Mickelson had more to say about McIlroy-Woods than anything Rooney said in the American team room. He defended McIlroy’s comments, calling him one of the classiest players on tour and that everyone wants a chance to take on the best in the world.

As for the U.S. team room?

“Yeah, it was interesting, and I’d rather not discuss what was said,” Mickelson said. “But I will say that it was the quietest that I had ever seen an audience. It was fascinating.”

Get ready for some noise in just two days, when the amphitheater-shaped bleachers behind the first tee – think of a minor-league baseball stadium – fills with fans who have been waiting two years to see golf’s best team competition.

Montgomerie bristled at the notion that Europe needed any motivation, whether it came from Ballesteros, former winning captains Sam Torrance and Ian Woosnam, or Welsh rugby legend Gareth Edwards.

All his players had to do was see Pavin carrying around that gold trophy.

“The only motivation this team needed was to lose the Ryder Cup two years ago,” he said.

That American team didn’t even have Woods, who was recovering from knee surgery. He now is recovering from a personal life in such turmoil that the world’s No. 1 player – though probably not for much longer – has yet to win a tournament this year.

Woods and the rest of the Americans went out in the rain, and all but three of them stopped after playing nine holes. Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and 21-year-old Rickie Fowler continued on and played the front nine.

European assistants made sure cups were filled with hot soup on a cool day of wet weather. Rain is part of the forecast for the rest of the week, making Celtic Manor play even longer, and the rough even thicker.

“I don’t have any issue with anybody dealing with bad weather,” Pavin said. “I think everybody can handle it.”

He spent most of his day – when he wasn’t chatting with Prince Charles – fending off a British press that grilled him over his choice of a military man speaking to the American team at the Ryder Cup.

Pavin was part of the U.S. team that wore a camouflage cap when it arrived at Kiawah Island in 1991 for matches that infamously were dubbed, “The War on the Shore.”

“I think the military awareness in the United States is probably at an all-time high,” Pavin said. “And I think people, certainly in the States and over here, appreciate the military and what they do for our freedoms. And that’s what that was about.”

Thursday is the final day of practice before the opening ceremony, which is when Montgomerie and Pavin announce the fourballs matches for the opening session.

Based on the last couple of days, Friday can’t get here soon enough.

“Zach Johnson has told me one thing,” Bubba Watson said. “He put his arm around me and said, ‘It’s just golf, Bubba.’ Because that’s all it is.”

Watch: Koepka holes out from off the green at 16

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 5:36 am

Brooks Koepka faced a stiff challenge from Gary Woodland on Sunday in South Korea, but eventually it came time to end the suspense.

Having clung to a slim lead for much of the back nine, Koepka looked as though he was going to have to scramble just to save par when he missed the green at 16. 

Instead, caddie Ricky Elliott was able to leave Koepka's putter in the bag.

That holeout combined with a bogey from Woodland at 17 put Koepka ahead by three, allowing him to walk to victory and to the top of the world rankings.

Getty Images

Koepka wins CJ Cup, ascends to world No. 1

By Nick MentaOctober 21, 2018, 5:07 am

Brooks Koepka eagled the 72nd hole Sunday to cap off a final-round 64, win the CJ Cup and supplant Dustin Johnson as the new No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here's how Koepka took over the golf world Sunday in South Korea.

Leaderboard: Koepka (-21), Gary Woodland (-17), Ryan Palmer (-15), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-15), Jason Day (-12), Scott Piercy (-12)

What it means: This is Koepka's fifth career PGA Tour victory but only his second in a non-major, following his maiden win back at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open. Up four to start the day, Koepka saw his lead evaporate as Woodland rocketed up the leaderboard and kept pace with him for much of the back nine. But every time Sunday's result appeared in doubt, Koepka reclaimed his lead in dramatic fashion. He nearly aced the par-3 13th to go ahead by two and later holed out for birdie at the par-4 16th to go up three with two to play. He finished par-eagle at 17 and 18 to shoot a back-nine 29 and close out his third victory in the last five months. With the win, Koepka ascends to the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.

Round of the day: Ryan Palmer set a Nine Bridges course record when he birdied his final seven holes in a row en route to a bogey-free round of 10-under 62 and a solo third-place finish.

Best of the rest: Woodland played his first 16 holes in 9 under par to storm from five back and catch Koepka atop the leaderboard. But his furious Sunday charge finally came to an end when he failed to get up and down for par from the back bunker at 17. He carded his 11th birdie of the round at the 18th hole to sign for 63 and finish solo second.

Biggest disappointment: In retrospect, Woodland called it correctly on Saturday when he said: "You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can. You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number." Woodland put as much pressure on Koepka as he could. He went out and posted that number. Koepka never blinked.

Shot of the day: Koepka's holeout at the par-3 16th, which put him ahead by three, unofficially ending the proceedings:

Quote of the day: "To be world No. 1 is something I dreamed of as a kid. I don't think this one is going to sink in." - Koepka

Getty Images

Watch: Koepka nearly aces par-3 13th Sunday

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 4:24 am

Just when it looked like he was facing a legitimate challenge Sunday, Brooks Koepka responded with a near-ace.

Up four to start the final round, Koepka saw his lead disappear as Gary Woodland raced up the leaderboard to tie him at 13 under and then 14 under.

Unfazed, the three-time major winner birdied the par-5 12th to regain his outright lead and then followed up with this tee shot at the 218-yard, par-3 13th.

And just like that, the tap-in birdie put Koepka back ahead by two with five to play.

Getty Images

Haas nearly shoots age in taking Champions playoff opener lead

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 10:05 pm

RICHMOND, Va.  -- Jay Haas shot a 7-under 65 - missing his age by a stroke - to take a two-shot lead Saturday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Trying to become the oldest winner in tour history, the 64-year-old Haas birdied the par-5 16th and 18th holes to get to 11-under 133 on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''I've been out here too long to know that I can learn to expect anything,'' Haas said. ''While I'm hopeful every day and I've been playing OK, the last couple weeks have not been very good, but this week has been much better. I love this golf course and it looks good to my eye. Most of the holes look like I'm going to hit a good shot, so I enjoy playing here.''

Mike Fetchick set the age record of 63 years to the day in the 1985 Hilton Head event. Haas is second on the list, taking the 2016 Toshiba Classic at 62 years, 10 months, 7 days for his 18th senior title.

''That's a good way to say I'm old, 'experience,''' Haas said. ''I think I'm very nervous most of the time when I play and today was no exception, but I continued to hit good shots and, hopefully, I can put one foot in front of the other, one shot at a time, do what I tell my son to do every time, you know? See if I can put some of those adages to work tomorrow.''

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

Stephen Ames and Scott Dunlap were tied for second after the round that started in light rain. Ames had a 67, and Dunlap shot 68.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer had a 66 to join Billy Mayfair (67) and Woody Austin (68) at 9 under. Langer won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the season points lead. The 61-year-old German star has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, was tied for 23rd at 4 under after a 71.