Bunker Shots Magic and Mojo

By Randall MellSeptember 28, 2010, 4:32 pm

Blasting into the week ahead, from Ryder Cup magic and mojo to rank-and-file angst.

Ryder Cup

The Ryder Cup

Chemistry matters.

Camaraderie, too.

Such notions seemed overplayed within the boundaries of team golf, and then along came Paul Azinger with his pod system.

Azinger’s social game planning as American Ryder Cup captain two years ago was strong evidence that maybe team bonding really does make a difference. His structured, almost formulaic approach to team building was the story behind the American victory at Valhalla. Without superstar Tiger Woods, the United States ended its three-event losing streak to Europe looking more like brothers-in-arms than they ever have.

Some of us believed hot putters trump kindred spirits every time, but Azinger changed the nature of the debate. He made us wonder if camaraderie can serve as a fireplace for stoking hot starts. He made us wonder if you can create momentum before the first putt drops.

And now here comes European captain Colin Montgomerie, determined to show there’s another intangible important in the creation of winning momentum.

Montgomeries believes an inspiring speech can stoke a hot start.

“The Ryder Cup begins not with the first shot, but the speeches the two captains make at the opening ceremony,” Montgomerie told the Daily Mail of London. “There's definitely a game that goes on between the captains, and it seems to make a difference psychologically, as to what happens when the action begins.”

Montgomerie alluded to American Hal Sutton and European Nick Faldo for making speeches that failed to inspire.

“It's part of a trend, where the team whose captain gives the best speech tends to start well the next day and that sets the tone for the match itself.” Montgomerie said. “I know how important it is from how it made me feel. In 2004, Bernhard Langer gave a brilliant, ambassadorial speech and we lost only one-and-a-half points on the opening day. Azinger gave the best American speech in recent times and his team came flying out of the blocks.

“So my job is to make sure my team leaves that opening ceremony on Thursday, and they're thinking to themselves: 'Captain Monty, I think we're going to be all right in his hands.'”

Oddly, Montgomerie confessed he enters this Ryder Cup having already prepared both a winning and losing speech.

Camaraderie, bonding, inspired speeches.

Their effects are impossible to truly measure. And yet if this Ryder Cup comes down to a single missed putt, it’s likely the multiple autopsies sure to follow will offer up some profound psychological reason the putt fell or didn’t fall.

Bunker shot: First, there was speculation American captain Corey Pavin might not choose Tiger Woods as a captain’s pick if Woods didn’t make the team on points. Then Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy announced that he would love to play Woods in the Ryder Cup and that every European player would “fancy his chances” against the slumping Woods. Just last week, NBC’s Johnny Miller pointed out that Woods has failed to lead in Ryder Cups. And now, there’s speculation Woods might spend some time on the bench for the first time in his Ryder Cup career. The world’s No. 1 player arrives in Wales with a large supply of the best fuel in sports: disrespect.

Mell’s pick: Europe wins 14 ½ to 13 ½.

  • Course: Celtic Manor’s The Twenty Ten Course, Newport Wales. Par 71, 7,378 yards.
  • Purse: None.
  • TV times: Friday, ESPN, 2:30 a.m.-1 p.m. (ET); Saturday, NBC, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. (ET, tape delay); Sunday, NBC, 7 a.m.-1 p.m. (ET).
  • Last time: The Americans rallied without Tiger Woods, ending a three-event losing streak with a 16 ½ to 11 ½ victory against the Europeans.

PGA TOURPGA Tour (75x100)

Viking Classic

A week after the FedEx Cup Playoffs end, the PGA Tour gets back to basics with the first of five Fall Series events.

Golf’s rank-and-file get serious about the business of securing PGA Tour cards for 2011.

Sean O’Hair is the only player among the top 60 in the world rankings in the field this week. He’s No. 25. Heath Slocum is the next highest ranked player teeing it up at No. 61. Count John Daly, David Duval, David Toms, Charles Howell III, Rocco Mediate and Boo Weekley among the biggest names in the event.

Bunker shot: It’s Bubble Boy season. The Fall Series begins with Chris Stroud as Mr. Bubble Boy at No. 125 on the money list. He’ll try to hold that spot through the season finale, the Children’s Miracle Network Classic (Nov. 11-14). The biggest names outside the top 125 who are in danger of losing fully exempt status for 2011 are Jonathan Byrd (No. 130), Rocco Mediate (No. 188) and John Daly (No. 194).

Mell’s picks: Winner – Brian Gay. Contender – Chad Campbell. Darkhorse – Woody Austin.

  • Course: Annandale Golf Club, Madison, Miss. Par 72, 7,199 yards.
  • Purse: $3.6 million (winner’s share, $648,000).
  • TV times: Thursday-Sunday, Golf Channel, 8-10 p.m. (ET).
  • Last year: Event rained out, unplayable course conditions.

CHAMPIONS TOURChampions Tour

Ensure Classic at Rock Barn

Jay Haas is back to defend his title in a bid to win for the first time this season.

Haas, 56, has won 14 Champions Tour titles but none since the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship almost a year ago.

Bunker shot: A hand full of players may have trouble playing cross eyed this weekend. There are four former Ryder Cup captains likely to be playing with one eye on the Ensure Classic and another on the Ryder Cup matches at Celtic Manor. Tom Kite, Hal Sutton, Mark James and Bernhard Langer all served as captains. Nearly a quarter of the Ensure Classic field played in a Ryder Cup.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Jay Haas. Contender – Bernhard Langer. Darkhorse – Hal Sutton.

  • Course: Rock Barn Golf & Spa, Conover, N.C. Par 72, 7,046 yards.
  • Purse: $1.75 million (winner’s share, $262,500).
  • TV times: Friday-Sunday, Golf Channel, 2-4 p.m. (ET).
  • Last year: Jay Haas closed with a 65 to defeat Russ Cochran and Andy Beach by two shots.

NATIONWIDE TOURNationwide Tour

Soboba Golf Classic

With just five events remaining, the pressure builds.

Every player among the top 30 on the Nationwide Tour money list is teeing it up this week.

At season’s end, the top 25 earn promotions to the PGA Tour.

Bunker shots: Life changing leaps will occur in golf’s best developmental league over the next five weeks. Nate Smith took a large one Sunday winning the WNB Golf Classic. With his victory, he leaped from 78th on the money list to 25th. That makes him the Nationwide Tour Bubble Boy this week.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Jamie Lovemark. Contender – Kevin Chappell. Darkhorse – J.J. Killeen.

  • Course: Country Club at Soboba Springs, San Jacinto, Calif. Par 71, 7101 yards.
  • Purse: $1 million (winner’s share, $180,000).
  • TV times: Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel, 4-6 p.m.
  • Last year: Jerod Turner defeated Derek Lamely by two shots.
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Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.


Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters


Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

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In Buick win, Kang overcame demons of mind and spirit

By Randall MellOctober 21, 2018, 3:33 pm

Danielle Kang beat three of the most formidable foes in golf Sunday to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai.

Anxiety.

Frustration.

Anger.

Kang overcame these demons of mind and spirit to win for the second time on tour, backing up her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory last year.

“I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said.

Kang birdied four of the last eight holes to close with a 3-under-par 69, coming from one shot back in the final round to win. At 13-under 275, she finished two shots ahead of a pack of seven players, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (66).

It hasn’t been easy for Kang trying to build on her major championship breakthrough last year. She started the fall Asian swing having missed three cuts in a row, five in her last six starts.

“I had to go through swing changes,” Kang said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.

“I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball. This week I just kept trusting my golf game.”

Through her swoon, Kang said she was struggling to get the club back, that she was getting mentally stuck to where she could not begin her takeaway. She sought out Butch Harmon, back at her Las Vegas home, for help. She said tying for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week felt like a victory, though she was still battling her demons there.

“Anxiety over tee balls,” Kang said. “People might wonder what I'm doing. I actually can't pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”

Kang, who turned 26 on Saturday, broke through to win last year under swing coach David Leadbetter, but she began working with Harmon while struggling in the second half this year.


Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos


“I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang said. “Things just weren't going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn't do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn't putt freely.”

Kang said her anger and frustration built up again on the front nine Sunday. She made the turn at 1 over for the round. She said her caddie, Oliver Brett, helped her exorcise some anger. After the ninth hole, he pulled her aside.

This is how Kang remembered the conversation:

Brett: “Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.”

Kang: “Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.”

Brett: “Here's a wedge. Just smash it.”

Kang did.

“Honestly, I thank him for that,” Kang said. “He told me there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped, and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things changed and momentum started going my way. I started hitting it closer and felt better over the putts.”

Kang said the victory was all about finding a better place mentally.

“I'm just so happy to be where I'm at today,” Kang said. “I'm just happy that I won.

“More so than anything, I'm finally at a place where I'm peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.”

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Goal for new world No. 1 Koepka: Stay healthy

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 1:38 pm

Last season Brooks Koepka bagged a pair of majors en route to the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award. He started the new wraparound season with an emphatic win at the CJ Cup to reach world No. 1 for the first time.

But amid the best form of his career, Koepka has a simple goal in mind as he gets ready to turn his attention to the new year.

"Stay healthy," Koepka told reporters. "That's been the big thing. I need to be healthy to be able to play all these events, play all the majors."

Koepka's breakthrough year comes despite the fact that he missed four months in the spring, including the Masters, while recovering from a wrist injury. He hit the ground running once he returned, with strong finishes at TPC Sawgrass and Colonial preceding wins at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

Now Koepka has added a third trophy after cruising to a four-shot win in South Korea on Sunday that allowed him to move past Dustin Johnson at world No. 1.

"I'm 1-for-1 this year, which is nice," Koepka joked about his undefeated record in the new wraparound season.

Koepka will be in the field next week in China for the WGC-HSBC Champions before putting the clubs on the shelf. With Justin Thomas paving the way by making the goal-setting process more public in recent years, Koepka explained that even after summiting the world rankings he plans to wait until 2019 to adjust his expectations for himself.

"I keep the same goals through the calendar year," Koepka said. "On Jan. 1 I go to the beach in the morning and go write down my goals and figure them out for the calendar year, but I just need to finish this year off. I've got next week and I would like to, coming out the first week as No. 1, I'd like to play well."

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Birdie binge for Woodland comes up short at CJ Cup

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 12:52 pm

Gary Woodland mounted an impressive rally at the CJ Cup, but in the end even 11 birdies weren't enough to catch Brooks Koepka.

Woodland started the final round in South Korea five shots behind the new world No. 1, but he made the biggest move of the day amid chilly conditions on Jeju Island. With six birdies over his first nine holes, including four in a row on Nos. 6-9, he briefly caught Koepka at the top of the leaderboard.

But Woodland bogeyed No. 10, and even with five more birdies coming home to finish a 9-under 63 he still finished alone in second, four shots behind Koepka who closed with a bogey-free 29 to put the trophy out of reach.

"Yesterday I didn't get any putts to go in, and today I saw a lot of putts go in," Woodland told reporters. "Brooks with the lead, not much fazes him. So you knew you had to make a lot of birdies, and I made a lot today. But I was just too far behind."

It's the second straight strong performance from Woodland to start the new wraparound season, as he tied for fifth at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia after holding a share of the 54-hole lead. A closing 63 would have gone a long way last week, but he was still pleased to be able to make Koepka sweat a little on a day when even the bad holes resulted from good shots.

"I made two bogeys on the back and I said, 'Be right' on both shots," Woodland said. "I was just maybe a little too amped up, a little excited. I hit them both perfect. All in all, I would have liked for a couple more putts to go in yesterday and been a little closer going into today."