Momentum is a Fickle Master

By Randall MellOctober 2, 2010, 1:51 am

Ryder Cup

NEWPORT, Wales – The United States looked like it was going to lose another Ryder Cup before the first shot was struck.

You wondered Friday at Celtic Manor if another debacle engineered by an American captain had sealed his team’s fate long before his players arrived for the matches.

Six years ago, you could argue the American team was destined to lose in that record rout at Oakland Hills the moment captain Hal Sutton chose to pair Phil Mickelson with Tiger Woods and send them out for the opening fourballs.

You wondered Friday if something equally perplexing was going to doom this year’s team.

You wondered after you saw Tiger Woods peel off the top of his rain suit to hit his opening tee shot with a chilling rain blowing sideways. You wondered when you heard American players and caddies were griping because the rain gear issued to them was leaking, water logged and handicapping their chances of winning in Wales’ foul weather. You wondered when you heard the PGA of America made an emergency run to the merchandise center in a long rain delay to purchase 20 new rain suits to replace the ones the American captain and his wife handpicked for the team to wear. 

Ian Poulter
Momentum swung both ways on Day 1. (Getty Images)

You wondered if the soggy Sun Mountain rain gear had unforgivingly tilted this event Europe’s way in this nasty Welsh weather.

Wonder, though, took some wild turns in a long, miserable opening day to this Ryder Cup.

Momentum is the Ryder Cup’s magical ingredient, a phenomenon that packs this event with more dizzying blows than you’ll see in any other golf competition.

It’s a mystical force that can turn goats into golf heroes and dunces into geniuses.

Because that’s the course American Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin is wildly riding. He seems destined to be momentum’s darling this week, to be remembered in the most dramatically diverse terms because the decisions he has made have thrust him so far into the heart of this competition. If he isn’t the goat at week’s end, he’s got to be the genius.

Pavin is the man who bungled his team’s introduction at the opening ceremony, where he forgot Stewart Cink. He’s the guy who sent out rookies Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton in the final game in the opening fourballs. And he’s the husband who let his wife choose the malfunctioning rain gear that was so important under these dour, wet Welsh skies.

That’s the hole Pavin was perceived to have dug before these matches even began, but he left the course on a swift climb upwards.

Momentum is having its way with both teams.

You saw it belting both the Americans and Europeans in haymaker fashion even on a day so limited by bad weather than no team finished more than 13 holes.

With the Welsh skies opened and rain pelting the Usk Valley home of Celtic Manor at morning’s start, the Europeans struck quickly.

They seized leads in three of the four fourball matches when the rain finally got so heavy play was suspended.

“Our team room’s obviously happier than our opponents right now,” European captain Colin Montgomerie said in a suspension of play that would last 7 hours and 18 minutes.

Through the delay, European players could be seen giddily bouncing in and out of the clubhouse, mingling with fans and beaming with confidence in Sky Sports TV interviews over their fast start. Confidence was so high, they practically mocked the Americans upon hearing their opponents were abandoning their rain gear.

“Just have to say our waterproofs are performing well,” Europe’s Rory McIlroy tweeted during the rain delay.

Ryder Cup momentum, though, is a cruel and fickle master of this event.

When the rains subsided, and play finally resumed, a drier American team that didn’t even need its rain suits regained some form, found some rhythm and made a hard charge with the sun setting.

A flurry of terrific shots put Europe on its heels.

“The way the U.S. team came back and performed, I’m very proud of them,” Pavin said.

Stewart Cink holed a 20-foot birdie at the seventh hole to give himself and Matt Kuchar their first lead against the Northern Ireland tandem of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. It was one of three monster putts he holed on the day.

Phil Mickelson made three birdies in a row before dark in teaming with Dustin Johnson to cut Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer’s 3-up advantage to 1 up.

Woods got up and down for birdie at the ninth hole with partner Steve Stricker watching to give the Americans their first lead in that match against Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher.

The blows were dizzying in that finish at dusk but Poulter got in the last to prevent the Americans from taking a lead in three of the four matches to bed before Saturday’s resumption of play. Poulter holed a 20-foot birdie to square the match.

Pavin’s much scrutinized rookie tandem of Overton and Watson were making him look good clinging to a surprising 1-up lead against Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington.

With the sun sinking over these suspended matches, the bounce was gone in Europe’s step with the Americans leading in two matches, all square in one and down in just one.

You could see the change in Montgomerie’s face when he met the media afterward. He looked like he was wearing a leaking rain suit.

“This will ebb and flow for the next two days,” Montgomerie said. “You’ll see 20 minutes of good from Europe and 20 minutes of good from the USA. I always said this was going to be close, and I don’t think anything less right now.”

It will likely come down to who commands momentum’s last favor.

Getty Images

Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 10:25 pm

Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.

Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.

And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.

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Jutanugarn sisters: Different styles, similar results

By Associated PressMay 23, 2018, 10:20 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn play golf and live life differently.

The sisters from Thailand do have the same goal in the LPGA, hoping their shot-to-shot focus leads to titles.

The Jutanugarns are two of six women with a shot at the Volvik Championship to become the circuit's first two-time winner this year. The first round begins Thursday at Travis Pointe Country Club, a course six winners are skipping to prepare elsewhere for next week's U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama.

''Everybody has a chance to win every weekend,'' Moriya said. ''That's how hard it is on tour right now.''

Ariya competes with a grip-it-and-rip-it approach, usually hammering a 3-wood off the tee.

Moriya takes a more calculated approach, analyzing each shot patiently.

That's perhaps fitting because she's 16 months older than her sister.

''It's funny because when we think about something, it's always the different,'' she said. ''But we pretty much end up with the same idea.''

Off the course, they're also different.

The 22-year-old Ariya appears careful and guarded when having conversations with people she doesn't know well. The 23-year-old Moriya, meanwhile, enjoys engaging in interesting discussions with those who cross her path.

Their mother, Narumon, was with her daughters Wednesday and the three of them always stay together as a family. They don't cook during tournament weeks and opt to eat out, searching for good places like the sushi restaurant they've discovered near Travis Pointe.

Their father, Somboon, does not watch them play in person. They sisters say he has retired from owning a golf shop in Thailand.

''He doesn't travel anymore,'' Moriya Jutanugarn said.

Even if he is relegating to watching from the other side of the world, Somboon Jutanugarn must be proud of the way his daughters are playing.

Ariya became the first Thai winner in LPGA history in 2016, the same year she went on to win the inaugural Volvik Championship. She earned her eighth career victory last week in Virginia and is one of two players, along with Brooke Henderson, to have LPGA victories this year and the previous two years.

Moriya won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles, joining Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the two pairs of sisters to have LPGA victories.

On the money list, Ariya is No. 1 and her sister is third.

In terms of playing regularly, no one is ahead of them.

Ariya is the only LPGA player to start and make the cut in all 12 events this year. Moriya Jutanugarn has also appeared in each tournament this year and failed to make the cut only once.

Instead of working in breaks to practice without competing or simply relax, they have entered every tournament so far and shrug their shoulders at the feat.

''It's not that bad, like 10 week in a row,'' Moriya said.

The LPGA is hosting an event about five miles from Michigan Stadium for a third straight year and hopes to keep coming back even though it doesn't have a title sponsor secured for 2019. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan told reporters he's confident Ann Arbor will be a long-term home for the circuit.

''I can't tell you the specifics about how we're going to do that,'' Whan acknowledged.

LPGA and tournament officials are hosting some prospective sponsors this week, trying to persuade them to put their name on the tournament.

Volvik, which makes golf balls, is preparing to scale back its support of the tournament.

''We're coming back,'' said Don Shin, president of Volvik USA. ''We just don't know in what capacity.''

Getty Images

Wise: 'No hard feelings' over Nelson missed kiss

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 10:18 pm

Aaron Wise left the AT&T Byron Nelson with his first PGA Tour trophy and a seven-figure paycheck. But lost in the shuffle of closing out his breakthrough victory in near-darkness was his failed attempt for a celebratory kiss with his girlfriend on the 18th green.

Wise appeared to go in for a peck after his family joined him on the putting surface, but instead he and his girlfriend simply laughed and hugged. After the moment gained a bit of online notoriety, Wise told reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the young couple simply laughed it off.

"Yeah, I have been giving her some s--- about that," Wise said. "A lot has been made about it. It's really nothing. Like I was saying, she was just so excited to surprise me. I was kind of ruining the surprise a little bit that she was shocked, and she didn't even see me going in for the kiss."

At age 21, Wise is now one of the youngest winners on Tour. He explained that while both his girlfriend and mother flew in to watch the final round at Trinity Forest Golf Club, where he shared the 54-hole lead and eventually won by three shots, he took some of the surprise out of their arrival in true millennial fashion - by looking up his girlfriend's location earlier in the day.

Still getting used to his newfound status on Tour, Wise downplayed any controversy surrounding the kiss that wasn't.

"No hard feelings at all," Wise said. "We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was."

Mmm Visuals / Lancaster Country Club

Giving back: Chun creates education fund at site of Open win

By Randall MellMay 23, 2018, 8:04 pm

South Korea’s In Gee Chun is investing in American youth.

Chun broke through on the largest stage in women’s golf, winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago, and she’s making sure Lancaster, Pa., continues to share in what that brought her.

Chun is preparing for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham, Ala., but she made a special stop this week. She returned to the site of her breakthrough in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday, launching the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Education Fund. She announced Tuesday that she’s donating $10,000 to seed the fund. She’s expected to raise more than $20,000 for the cause in a fundraising dinner at the club Wednesday evening. The fund will annually award scholarships to Lancaster youth applicants, including Lancaster Country Club caddies and children of club employees.

“I’m excited to be back here,” said Chun, who put on a junior clinic during her stay and also played an outing with club members. “Winning the U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster gave me the opportunity to play on the LPGA and make one of my dreams come true.”

Chun also supports a fund in her name at Korea University, where she graduated, a fund for various “social responsibility” projects and for the educational needs of the youth who create them.

“Education is very important to me,” Chun said. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”

Chun made donations to the Lancaster General Health Foundation in 2015 and ’16 and to Pennsylvania’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust last year. Lancaster Country Club officials estimate she has now made donations in excess of $40,000 to the community.

“We are grateful In Gee’s made such a wonderful connection to our community and club,” said Rory Connaughton, a member of Lancaster Country Club’s board of governors. “She’s a special person.”