That Mojo Has Worked for Euros

By George WhiteSeptember 21, 2006, 4:00 pm
36th Ryder Cup MatchesVoodoo and Ouija boards, moonless nights and black cats. Is it really just a case of bad luck? Oh ' and you can throw one more in there: the United States getting smoked time and again in the Ryder Cup.
 
They try again this week, the boys from America. And actually, theres no science to describe it. Europe shows up at the matches and, for some reason, applies the perfunctory death grip on the Yanks. Result ' the Europeans have won the four of the last five, with only a superhuman rally by the U.S. in 1999 keeping it from being Europe 5, America 0.
 
I used to scoff loudly when someone bought up the concept of team or mentioned something as vague as bonding. Hey, this is golf. It isnt football, where you have 11 men whose duties are vastly different. In golf, what do you do? You hit the ball off the tee, you knock it on the green, you putt it. It seemed like a simple enough assignment without any room for mysticism. The 12 men who were the best, be they from the U.S. or from Europe, won.
 
But this has gotten way out of hand, and I cant make myself believe that for the last 10 years, the Europeans have so dominated golf. And ' they havent. Americans have a big lead in the number of wins in majors. Americans have won 10 of the last 12 British Opens. But Europe has the 4-1 lead in the Ryder. And that can no longer be written off to coincidence.
 
Ergo, I am beginning to believe in the M-word ' meshing, and the T-word ' team. I have also begun to believe in voodoo and black cats and the foolishness of walking under ladders.
 
Lets look at the last four matches, dating back to 1997, since only American (Phil Mickelson) and one European (Colin Montgomerie) played in '95.
 
Its been a lopsided story since 97. The U.S. has won only one daily session in that timespan ' in 02 when the Yanks prevailed, 4 - 3 , on Saturday. Every other day of the last four Ryder Cups, the Europeans either beat the Americans in the team matches or at worst tied (once). You think the karma isnt impressive on the European side?
 
Now, in the singles, its a different story. America leads in that category, 25 -22 1/2. More on that later ' right now, lets concentrate on the pairs, where the U.S. has a poor record with Europe leading the last four Ryder Cups by 39 points to 24.
 
Incidentally, most people believe the Europeans have a big lead in the alternate-shot (foursomes) because the men of the U.S. never play that format. In the U.K., as a matter of fact, alternate-shot is quite often played when four men go out in the evenings for a friendly match. Its a much quicker game, of course, when you have just two balls in play amongst the four players, rather than four balls for four players.
 
Better-ball (fourballs), of course, is the game almost always played in the U.S. when four men get together for Saturday outings. But ' Europe has a more commanding lead in better-ball. In that exercise, they are 20 -11 . Alternate shot (foursomes)? They had a 6-2 advantage the last time out, but except for that one, they are up by only 13-11. Hmmm
 
The singles story has become much closer the last couple of times the Ryder Cup has been played. The pattern was nearly always the same ' Europe would keep it very close in the team matches, but would absolutely get murdered in singles. In both 2002 and 2004, Europe actually won the singles, 7 - 4 each time.
 
A side note here: Jim Furyk is unbeaten in the Ryder Cup in singles. And in fact, he is unbeaten in the Presidents Cup. He is a combined 7-0-1, a draw with Irishman Paul McGinley the only blot on an otherwise perfect record.
 
Chris DiMarco, incidentally, is a perfect 3-0 in the Ryder and Presidents singles. Tiger Woods is 5-2-1, having lost to Costantino Rocca and Retief Goosen and drawing with Jesper Parnevik.
 
Woods, though, has a disappointing mark of 2-6-1 in team play in the Ryder Cup. But dont tell Tiger that he doesnt care about these matches!
 
I put my heart into it each and every time, said Tiger. I hate losing, and I go out there and I play with all my passion. It's just unfortunately sometimes I do not win.
 
I've had some of my best matches where I've shot some of my best scores - shot 64 twice and only won one match in best ball; 65 two times, and again, only won one match. And one of the matches I shot 63 with Davis (Love) in best-ball and barely won that.
 
So I've played some of my best golf and haven't gotten all the points that I felt I could have. There's times where I've played like a dog, as well. So I don't know. I try so hard, and unfortunately sometimes you just don't win.
 
Its a mantra that could be repeated by just about all the American players of late. Yes, Europe had to have better team players, whatever that meant. That doesnt necessarily mean that the Europeans wanted it more, or tried harder. What it definitely means is that they have known how best to mesh together. And dont ask me to explain that, because it goes far beyond what I can express.
 
Jose Maria Olazabal says that the Americans cant be faulted for their team spirit, nor can they be faulted for not having a greater will to win.
 
I think they care, and they have cared in the past, he said. And I think they care this time. I'm pretty sure that theyre more eager to do well this time because of what happened the last two editions.
 
We are all competitors, and none of us likes to lose. I know they are fighters. I know they have come with one goal, and that one is pretty simple - trying to beat us. We're going to have to play really, really well if we want to keep that trophy with us.
 
But, lets face it ' Europe in the past has had that certain mojo, that karma, that ' team spirit? Whatever it is, it has worked exceptionally well for them.
 
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    Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

    Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

    While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.


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    “It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

    Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

    “I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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    Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

    McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

    “I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”


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    The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

    “There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

    He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

    “I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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    Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

    Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

    Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.


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    It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

    “If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

    Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

    “It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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    Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

    Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

    Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

    “It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”


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    Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

    “I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

    Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

    “If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”