Unlike Anything Else

By Randall MellSeptember 30, 2010, 11:33 pm

Ryder Cup

NEWPORT, Wales – This is why the Ryder Cup is spectacularly unlike anything else in golf.

With Graeme McDowell over a shot into the 18th green Thursday at Celtic Manor, the Welsh National Anthem is rolling across the hillside at the Twenty Ten Course.

It’s the kind of music that stirs something ancient in your soul.

It’s an Old World sound that makes you want to charge some castle door.

Or defend one.

The Welsh National Anthem is echoing up from a stage nearby, where Ryder Cup officials are preparing for the opening ceremonies. The fact that this is just a practice round adds to the staggering spectacle. At least 15,000 fans hug the hillside at this one hole with European captain Colin Montgomerie over McDowell’s shoulder in the middle of the fairway. When McDowell coaxes a wedge to within 10 feet of the flagstick, the hillside erupts for a shot that does not count.

Colin Montgomerie
Colin Montgomerie hopes to bring back the cup to Europe. (Getty Images)

It’s just practice, but the Welsh are embracing every dimension of this international event.

The pride this country feels hosting the Ryder Cup is palpable.

The land of my fathers
The land of my choice
The land in which poets and minstrels rejoice
The land whose stern warriors were true to the core
While bleeding for freedom of yore.
Wales! Wales! Fav’rite land of Wales

Those are how the words translate from the Wales’ national anthem. Mark Roe, the three-time European Tour winner working for Sky Sports TV, isn’t even Welsh, but he found the scene profoundly moving.

“I was getting teary,” Roe said.

More than 50,000 fans are expected for Friday’s opening rounds. More than 30,000 turned out for the Welcome to Wales Concert staged Wednesday night for the teams and dignitaries. His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales was there. So was Catherine Zeta-Jones, the Welsh born actress.

“First class from the moment we came here,” Montgomerie said. “This isn’t five-star or six-star, this is seven-star.”

There’s nothing like the Ryder Cup in golf, an event where nationalism and a team concept trump the individualism that distinguishes the game nearly every other week of the year.

It’s golf’s best event because one Ryder Cup is filled with more thrilling and agonizing moments than any single major championship.

The winning and losing isn’t reserved for the final scene in Ryder Cups. There’s winning and losing at the first hole. There’s winning and losing every hole. There’s winning and losing before the first shots are struck. That’s what it felt like Thursday, where American captain Corey Pavin bungled the introduction of his team in the opening ceremony and then came under fire for his opening lineup.

Even Montgomerie couldn’t resist pouncing after Pavin forgot Stewart Cink when introducing his lineup.

“We’re 1 up,” Montgomerie cracked.

Pavin was later grilled for leaving Jim Furyk on the bench for the opening fourballs session a week after Furyk won the Tour Championship and for leaving Hunter Mahan on the bench despite Mahan’s undefeated record in his first and only Ryder Cup two years ago at Valhalla.

“We’ve got a lot of strong hitters on the team, a lot of guys that make a lot of birdies,” Pavin said. “I wanted to get guys out there in better ball that make a lot of birdies.”

Pavin’s decision to play Tiger Woods with Steve Stricker in the third game out instead of the first or last games drew strong reactions, but the biggest second guess of Pavin’s lineup was to play rookies Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton in the last slot.

'Probably the one pairing you wouldn't have guessed,' said Luke Donald, who'll team with Padraig Harrington in that final game.

 Montgomerie sounded like a man setting up his lineup to take down Woods in the first or final games.

“I was expecting Tiger to go first or fourth,' Montgomerie said. 'Tiger being hidden is a different move.”

Montgomerie would love to see Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher take down Woods and Stricker. Beating Woods, even in his current sluggish form, carries more motivational weight on the scoreboard than winning any other match. Montgomerie knows. He and Padraig Harrington teamed to beat Woods and Phil Mickelson in the opening fourballs at Oakland Hills six years ago and Europe went on to win a record rout.

'Anybody that plays Tiger Woods in our team can't wait to play,' Montgomerie said. 'Obviously, the one game you look for, the one man you look for in that team environment.'

Why Woods and Stricker in the third slot?

“I just thought it was a good slot for them, so I put them there,” Pavin said.

When Montgomerie didn’t hear Woods’ name in the first game, he expected to hear it in the last. He didn’t expect Overton and Watson.

“The last game, an important game,” Montgomerie said.

Montgomerie said winning the opening session is important because momentum is such a large factor in these matches. If the home crowd is roaring early, and the home team’s flags litter the board, it takes a toll on the visitors. The winner of the opening session has won the last four Ryder Cups.

“I put a very big importance on tomorrow morning’s session,” Montgomerie said. “Momentum has to be gained early on and then continued through the afternoon to gain the lead Friday evening. That’s my goal. It’s all set up for that, so we gain momentum in the morning.”

Confidence is high on the European side. You can feel it here. Given Pavin’s unsteady start, the lack of inspiration delivered in the speech and the level of second-guessing of his lineup, Montgomerie might be right. Europe feels like it’s 1 up. But you never know. This is the Ryder Cup, where the number of upsets are another reason this is the best event in golf.

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Ahead by four, No. 1 ranking within Koepka's grasp

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 5:48 am

Following a closing birdie and a third-round 67 at Nine Bridges, Brooks Koepka will take a four-shot lead over Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy into final round of the CJ Cup. Here's how Koepka separated himself from the field in South Korea.

Leaderboard: Koepka (-13), Poulter (-9), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-8), Cameron Smith (-8), Jaime Lovemark (-8), Pat Perez (-8), Gary Woodland (-8), Chez Reavie (-8)

What it means: Koepka is in search of his fifth PGA Tour victory and – believe it or not – only his second non-major. The three-time major champion’s only other win came all the way back in February 2015, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. One behind overnight leader Scott Piercy to start the day, Koepka opened with eight straight pars and birdied Nos. 9 and 10 to take the outright lead at 10 under par. He added three more circles at 14, 17 and 18 to close out a bogey-free round of 5 under and go ahead by ahead by four. He'll be chased on Sunday by Piercy, a four-time PGA Tour winner who won the Zurich Classic earlier this year alongside Billy Horschel, and by Poulter, who ended a five-year worldwide winless drought back in April and is coming off a 2-2 performance at the Ryder Cup, with a Sunday singles victory over current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Speaking of which, unless Justin Thomas finds a way to win this tournament from 12 back, Koepka will for the first time ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win or a solo second-place finish.

Round of the day: Four players – Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ted Potter Jr., Jason Day and Brendan Steele – shot 7-under 65 Saturday. Day played his first four holes in 2 over and his final 14 in 9 under.

Best of the rest: Paul Casey, Hideki Matsuyama and Emiliano Grillo signed for 66. Casey went seven straight holes without a par, Matusyama was bogey-free, and Grillo did all his damage on the back nine after nine consecutive pars on the front.

Biggest disappointment: The only previous winner of this event, world No. 4 Justin Thomas entered the week with a chance to take back the No. 1 ranking with a successful title defense. But rounds of 73-70-72 have him 1 under for the week. Thomas played his back nine in 1 over Saturday with six pars, a birdie, a quadruple bogey and a closing eagle.

Shot of the day: Koepka flying his tee shot 330 yards to the front edge of the green at the par-4 14th and going on to two-putt for birdie.

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Watch: Koepka flies ball 330 yards, drives green

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 20, 2018, 4:44 am

It's a good thing par doesn't actually matter in tournament play, because if it did, the PGA Tour would have to consider 350-yard par-3s, and even those might not stop Brooks Koeopka.

Already ahead by two during Saturday's third round at the CJ Cup in South Korea, Koepka drove the green at the par-4 14th, carrying his ball 330 yards to the front edge.

The back-to-back U.S. Open champ would go on to two-putt for birdie and push his lead to three.

... The USGA is going to try that 350-yard par-3 idea, isn't it?

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Bend it like Garcia? Sergio scores in player-caddie soccer match

By Grill Room TeamOctober 20, 2018, 2:44 am

Sergio Garcia has always been able to work his golf ball from left to right, but he's also - apparently - proficient at playing a draw with a soccer ball.

This year's Adalucia Valderrama Masters is suffering through some weather issues. But the highlight of the week - and, according to the Felipe Aguilar, "the year" - was always going to be the event's player-caddie soccer match, which you can see here:

The standout highlight? This bending, left-footed(!) strike from defending champion Sergio Garcia:

"Just a little bit of fun with the caddies and some of the players," Garcia nonchalantly says in the video. "Yeah, just a little bit of running and it was good fun."

Garcia, a diehard Real Madrid fan who kicked off El Clasico in his green jacket back in 2016, has previously appeared in professional matches for CF Borriol, a Tercera Division club in Spain. 

"It's good fun and whenever I'm around I get to practice with them a little bit and play a little bit here and there. This season, I've played probably five games, so not a lot, but I enjoy it," Garcia told CNN back in 2013.

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Dunlap, in 'excruciating pain,' shares early Dominion lead

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:29 pm

RICHMOND, Va. – Scott Dunlap and Fran Quinn shot 5-under 67 on Friday to share the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Fighting a left wrist injury that will require surgery, Dunlap matched Quinn with a closing birdie on the par-5 18th on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''Maybe excruciating pain is the key to playing good golf because I'm not getting nervous on a shot, you're just trying to get through it,'' Dunlap said. ''The worst parts are gripping it and getting the club started ... that's when that bone hits that bone.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

The 55-year-old Dunlap entered the week 29th in the standings. Playing through the wrist injury, he's coming off ties for ninth and seventh in his last two starts.

''I think I finally taped it the right way,'' Dunlap said. ''Or maybe it's the pain meds kicking in. I don't know, one of the two.''

Quinn is 64th in the standings.

''I finished up strong last year, too, kind of secured my privileges for the following year making eagle on 18,'' Quinn said. ''I played solid all day. I had a lot of opportunities. A couple hiccups.''

Jay Haas was a stroke back with Kent Jones, Stephen Ames, Woody Austin and Tim Petrovic. The 64-year-old Haas won the last of his 18 senior titles in 2016.

Vijay Singh and Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, were at 69 with Joey Sindelar, Tom Gillis, Billy MayfairLee Janzen, Glen Day and Gene Sauers.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer opened with a 70. The 61-year-old German star won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the points lead. He has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

Defending Charles Schwab Cup champion Kevin Sutherland had a 71. He's 14th in the standings. No. 3 Jerry Kelly shot 72. No. 4 Scott McCarron, the 2016 tournament winner, had a 74.