Phillip Price Lives Out His Dream
He was the one European whose win Sunday was the most improbable. It was his win that ultimately won the whole danged Ryder Cup. I know all about Paul McGinley and the putt that meant the decisive half-point, but believe me ' it was Price beating Phil Mickelson that inspired the whole European team. He had it won about an hour before the numbers told the shocking story, and the lift to the Europeans ' and the jolt to the Americans ' were undeniable.
He just wouldnt let Mickelson beat him. He got 2-up, then 3-up, but no one really sweated it. Mickelson would come back, everyone assumed, but wasnt it nice that Price had put up such a game fight?
But by the time 13, then 14 rolled around, the incredible truth became apparent ' Mickelson was going to lose. The man who was 119th in the world was going to win. And not just eke out a victory ' Price was going to win decisively.
Phillip Price seemed to have an answer every time, said Mickelson, who didnt play all that badly in going down to defeat. Every time I knocked it close, he followed it up. He played great.
The Price-Mickelson match, unfortunately, didnt get much TV time. We didnt see much of the front nine when Price was erecting his 3-up lead. My only recollection of the action was when Mickelson gagged a three-footer somewhere on the front. Thats when I, and most everyone in the world, knew there was a good chance this point would not be in the American column. Forget Tiger ' it would all be over by the time his score was tallied. You knew something was amiss when you saw Mickelson's eyes after he missed that shorty. That something was Price.
It was the culmination of an entire life, a long series of ups and downs for the 35-year-old Welshman. He joined the European Tour at 23, but that was just out of desperation. He had to eat, and he had pretty well exhausted all avenues of doing so. Golf was his final alternative. He wasnt very good at it, but it was all he could do now. It was either do that, or go back home to Pontypridd, Wales, and serve out a lifetime in the steel mills.
That, incidentally, was what he did when he was 20. He sweated over hot trays containing steel bars. He would come home filthy with dirt. He tried a saner job, sticking addresses on envelopes, but that only paid him the equivalent of about $1.50 an hour. That, in short, was no option, he quickly discovered. He simply had to make a go of it in golf, a sport he had tinkered around with since childhood.
Price joined the European Tour at 23, and almost cashed out two years later. It was at the Dutch Open and he was struggling. Three holes remained and he was on verge of missing another cut. This was it ' he had reached the last option. It was back to the searing heat and filth of the steel mines, he had decided.
He sent his caddy up ahead to the clubhouse to line up transportation back to Wales. Price took just three clubs to finish the last three holes of the tournament. It really didnt matter, did it, that he might finish 120th or 130th or whatever? Finish the tournament and let me outta here.
So he finished, but he didnt leave. He thought about it those last 30 minutes as he played 16, 17 and finally 18. At the end, I decided to play some more golf because I wanted to keep my card and so have the choice of what to do the following year, Price told the European Tour website a couple of years ago. Then, a couple of weeks later, I finished fourth in the European Open.
That gave him his card the following year. And since then, he has lived the life of a true journeyman, showing flashes of brilliance but never reaching the upper levels reserved for golfs elite.
Then, 10 years later, he finally had his real moment in golf, defeating Mickelson in the Ryder Cup to put a stake in the heart of the Americans. It was oh-so-grand after his off year last year, a year in which a European writer had the temerity to ask, Do you think you should withdraw from the Ryder Cup?
The shy Welshman was hurt by the question. Making the team seemed so remote that day 10 years ago at the Dutch Open, and when it finally came via good play two years ago, Price was overwhelmed. Never, not in his wildest dreams, could he have conceived of such an honor.
Regardless of what he does in his career in the future, he has a memory that can never be taken away. Think he should withdraw from the Cup? How ridiculous! Phillip Price played the most meaningful role in his sides victory Sunday.
He experienced the steel mills, he experienced work at $1.50 an hour, and he experienced years of mediocre play. Then in one heroic weekend, it all came together. Price might have considered quitting golf, but he wouldnt consider quitting the team. And after all he has been though, come Sunday he was the hero.
McCarthy wins Web.com Tour Championship by 4
ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Denny McCarthy won the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship on Sunday to earn fully exempt PGA Tour status and a spot in the Players Championship.
McCarthy closed with a 6-under 65 for a four-stroke victory over Lucas Glover at Atlantic Beach Country Club. The 25-year-old former Virginia player earned $180,000 to top the 25 PGA Tour card-earners with $255,793 in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals.
''It's been quite a journey this year,'' McCarthy said. ''The PGA Tour was tough to start out the year. I stuck through it and got my game. I raised my level and have been playing some really good golf. Just feels incredible to finish off these Finals. So much work behind the scenes that nobody really sees.''
McCarthy finished at 23-under 261.
Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, closed with a 69. He made $108,000 to finish seventh with $125,212 in the series for the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200.
Jim Knous earned the 25th and final card from the four-event money list with $41,931, edging Justin Lower by $500. Knous made a 5-foot par save on the final hole for a 71 that left him tied for 57th. Lower missed an 8-footer for birdie, settling for a 69 and a tie for 21st.
''It was a brutal day emotionally,'' Knous said. ''I wasn't quite sure how much my performance would affect the overall outcome. It kind of just depended on what everybody else did. That's pretty terrifying. So I really just kind of did my best to stay calm and inside I was really freaking out and just super psyched that at the end of the day finished right there on No. 25.''
The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list competed against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. Sungjae Im topped the list to earn the No. 1 priority spot of the 50 total cards.
LaCava pushed Woods to work on bunker game
ATLANTA – Last week as Tiger Woods prepared to play the season finale at East Lake he sent a text message to his caddie Joey LaCava that simply asked, what do I need to do to get better?
Although when it comes to Woods his proficiency is always relative, but LaCava didn’t pull any punches, and as the duo completed the final round on Sunday at the Tour Championship with a bunker shot to 7 feet at the last the two traded knowing smiles.
“We had a talk last week about his bunker game and I said, ‘I’m glad you kept that bunker game stuff in mind,’” LaCava said. “I told him he was an average bunker player and he worked at it last week. There were only two bunker shots he didn’t get up-and-down, I don’t count the last one on 18. He recognized that after two days. He was like, ‘What do you know, I’m 100 percent from the bunkers and I’m in the lead after two days.”
For the week, Woods got up-and-down from East Lake’s bunkers seven out of nine times and cruised to a two-stroke victory for his first PGA Tour title since 2013. That’s a dramatic improvement over his season average of 49 percent (100th on Tour).
“His bunker game was very average coming into this week,” LaCava said. “I said you’ve got to work on your bunker game. If you had a decent bunker game like the Tiger of old you would have won [the BMW Championship].”
For Woods, is this only the beginning?
If this is Tiger Woods nine months into a comeback, wait until he actually shakes the rust off.
This was supposed to be the year he kicked the tires, to see how his body held up after all those knives digging into his back.
To see if a short game could truly be rescued from chunks and skulls.
To see if a 42-year-old living legend could outfox the kids.
On the final breath of the PGA Tour season, it was Tiger Woods who took ours away.
Playing alongside Rory McIlroy on Sunday at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club – and one group behind the current World No. 1 and eventual FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose – Woods bludgeoned the field and kneecapped Father Time.
It was Dean Smith and the Four Corners offense. Emmitt Smith moving the chains. Nolan Ryan mowing them down.
And all of a sudden you wonder if Phil Mickelson wishes he’d made alternate Thanksgiving plans.
Even if everybody saw a win coming, it was something else to actually see it happen, to see the man in the red shirt reach another gear just one more time.
Win No. 80 reminded us, as Roger Maltbie once said of Woods when he came back from knee surgery in 2009: “A lot of people can play the fiddle. Only one guy is Itzhak Perlman.”
It wasn’t long ago that Tiger Woods seemed headed toward a disheartening final chapter as a broken man with a broken body.
He would host a couple of tournaments, do some great charity work, shout instructions into a walkie talkie at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, and call it a career.
There would be no Nicklaus 1986 Masters moment, no Hogan Mystique at Merion.
He would leave competitive golf as perhaps both the greatest to ever play the game and its greatest cautionary tale.
Willie Mays with the New York Mets. Muhammad Ali taking punishment from Larry Holmes.
But then Brad Faxon and Rickie Fowler started whispering at the end of 2017 that Tiger was healthy and hitting the ball hard.
There was that hold-your-breath opening tee shot at the Hero World Challenge, a bullet that flew the left bunker and bounded into the fairway.
Rollercoaster rides at Tampa and Bay Hill, backward steps at Augusta and Shinnecock, forward leaps at The Open and the PGA.
He switched putters and driver shafts (and shirts, oh my!) and seemed at times tantalizingly close and maddeningly far.
That he even decided to try to put his body and game back together was one of the all-time Hail Marys in golf.
Why go through all of that rehab again?
Why go through the scrutiny of having your current game measured against your untouchable prime?
Because you’re Tiger Woods, is why, because you’ve had way more wonderful days on the golf course than poor ones, despite five winless years on the PGA Tour.
Suddenly, Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins is in jeopardy and Jack Nicklaus, holder of a record of 18 major championships, is at the very least paying attention.
Woods has put the golf world on notice.
It won’t be long until everyone starts thinking about the 2019 major schedule (and you’d better believe that Tiger already is).
The Masters, where he has four green jackets and seven other Top 5 finishes. The PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, where he won in 2002 by 3. The United States Open at Pebble Beach, where he won in 2000 by 15.
The Open at Royal Portrush, where his savvy and guile will be a strong 15th club.
But that’s a talk for a later date.
Tiger is clearly still getting his sea legs back.
Nonfactor McIlroy mum after lackluster 74
ATLANTA – Rory McIlroy didn’t have anything to say to the media after the final round of the Tour Championship, and that’s understandable.
McIlroy began the final round at East Lake three shots behind Tiger Woods. He finished six back.
McIlroy closed in 4-over 74 to tie for seventh place.
In their matchup, Woods birdied the first hole to go four in front, and when McIlroy bogeyed the par-4 fourth, he was five in arrears. McIlroy went on to make three more bogeys, one double bogey and just two birdies.
McIlroy was never a factor on Sunday and ultimately finished tied for 13th in the FedExCup standings.
The two rivals, Woods and McIlroy, shared plenty of conversations while walking down the fairways. On the 18th hole, Woods said McIlroy told him the scene was like the 1980 U.S. Open when people were shouting, “Jack’s back!”
“I said, ‘Yeah, I just don’t have the tight pants and the hair,’” Woods joked. “But it was all good.”
It’s now off to Paris for the upcoming Ryder Cup, where Woods and McIlroy will again be foes. It will be McIlroy’s fifth consecutive appearance in the biennial matches, while Woods is making his first since 2012.