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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Molinari holds off McIlroy to win BMW PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 3:20 pm

VIRGINIA WATER, England - Rory McIlroy left his victory charge too late at Wentworth as Francesco Molinari delivered a clinic in front-running to win the BMW PGA Championship by two shots with a 4-under 68 on Sunday.

McIlroy, who led by three shots at halfway, entered the final round tied for the lead with Molinari on 13 under par but a Sunday shootout at the European Tour's flagship event never really materialized.

Instead, as McIlroy toiled to a 70 that was propped up by birdies on the par fives at Nos. 17 and 18, Molinari went bogey-free for a second straight day to claim the fifth victory of his career and the biggest since a World Golf Championship in Shanghai in 2010.

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

The Italian only dropped two shots all week and finished on 17-under 271, with McIlroy alone in second place. Alex Noren (67) and Lucas Bjerregaard (65) were tied for third place a stroke further back.

Molinari moved into the automatic qualifying places for the Ryder Cup, which he hasn't played since 2012 when Europe beat the United States in the so-called ''Miracle at Medinah.''

He'd previously had five top-10 finishes in the last six years at Wentworth, including being runner-up to Noren last year.

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Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:19 am

IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.

Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.

Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.

Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.

Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.