Momentum favoring International team at Presidents Cup

By Randall MellOctober 10, 2009, 5:30 am

Presidents CupSAN FRANCISCO – What’s Justin Leonard going to do now?

When the Internationals stole momentum from the Americans with a late rally on Day 1 of the Presidents Cup, Leonard had a clever answer.

After missing a 3-foot putt in a confusing finish Thursday, Leonard left the course with shoulders slumped and head down.

The next time teammates saw Leonard, he was marching into the team room, slamming the door behind him. He made a beeline to the bar, where he had five shot glasses lined up for him. He proceeded to throw back the shots, one after another with barely a breath between. And then he chugged a bottle of beer.

Greg Norman Presidents Cup
International captain Greg Norman cheers Tim Clark's eagle Friday. (Getty Images)
Unbeknownst to his fellow Americans, Leonard arranged for caddie Mike “Fluff” Cowan to fill the shot glasses with water.

“The beer tasted a lot better than the water did,” Leonard said. “I think a few of the girls were a little nervous for me when I was doing that, but my wife said she just kind of rolled her eyes. She knew exactly what I was doing.”

And what was that?

“Just to kind of let everyone know I was OK,” Leonard said.

Another stunt might have been needed after Day 2 ended.

The Americans still lead, but sometimes scoreboards don’t make sense.

For two days now, play has ended with the big electronic television screen at the 18th green telling us something that didn’t quite register.

The scoreboard showed the Americans leading 6 ½ - 5 ½ Friday, but it sure didn’t feel that way, not with the Internationals winning the final hole in thrilling fashion, not with captain Greg Norman’s team celebrating in the fading light with so many American fans staggering out of the bleachers in stupefied silence.

When Tim Clark rolled in the last putt of the day, a 14-foot eagle at the final hole, he turned the day upside down.

Clark, the diminutive South African who delivered the day’s giant-sized shot, put an exclamation point on another late rally by the Internationals.

One down with two to play, Clark and Vijay Singh won the final two holes to defeat Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink.

Down in five of six matches, the Internationals rallied to split the first round of fourball.

The scoreboard may show the Americans ahead, but the Internationals felt as if they won the day with their comeback.

“We feel like today we’ve come out a little ahead, certainly after that start,” Clark said. “It certainly didn’t look good there for awhile. We are feeling good.

“We have got to think that they have to be, not down, but they may feel like they let a few points slip. It seems like most of the close matches that come down to the last couple holes, we have been able to salvage a halve, or even win a point, which is huge.”

The Internationals have owned the last hole this week.

Clark’s eagle at the 18th was the second of the day by the Internationals. Mike Weir stole another match earlier with his eagle there.

That ought to make American captain Fred Couples nervous.

The Internationals closed hard on Day 1 when Leonard missed that short putt that left the Americans with a one-point lead instead of a two-point cushion. Leonard might have been thrown off over confusion as to whether Retief Goosen was going to concede that last putt, but the miss gave the Internationals a lift.

“It’s a two-point swing, in a way,” Clark said.

Clark, a short hitter, delivered in the clutch at the 18th hole, a 525-yard par 5. He hit a 3-wood from 251 yards to 14 feet to set up his closing eagle.

“I got on the tee not knowing if I could actually reach the hole in two,” Clark said. “In the practice round, I didn’t get there.”

Clark’s putt barely creeped in, curling around and in the cup as it lost speed. His knees buckled when it disappeared.

“Really a shot in the arm,” Norman said. “I can tell you our team cabin is very, very happy right now and very excited about the way we turned things around. It really could have been a disastrous situation.”

If these matches get to Sunday with the Internationals close, they’ll take a lot of confidence to the 18th hole.

Before Clark’s big finish Friday, Weir and Ernie Els closed hard there, coming from 1 down with three holes to play to defeat Jim Furyk and Anthony Kim, 2 up. Weir hit a 3-wood from 255 yards to 21 feet for a conceded eagle.

Couples tipped his cap to Norman’s team, but he saw Leonard’s stunt. He knows the confidence his team carries. He knows how hot Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker and Phil Mickelson are.

“Timmy Clark eagling that last hole was a big boost for them,” Couples said. “At the same time, our guys are awfully excited about the way they are playing.”
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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 2:30 pm

Tiger Woods shot his second consecutive 70 on Friday at Carnoustie and enters weekend play at even par for the championship, still in contention for major No. 15.

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Scott and Sunesson a one-week partnership

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 2:13 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Adam Scott has been in between caddies for the last month and went with a bold stand-in for this week’s Open Championship, coaxing veteran looper Fanny Sunesson out of retirement to work for him at Carnoustie.

Sunesson caddied for Nick Faldo in his prime, as the duo won four major titles together. She also worked for Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia before a back injury forced her to retire.

But for this week’s championship, Scott convinced the Swede to return to the caddie corps. The results have been impressive, with the Australian following an opening 71 with a second-round 70 for a tie for 16th place.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It's been going great. Fanny is, obviously, a fantastic caddie, and to be able to have that experience out there with me is certainly comforting,” Scott said. “We've gotten along really well. She's picked up on my game quickly, and I think we think about things in a very similar way.”

Scott was also asked about a potential long-term partnership between the duo, but he didn’t sound hopeful.

“It's just for this week,” he said. “It would be up to her, but I don't think she's making plans of a comeback. I was being a bit opportunistic in contacting her and coaxing her out of retirement, I guess. But I think she's having a good week. We'll just take it one week at the moment.”

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After tense Augusta Sunday, Rory ready to be aggressive

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 1:51 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy temporarily lost his superpowers during the Masters.  

In one of the most surprising rounds of the year, he played tentatively and carefully during the final day. Squaring off against the major-less Patrick Reed, on the brink of history, with the backing of nearly the entire crowd, it was McIlroy who shrank in the moment, who looked like the one searching for validation. He shot a joyless 74 and wound up six shots behind Reed.

No, the final round was nowhere near as dispiriting as the finale in 2011, but McIlroy still sulked the following week. He binge-watched TV shows. Devoured a few books. Guzzled a couple of bottles of wine. His pity party lasted a few days, until his wife, Erica, finally dragged him out of the house for a walk.

Some deeper introspection was required, and McIlroy revealed a healthier self-analysis Friday at Carnoustie. He diagnosed what went wrong at Augusta, and then again two months later at the U.S. Open, where he blew himself out of the tournament with an opening 80.

“I was worrying too much about the result, not focusing on the process,” he said. “Sunday at Augusta was a big learning curve for me because, even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but I went down swinging and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

And so McIlroy has a new mantra this week at The Open.

Let it go.

Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the repercussions. Don’t play scared.

“I’m committed to making sure, even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving my best,” he said. “The result is the byproduct of all the little things you do to lead up to that. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that, and I just need to get back in that mindset.”

It’s worked through two rounds, even after the cool, damp conditions led McIlroy to abandon his ultra-aggressive strategy. He offset a few mistakes with four birdies, shooting a second consecutive 69 to sit just a couple of shots off the lead.

During a sun-splashed first round, McIlroy gleefully banged driver on almost every hole, flying or skirting the bunkers that dot these baked-out, undulating fairways. He wasn’t particularly accurate, but he also didn’t need to be, as the thin, wispy rough enabled every player to at least advance their approach shots near the green.

Friday’s weather presented a different challenge. A steady morning rain took some of the fire out of parched fairways, but the cooler temperatures also reduced much of the bombers’ hang time. Suddenly, all of the bunkers were in play, and McIlroy needed to adjust his driver-heavy approach (he hit only six) on the fly.

“It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.

McIlroy hit a few “skanky” shots, in his words, but even his bigger misses – on the sixth and 17th holes – were on the proper side, allowing him to scramble for par and keep the round going.

It’s the fifth time in his career that he’s opened a major with back-to-back rounds in the 60s. He’s gone on to win three of the previous four – the lone exception that disastrous final round (80) at Augusta in 2011.

“I don’t want to say easy,” he said, “but it’s felt comfortable.”

The weekend gets uncomfortable for everyone, apparently even four-time major winners who, when in form, ooze confidence and swagger.

Once again McIlroy has that look at a major.

The only thing left to do?

Let it go.

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Z. Johnson may have to pay for the jet home

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 1:23 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Zach Johnson will have some bragging rights when he gets back to the ultimate golf frat house on Friday after a second-round 67 moved him into the lead at The Open.

Johnson is rooming with Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Kevin Kisner, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler this week at Carnoustie. It’s a tradition that began two years ago at Royal Troon.

Kisner joked on Thursday after he took the first-round lead that the perks for the house/tournament front-runner were limited: “I probably get to eat first,” he said.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

There is, however, one running wager.

“Two years ago we, I don't know if you call it bet, but agreement that, if you win, you get the jet and you buy it, so we go home,” said Johnson, who added that because of varying travel arrangements, the wager might not be needed this year. “I didn't pay last year. Somebody else did.”

Spieth won last year’s championship at Royal Birkdale.

Despite the expense, Johnson said he didn’t know how much it costs to charter a private flight back to the United States, but it’s a good problem to have.

“I’d be happy to fork it over,” he smiled.