Is This the Year for the Euros

By Mercer BaggsJune 17, 2004, 4:00 pm
Sergio Garcia wasnt born the last time a European player won the U.S. Open. He was still about 10 years in the making when Tony Jacklin won at Hazeltine in 1970. And even Jacklin wasnt born when the last European prior to him won the Open ' Tommy Armour in 1927.
Garcia is at a loss for words when trying to explain why this is ' why the men that comprise his native continent cannot conquer this American major.
In fact, he doesnt really offer an explanation.
I dont know, is the extent of the 24-year-old Spaniards answer. Truth be told, this type of history doesnt really interest him. And why should it? At his age youre not really worried about the failures of others in the past, just the possibility of achievement by yourself in the future.
But there is European history in the U.S. Open. And its not pretty.
Over the last decade, Europeans as a whole have barely been competitive in the U.S. Open, let alone contended for the title.
From 1994 to 1999 no more than one European-born player finished inside the top 10 each year. And with the exception of Colin Montgomerie, who lost in a playoff in 94 and finished one back in 97, no European came within four strokes of the winner during that time frame.
Four Europeans managed to crack the top 10 in 2000, but none got within 14 shots of runaway champion Tiger Woods.
After getting shut out of the top 10 in 2001, three Europeans made it on the inside in 02, and another three in 03.
Maybe theyre getting closer. Maybe its because many of the top European players are more active in the U.S. With the advent of the World Golf Championships ' an anomaly in name since most of the WGC events are contested in the U.S. ' in 1999, Europes best have had greater opportunity and more incentive to make the cross-continental trip.
Last year, Fredrik Jacobson, Justin Rose and Padraig Harrington finished inside the top 10 at the U.S. Open at Olympia Fields. All set a career high in U.S. starts that year, as well; and all should equal or surpass those Stateside totals in 04.
I believe it does help, yes, Rose said of the correlation to playing in America and major success. Thats why I played a long run before the Masters (where he held the 36-hole lead), and thats why Im playing (in the U.S.) right before the U.S. Open.
Jesper Parnevik has been a PGA Tour regular since 1994, and has all-but abandoned his native European Tour. Still, his extensive play on this side of the Atlantic hasnt translated to achievement in the U.S. Open, where he has zero top-10s in seven starts. Hes not in the field this year, as he failed to qualify.
By contrast, he has a pair of runner-up finishes in the British Open, as well as three other top-10s.
He says the explanation is simple: fairways vs. flair.
When you come from Europe, were more used to more aggressive style of play, go for the pins ' its not as penalizing over there. And then you go to the U.S. Open and hit one bad shot and triple bogey. You go, Wow! What just happened here? Parnevik said.
The only thing I miss in a U.S. Open is it completely takes away your imagination. Because if you miss (the fairway) you can just chop it out ' theres nothing you can do about it. You cant create anything if you miss a shot. No flamboyant golfer has a chance to win anymore.
Maybe this year, at Shinnecock, will be different.
Parnevik shares a growing belief among many that this may be the end to the Europeans 33-year winless drought in the seasons second major.
After all, Shinnecock is not the traditional tree-lined Open layout, but rather a links-style venue where the elements will factor the way they do in the British Open.
It could possibly be suited for Europeans more so than a normal U.S. Open course, Rose said of Shinnecock. But saying that, we havent done particularly well in the (British) Open either.
Very true.
While Europeans have failed to taste victory in the U.S. Open, Americans continue to drink freely from the Claret Jug. Theyve won seven of the last nine British Opens, while only one European has won since 1992.
That one European was Paul Lawrie in 1999. In fact, his Open triumph was the last major victory for any European ' in any major.
I don't think there's a problem with it, said Harrington, who has five career top-10 finishes in major championships, including three in the last four years at the U.S. Open.
I think these things go in cycles. I think we have plenty of good, young players. And who knows, in another three or four, five years' time, we could be winning plenty of majors.
But not everyone believes that such a run will start this week, just because Shinnecock has a different visual appeal than an Olympia Fields or Bethpage or Southern Hills.
What makes you think they're going to come in and win at Shinnecock? Just because it's a links golf course doesn't mean a European player is going to win. It's who plays the best golf, Vijay Singh said.

I don't think they play that many links courses, anyway. Some of them are members of a links golf course maybe, but Shinnecock is a totally different golf course. They're going to have rough, and at normal links courses, they don't have that much rough. Greens are going to be rolling at 12 or 13, and at the British Open, the greens are rolling at 9. Those are the factors involved.

I don't see any advantages on the European side.
Harrington validated Singh's point Tuesday when he said that he is more accustomed to playing stadium-style courses than links-style. He has even altered his game to be able to hit higher approach shots into these types of greens, as opposed to the low-boring bullets he used to hit back home in Ireland.
This is the third time in the last 19 years that Shinnecock has hosted a U.S. Open. It first did so in 1986, when Bernhard Langer and Seve Ballesteros were among those battling for No. 1 in the newly-formed Sony Ranking (now the Official World Golf Ranking), and players like Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam were nearing their prime.
Langer, however, was the only European to finish in the top 20 that week.
In 1995, when the Open returned to Shinnecock, Mark Roe (T13) was the only European to finish in the top 20, despite the fact that five Europeans comprised the top 12 on the world ranking.
Now, there are only two Europeans among the top 12 on the OWGR: Harrington at No. 7 and Garcia at No. 10.
We don't have the players that we had in the early to late '80s,' Harrington said. 'We don't have that at the moment. That's why we don't have players in the top 10 or top 5, realistically. We have to play better, particularly in the majors.
They dont have Seve and Sandy and Woosie anymore. Faldo, Olazabal and Langer are still capable of competing in an occasional major; though, winning one isnt as likely. And even the great Montgomerie is watching the sun set on his major opportunities.
But they do have Garcia and Harrington and Clarke. And Jacobson and Bjorn and Rose. And even Cejka and Casey and Donald.
'I think the future is bright for European golf,' Harrington said. 'If a European player doesn't win this week, it's not going to lessen anything about the European golf.
'I see some good years ahead for European golfers. It doesn't have to happen tomorrow or Sunday. It can happen -- it will happen in the next few years, there's a lot of good players out there.'
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    Match-by-match: 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies, Day 1

    By Will GrayMarch 21, 2018, 10:32 pm

    Here is how things played out on Day 1 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, as 64 players take on Austin Country Club with hopes of advancing out of pool play:

    Group 1: (52) Bernd Wiesberger def. (1) Dustin Johnson, 3 and 1: Down goes the defending champ. Johnson never trailed in any match en route to victory last year, and he won five holes against Wiesberger. But that wasn't enough as the Austrian turned an all-square affair into an upset victory by winning three straight from Nos. 15-17.

    Group 1: (32) Kevin Kisner vs. (38) Adam Hadwin, halved: This was a tight one throughout, as neither player held more than a 1-up lead. Kisner held a lead for much of the back nine, but Hadwin birdied the 17th to draw even and the match was halved when they both made par on the final hole.

    Group 2: (2) Justin Thomas def. (60) Luke List, 2 up: In perhaps the most entertaining match of the morning, Thomas edged List in a rematch of last month's Honda Classic playoff despite List spending much of the round putting with a wedge after bending his putter. Thomas was 3 up with four to play before List pushed the match the distance.

    Group 2: (21) Francesco Molinari def. (48) Patton Kizzire, 3 and 1: Molinari turned a tight match into a victory thanks to a few timely errors from Kizzire. Pars on Nos. 14 and 17 were good enough to win the hole for Molinari, with the latter sealing his victory and moving him a step closer to a potential winner-take-all battle with Thomas on Friday.

    Group 4: (4) Jordan Spieth def. (49) Charl Schwartzel, 2 and 1: The top seed in the group scored an early point in a battle between former Masters champs. Spieth never trailed and took control of the match with three straight wins on Nos. 12-14.

    Group 4: (19) Patrick Reed def. (34) Haotong Li, 3 and 2: Reed's much-anticipated match with Spieth is still two days away, but he dispatched of Li in his opener by winning the opening hole and never trailing the rest of the way. Li got to within one of Reed after 10 holes but the American won three of the next five to separate.

    Group 5: (5) Hideki Matsuyama def. (53) Yusaku Miyazato, 2 and 1: This all-Japanese battle went to the group's top seed, as Matsuyama poured in a birdie on the par-3 17th to close out the match. Miyazato got off to a strong start, holding a 2-up lead through six holes, before Matsuyama turned the tables with two birdies over the next three holes.

    Group 5: (46) Cameron Smith def. (30) Patrick Cantlay, 2 up: Smith never trailed in the match, but it turned into a closer contest than it appeared when the Aussie held a 3-up lead with four holes to play. Uihlein won the next two holes, but he couldn't get any closer as Smith earned a critical victory as he looks to earn a Masters spot by staying in the top 50 in the world rankings after this week.

    Group 6: (57) Peter Uihlein def. (6) Rory McIlroy, 2 and 1: McIlroy won last week at Bay Hill, but he's now playing catch up after a decisive loss to Uihlein. The American held a 5-up lead before McIlroy reeled off five straight birdies to cut the lead to 2-up, but a par from Uihlein on the 17th hole sealed the upset.

    Group 6: (18) Brian Harman vs. (44) Jhonattan Vegas, halved: This was a tight match throughout, with Harman clinging to a 1-up lead for most of the back nine. But Vegas rolled in a birdie putt on the final green to salvage half a point, much to the delight of the Austin galleries who were out supporting the former Longhorn.

    Group 8: (8) Jason Day def. (56) James Hahn, 4 and 2: Day is a former winner of this event, and he separated from Hahn on the back nine to score an early point. Hahn offered a concession on No. 13 to fall 3 down, then conceded again on No. 16 to close the match.

    Group 8: (25) Louis Oosthuizen def. (42) Jason Dufner, 1 up: Oosthuizen appeared poised for an easy point before Dufner rallied with three straight wins on Nos. 14-16 to square the match. But Oosthuizen regained a lead with a par on No. 17 and held on for a hard-fought victory.

    Group 9: (58) Ian Poulter def. (9) Tommy Fleetwood, 3 and 2: The match between Englishman went to the veteran, as Poulter took his putter from the 2012 Ryder Cup out of the closet and put it to quick use. Fleetwood won only two holes during the match, none after the eighth hole, and he now faces the prospect of early elimination as the group's top seed.

    Group 9: (33) Kevin Chappell def. (26) Daniel Berger, 3 and 2: Chappell and Berger were Presidents Cup teammates in the fall, but the opener went to Chappell. Berger won the 13th hole to draw all square, but Chappell reeled off three straight birdies on Nos. 14-16 in response to close out the match.

    Group 11: (64) Julian Suri def. (11) Marc Leishman, 3 and 2: Suri was the last man to get into the field following the withdrawal of Joost Luiten, but he's already on the board with an early point. Suri won each of the first two holes and never trailed in the match, closing out Leishman with a birdie on the par-5 16th.

    Group 11: (35) Bubba Watson def. (23) Branden Grace, 5 and 3: Watson was absolutely unstoppable in the biggest rout of the day. The two-time Masters champ made seven birdies over his first nine holes, making the turn with a 6-up advantage. Grace never stood a chance.

    Group 12: (12) Tyrrell Hatton def. (55) Alexander Levy, 3 and 2: Hatton won the opening hole with a par and never trailed the rest of the way. Levy's win on the eighth hole proved to be his only victory of the day, as Hatton barely had to break a sweat after building a 3-up lead through five holes.

    Group 12: (36) Brendan Steele def. (22) Charley Hoffman, 1 up: Steele never trailed in the match and at one point held a 4-up lead, but coming down the stretch it took everything he had to keep Hoffman at bay. Hoffman won four in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 13-17, but a par on the final hole was enough to give Steele the full point.

    Group 13: (61) Kevin Na def. (13) Alex Noren, 4 and 2: The biggest upset from the early matches came here, as Na turned a close contest into a blowout. The two men were all square after 11 holes, but Na won three of the next four and then closed out the match when Noren conceded on the par-5 16th.

    Group 13: (29) Tony Finau def. (39) Thomas Pieters, 2 and 1: Two of the longest hitters in the field squared off in this tilt, with Finau notching a full point despite losing two of the first three holes. The American birdied the 15th to take a 2-up lead, then closed out Pieters with a par on the 17th hole.

    Group 14: (59) Charles Howell III def. (14) Phil Mickelson, 3 and 2: Mickelson is making his first start since his WGC win in Mexico, but he's now on the ropes after Howell put together a strong back nine that included three birdies in a four-hole stretch from Nos. 10-13 to take control of the match.

    Group 14: (17) Rafael Cabrera-Bello def. (40) Satoshi Kodaira, 2 and 1: Cabrera-Bello made a run to the semifinals at this event two years ago, and he's off to another good start following a match in which he never trailed and lost only three holes. With the match tied through 11 holes, Cabrera-Bello's birdies on Nos. 12 and 13 proved pivotal.

    Group 15: (15) Pat Perez vs. (50) Si Woo Kim, halved: The first match of the day ended up in a draw, as the top seed rallied from a deficit to salvage half a point. Kim won three of the first six holes and held a 3-up lead with seven holes to go, but Perez fought back with four birdies over the next six holes to draw even.

    Group 15: (24) Gary Woodland vs. (37) Webb Simpson, halved: This group remains entirely up for grabs since nothing was decided on the opening day. Woodland took a 3-up lead at the turn, but Simpson rallied by winning four of the next seven holes, including a birdie on No. 17 that brought him back to all square for the first time since the third hole.

    Group 16: (16) Matt Kuchar vs. (54) Zach Johnson, halved: This draw likely felt like a victory for Johnson, who was facing a 4-down deficit with four holes to play before closing with four straight birdies to steal half a point.

    Group 16: (47) Yuta Ikeda def. (27) Ross Fisher, 2 and 1: Ikeda now holds the top spot in the group after ousting Fisher, who made the quarterfinals last year. Ikeda squared the match with wins on Nos. 6 and 7 before a pivotal birdie on No. 15 gave him a 2-up lead he would not relinquish.

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    Aggressiveness pays off for Spieth vs. Schwartzel

    By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 9:32 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – On Tuesday, Jordan Spieth said he hoped this week’s format would free him up and allow him to play more aggressively.

    Although that wasn’t the case early in his Day 1 match against Charl Schwartzel, Spieth was able to get his week off to a solid start with a 2-and-1 victory.

    After playing his first nine holes in even par, Spieth moved ahead in the match when Schwartzel made bogey at the par-5 12th hole and the American hit his approach at the par-4 13th hole to 3 feet, a shot he said was “pivotal,” and he added another birdie at the 14th hole to pull away.

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    “I had a couple of iffy numbers and some swirly winds. I did not play aggressively,” Spieth said of his opening nine. “Once I got a couple numbers where I could put really nice, solid swings on, zeroed in at the target with no worry about anything else around, I did just that and it led to three or four birdies from the eighth hole on. You have to go at flagsticks to make birdies here.”

    The early victory puts Spieth on a collision course with Patrick Reed, who also won his first-day match against HaoTong Li, 3 and 2. Spieth and Reed, who are a combined 7-2-2 when teamed together in the Ryder and Presidents Cup, will play each other in the final day of round-robin play on Friday.

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    List takes Thomas to 18 putting with a wedge

    By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 7:57 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – As he walked off the sixth tee on Wednesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Luke List “swiped” his putter into what he thought was a bush. It was a wall.

    List’s putter bent slightly, which meant he wasn’t allowed to employ it the rest of the round. Using a wedge to putt, he lost his opening-day match to Justin Thomas, 2 down.

    “Stupid on my part,” List said. “I'll get the club fixed and go on to my next two matches.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    Despite his putting disadvantage, List pushed Thomas to the 18th hole thanks to birdies at Nos. 13, 15 and 16, which included a chip-in from 18 feet at 15. Thomas was 3 up with four holes to play and managed to birdie the last, but it was far from stress-free.

    “I was thinking about it, how bad that would hurt if I couldn't get it done,” Thomas said. “He hit some great putts and he made some good ones when he needed to.”

    The situation also prompted Thomas to change his strategy on the greens, with not nearly as many conceded putts as normal.

    “He putted probably two or three putts I wouldn't have made him putt with a putter,” Thomas said. “[No. 13] was a short putt he's probably going to make. It had a lot of break. But 12, that putt was 2 feet straight uphill. But I was like he's got a wedge, so I'm going to make him putt it.”

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    Group standings at WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play

    By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 21, 2018, 7:45 pm

    Here are the group standings for pool play at the 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship in Austin, Texas. The player with the most points in each pool advanced to Saturday's Round of 16 in Austin, Texas. Click here for scoring and click here for the bracket.

    Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4
    (1) D. Johnson: 0-1-0 (2) J. Thomas: 1-0-0 (3) J. Rahm:  (4) J. Spieth: 1-0-0
    (32) K. Kisner: 0-0-1 (21) F. Molinari: 1-0-0 (28) K. Aphibarnrat (19) P. Reed: 1-0-0
    (38) A. Hadwin: 0-0-1
    (48) P. Kizzire: 0-1-0 (43) C. Reavie (34) H. Li: 0-1-0
    (52) B. Wiesberger: 1-0-0
    (60) L. List: 0-1-0 (63) K. Bradley (49) C. Schwartzel: 0-1-0
    Group 5 Group 6 Group 7 Group 8
    (5) H. Matsuyama: 1-0-0 (6) R. McIlroy: 0-1-0 (7) S. Garcia (8) J. Day: 1-0-0
    (30) P. Cantlay: 0-1-0
    (18) B. Harman (20) X. Schauffele (25) L. Oosthuizen: 1-0-0
    (46) C. Smith: 1-0-0 (44) J. Vegas (41) D. Frittelli (42) J. Dufner: 0-1-0
    (53) Y. Miyazato: 0-1-0 (51) P. Uihlein: 1-0-0 (62) S. Sharma (56) J. Hahn: 0-1-0
    Group 9 Group 10 Group 11 Group 12
    (9) T. Fleetwood: 0-1-0 (10) P. Casey (11) M. Leishman: 0-1-0 (12) T. Hatton: 1-0-0
    (26) D. Berger: 0-1-0 (31) M. Fitzpatrick (23) B. Grace: 0-1-0 (22) C. Hoffman: 0-1-0
    (33) K. Chappell: 1-0-0 (45) K. Stanley (35) B. Watson: 1-0-0 (36) B. Steele: 1-0-0
    (58) I. Poulter: 1-0-0 (51) R. Henley (64) J. Suri: 1-0-0 (55) A. Levy: 0-1-0
    Group 13 Group 14 Group 15 Group 16
    (13) A. Noren: 1-0-0 (14) P. Mickelson: 0-1-0 (15) P. Perez: 0-1-0 (16) M. Kuchar: 0-0-1
    (29) T. Finau: 1-0-0 (17) R. Cabrera Bello (24) G. Woodland: 0-1-0 (27) R. Fisher: 0-1-0
    (39) T. Pieters: 0-1-0 (40) S. Kodaira (37) W. Simpson: 0-1-0 (47) Y. Ikeda: 1-0-0
    (61) K. Na: 0-1-0 (59) C. Howell III: 1-0-0 (50) S.W. Kim: 0-1-0 (54) Z. Johnson: 0-0-1