Newsmaker of the Year No. 2: Ryder Cup

By Jason SobelDecember 28, 2012, 1:00 pm

Two years had come down to this. Two years of speculation over captains, consternation over wildcard picks, contemplation over potential matchups and deliberation over pairings had come down to this one fateful autumn day outside Chicago.

But let’s put fate aside for just a minute. When your team is up by four points entering the final session and you own the home-field advantage and the other team can’t even find its most talented player, fate is the furthest thing from your mind.

Instead, thoughts turn to questions such as these: Are the years of European domination finally over? Which American player will clinch the winning point? How sweet will the champagne taste out of golf’s most famous cup?

Newsmaker No. 10: Stacy Lewis | No. 9 PGA Tour | No. 8: Jim Furyk | No. 7: British Open | No. 6: Bubba Watson | No. 5: Anchored putters | No. 4: Augusta National | No. 3 Tiger Woods

And then, something happens. The other team’s most talented player surfaces, rushed in via police cruiser after a time-zone miscalculation. Home-field advantage doesn’t feel like so much of an advantage when momentum wanes. That four-point differential gradually fades as the day wears on.

Suddenly, fate doesn’t just enter your mind. The idea consumes it.

Ben Crenshaw knew all about it. Back in 1999, with his U.S. squad down by the same four-point margin on Saturday night as the Europeans this time around, the captain assessed his chances by calmly saying, “I’m a big believer in fate. I have a good feeling about tomorrow.”

And he did. Less than 24 hours later, his team had overcome the odds in the largest comeback in Ryder Cup history. Thirteen years thereafter, his words would serve as a prescient reminder. If fate can help rationalize victory, then it can just as easily explain away defeat.

Not that it worked that way. In the wake of Europe’s 14½-13½ come-from-behind triumph at Medinah, America’s loss was blamed on decisions by captain Davis Love III for his captain’s picks and sitting a torrid Phil Mickelson-Keegan Bradley combination on Saturday afternoon. It was blamed on veterans Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk for compiling a combined 1-9-1 record. It was blamed on the entire roster for not wanting it badly enough.

Really, though, more blame – or credit, as the case may be – should have been foisted upon the opponent. Europe’s captain, Jose Maria Olazabal, invoked the memory of Seve Ballesteros in the team room throughout the week. Ian Poulter’s bug-eyed performance was transcendent. Justin Rose sank two of the most clutch putts you’ll ever see – on back-to-back holes. Rory McIlroy, fresh off that police cruiser ride, went from goat to hero by winning his singles match. Even much maligned Martin Kaymer proved his worth by holing the clinching putt.

The end result was that Europe had secured the title for the fifth time in six attempts this century. It was more than that, though. The 2012 edition of the Ryder Cup has been called golf’s greatest event of the year, but that is underestimating its value. The truth is, you can place this competition against any of the year’s greatest individual sporting events – the New York Giants’ improbable Super Bowl victory; Manchester City’s stunning Premier League championship; any number of inspirational performances from the Olympic Games – and it stands its ground as far as emotion and drama and adventure.

It’s what makes the Ryder Cup our No. 2 Newsmaker of the Year.

“Last night, when we got together at the team meeting, all I did was just tell the boys that I still believed that we could turn things around,” Olazabal said after the victory. “I think the players believed, and you know, what happened today, I think it will go down in the history books of the Ryder Cup. It was a huge comeback, and I'm really happy for these 12 wonderful men.”

The celebration for Europe’s stars served as a stark contrast to their red, white and blue-clad brethren. It was reported that Woods apologized to the team’s rookies for failing to secure more than a half-point for the week. Many players contend the loss still haunts them today, three months after the conclusion. And the captain remains the heartiest of the second-guessers.

After the matches were over, though, he couldn’t help but sound a bit like Crenshaw, albeit from an entirely different perspective.

“These guys had a great week, had a lot of fun, and they played well,” Love explained. “They played a lot of good golf, and so did the other side. To end up like that is unfortunate. I know these guys put a lot into it. Ultimately, this team really understands, it's just golf.”

It just may have been fate, too. There aren’t many other ways to explain how a biennially dominant team entered the final session trailing by four points on foreign soil with its most talented player somewhere literally off course, only to find itself celebrating hours later.

Two years came down to this. Two years of speculation and consternation and contemplation and deliberation turned into one of the most entertaining golf events – no, sporting events – of the entire year.

Newsmaker of the Year schedule

No. 10: Stacy Lewis

No. 9: PGA Tour

No. 8: Jim Furyk

No. 7: British Open

No. 6: Bubba Watson

No. 5: Anchored putters

No. 4: Augusta admits women

No. 3: Tiger Woods

No. 2: Ryder Cup

No. 1: Dec. 31

Getty Images

Watch: Rory finds trouble, and more trouble, and more ...

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 4:33 pm

Rory McIlroy was in a must-win situation against Brian Harman in order to have a chance to advance to the one-and-done portion of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

And, as you can see, McIlroy did not get off to an ideal start on Friday.

McIlroy lost the third, fifth and ninth holes at Austin Country Club. Harman led, 3 up, at the turn.

Getty Images

Watch: Stefani makes hole-in-one, has no clue

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 3:18 pm

Shawn Stefani made a hole-in-one on the par-3 17th in the second round of the Corales Puntacana Resorts and Club Championship.

However, he never saw it go in.

Stefani knew he hit a great shot, and this isn't shown in the video below, but he just questioned everyone around him if they saw the ball go into the hole.

A Golf Channel cameraman finally gave him the news and Stefani responded with an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Getty Images

Trio lead Kia Classic; Davies shoots 82

By Associated PressMarch 23, 2018, 3:01 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Laura Davies had a nightmare round days after contending for a title at age 54, and Caroline Hedwall, Jackie Stoelting and Hee Young Park topped the Kia Classic leaderboard.

Davies shot a 10-over 82 on Thursday at rainy Aviara Golf Club - four days after tying for second behind Inbee Park in the Founders Cup, and five days after shooting a 9-under 63 in the Phoenix event.

Fighting Achilles tendon and calf problems in her left leg, Davies opened double bogey-bogey-par-bogey. She bogeyed Nos. 9, 10 and 12, had another double on 15 and bogeyed 16. The 82 was the World Golf Hall of Famer's highest score on tour since also shooting 82 in the 2013 Marathon Classic. On Monday, she jumped 208 spots to No. 155 in the world.

Hedwall, Stoelting and Park shot 66 in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills. Ariya Jutanugarn, also coming off a second-place tie in Phoenix, was a stroke back with 2015 champion Cristie Kerr, In-Kyung Kim and Nicole Broch Larsen.

Hedwall closed her bogey-free round with birdies on the par-5 eighth and par-4 ninth. The Swede played her final 10 holes in 6 under. Players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairways because of the damp conditions.

''I hit it really well and started making a couple putts in my back nine,'' Hedwall said. ''I'm really happy with how I'm playing and looking forward to the rest of the days.''

Stoelting finished with a birdie on the par-4 18th. She had seven birdies and a bogey.

''I hit a lot of fairways,'' Stoelting said. ''I don't necessarily hit if far, but keeping it in the fairway is super key this week. The rough is much thicker this year than last year.''

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Hee Young Park birdied the final three holes, finishing on No. 9.

''The greens are really soft,'' Park said. ''So, easier on the second shot.''

The 40-year-old Kerr had a bogey-free round.

''I like this golf course,'' Kerr said. ''I think it's a tough golf course and you can't fall asleep on any shot. I mean, it's just a really great course. The layout. The rough is high. You got to pay attention. I think that's maybe why I play a little better here than some other places.''

Jutanugarn closed with a 5-under 31 on the front nine.

''It's rain today and a little bit windy, but my irons help me a lot,'' Jutanugarn said. ''Just start to make some putts. ... It's pretty tough for me. I always feel like the course here is really hard because the greens really bumpy, and you're not going to hit far here.''

Lydia Ko and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu topped the group at 68.

Ko also played her final nine in 31. She missed the cut last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix.

''I holed some really good putts on my back nine,'' Ko said. ''I didn't hit the ball fantastic, but just being able to hole some good birdie putts was key.''

She won the 2016 event at Aviara.

''This is a pretty tough golf course,'' Ko said. ''Putting is a huge key around this course where if you do miss a green, making those clutch par putts and then making those birdie opportunities that you get.''

Jennifer Song and Jeong Eun Lee also shot 68. Brooke Henderson had a 69, and Lexi Thompson a 70.

Inbee Park was at 71 with Singapore champion Michelle Wie and 2014 Kia winner Anna Nordqvist. Top-ranked Shanshan Feng had a 72, playing alongside Park. Defending champion Mirim Lee shot 74.

Getty Images

With old clubs returned, Kim (and new clubs) starts strong at Kia

By Randall MellMarch 23, 2018, 1:53 am

Almost two months after her golf clubs went missing, the same clubs she used to win last year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open, In-Kyung Kim was happily reunited with them this week.

She fetched them and her golf bag two days ago at the Carlsbad, Calif., police department.

A man bought them as a used set from a sporting goods store in the area, with Kim’s LPGA I.D. still in the golf bag.

Notably, Kim celebrated with a return to the leaderboard Thursday in the first round of the Kia Classic.

Kim opened with a 5-under-par 67, though she didn’t use her newly rediscovered clubs. She stayed with the replacement set that she put together after her clubs went missing. Her Women’s British Open clubs never showed up after she got off a plane in Southern California upon her return home from the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

“It was really difficult at first,” Kim said of getting used to her new set of clubs. “I really worked hard, like worked a lot, went to the factory like a dozen times.”

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Kim said she made several visits to the factory folks, trying to get the loft and lies of her new clubs just the way she wanted, close to the configuration that helped her win the Women’s British Open.

“They were like, `I.K., are you ever happy?’” Kim said.

Actually, only five of Kim’s “lost” clubs turned up with her golf bag at that sporting goods store. Still, Kim was happy to get three wedges, two hybrids and her golf bag back.

“It’s kind of good to have a conclusion,” Kim said.

Kim can thank a “What’s in the bag?” segment with Ladies European Tour TV analyst Alison Whitaker for leading to the retrieval of her clubs. Kim explained to Whitaker how her clubs went missing during the telecast of the HSBC Women’s World Championship three weeks ago.

A golf fan in the San Diego area saw Golf Channel’s telecast of that segment.

“One of his friends bought the tour bag,” Kim said. “The other friend knew about my story, and he was like, `No, dude, that's not for selling. It's stolen.’”

Kim was delighted to meet the men who returned her clubs when she picked them up at the Carlsbad Police Department.

“Just good for me,” Kim said.