Bring on the Ryder Cup

By Kraig KannSeptember 30, 2005, 4:00 pm
I have to admit, even now, that I wasnt as excited as I should have been about the Presidents Cup.
And now, a week removed, I feel like I was rewarded for my skepticism. You know, if you dont expect the best, you cant really be disappointed ' right? Well, I wasnt disappointed.
Chris DiMarco
After an exciting Presidents Cup, all eyes will be focused on the 2006 Ryder Cup.
In fact, I was left more enthused than ever about the Presidents Cup and Im left with a whole lot of 'hurry up' for the Ryder Cup in 2006.
Fred Couples did it for me.
His 'arms in the air ' smiling face ' look for somebody to hug' expression on Sunday against Vijay Singh was as good as it gets. And, for me, it seemed that the reaction was about far more than just beating Vijay Singh. It was about being there in the first place.
Fred Couples isnt supposed to be the Presidents Cup hero these days. Hes supposed to be content just being a part of it. And to me it seems that he was. The fact that he made a difference seemed as big to Couples as it did to his team, as it did to his Captain, as it did to the spectators who chanted 'Freddie, Freddie, Freddie.'
Ive always been a fan of Fred Couples. The cool, the swagger, the layed back demeanor on the golf course. Hes a guys guy. Hes a pros pro. Hes a sportsmans sport.
Chris DiMarco did it for me.
His final putt in the match against Stuart Appleby was as clutch as the putt he saw Phil Mickelson make to win the Masters in 2004. It was as clutch as the putt Tiger Woods made in front of his very eyes en route to winning the Masters this April.
DiMarco has contended in major championships, but until now hasnt had his own 'major moment.' Sunday he got what he deserved. The moment to make a difference was his. He took it. And youd have thought it was the major that broke Jacks major championship record total of 18.
Jim Furyk did it for me.
Unbeaten for the week. A very reliable source told me this week that Tiger Woods ' in search of a partner whod make him unbeatable instead of unreliable - wanted Furyk before the event even started. Steady as they come, hes usually void of the big mistake and thus keeps a player in every hole. Actually, Furyk looked like he might not have too many holes in him. He spent much of the early matches on the ground with an injury, being rubbed like a classic car in need of some wax.
But Furyk is as tough as they come. Like DiMarco, he might not have every single skill that Tiger has. But like Tiger, he has the 'no give up' trait that makes him as tough an out as Barry Bonds.
In every hole, and in every match, Furyk is the partner you can count on. The teammate who gets you amped up for the moment.
Tiger did it for me.
Hes the greatest player of his time. Injury and all, hes the one player you want to watch hit every shot of every match hes in. Normally hes not the vocal type who leads the team in speech. But last week he seemed pumped to play with Furyk and his celebratory reaction toward Chris DiMarco (the huge hug) was better than any shot he hit all week. Woods came across as the perfect teammate and the perfect gentleman. So much for Tiger the 'individual.' It hardly appeared that Woods cared about his record for the week. He cared about the team.
Phil Mickelson did it for me.
Lefty was hardly right at the Ryder Cup last fall. He made some poor choices and some poor shots. He paid the price in the media, and players have told me hes paid the price among his peers.
But Mickelson is a talent. A huge talent. Hes got a love for the game that is obvious. And he hates to lose.
Mickelson didnt get Tiger as a partner. He got DiMarco which was good for both. I never understood taking your two best players and putting them together for the possibility of only 1 point per session as opposed to 2. Over two days of Ryder Cup Foursomes and Four-Ball competition thats a chance at 8 points versus 4.
And while Phil didnt make the biggest putt, or have the biggest moment. He might have been the most reliable. The 2nd major championship might be bigger than we think as it turns out. And Mickelsons play was proof to me that not only is he ready to be counted on, but hes also ready to be a leader.
Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player did it for me.
Two of the games greatest champions applauding great play and talking about whats good for the game as opposed to whats good for his own team. Enough said.
The format did it for me.
Four days as compared to three, and no chance to 'hide' a player or two before Sunday singles. It gives players like Angel Cabrera and Trevor Immelman a chance to shine and be noticed instead of be searched for.
And the chance to see the match-ups we want in Singles instead of match-ups the envelopes give us, makes a huge difference in the drama. Woods versus Goosen at the Presidents Cup or Woods versus Paul Casey as we saw at Oakland Hills?
As I mentioned before, I wasnt exactly following the Presidents Cup point standings each Monday as I normally would during a Ryder Cup year. But this Presidents Cup finish has me looking ahead already.
Woods and Furyk, Mickelson and DiMarco. Lets go.
Suddenly the 18 to 9 drubbing at the hands of Europe seems like a distant memory. Theres been a change in momentum for the Americans. And they didnt even play against Europe last week.
Who knows who wins the Ryder Cup in Ireland next September. But Im ready to get it started. How about you?
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”