Europe hands U.S. yet another Ryder Cup loss

By Rex HoggardSeptember 28, 2014, 7:26 pm

GLENEAGLES, Scotland – Nothing went right for the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Not the captain’s picks, who went 2-5-2 at Gleneagles. Not the disabled list, which relegated Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and Jason Dufner to the role of distant cheerleaders. Not even a golf course that was distinctly American - it was after all designed by Jack Nicklaus.

And most certainly not the biennial guessing game that is what separates good Ryder Cup captains from the losers.

In 1993 then-captain Tom Watson made all the right moves to lead the last U.S. team to an away-game victory. This week in the Scottish hills the legend was outcoached.

“They played better golf than we did, and the bottom line is that the results spoke of that. The disappointment is going to sit for a long time,” Watson figured, looking every minute of his 65 years late Sunday following his team’s 16 1/2-to-11 1/2 loss.

Historians will fixate on the U.S. team’s failed rally on Sunday, no matter how unrealistic it may have been, as the rock that sank the metaphorical ship, but these matches turned on Friday and Saturday afternoon when the Americans went 0-6-2 in foursomes play.

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On Friday, Phil Mickelson, playing in his record 10th Ryder Cup, looked tired and America’s alternate-shot core of Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan was outmatched and failed to earn even a half-point.

“They took us down in the alternate shot,” Watson said. “That's where the matches really turned. You look at how many under they were, and we were actually collectively over par in all our matches in the alternate shot in the wind, especially the first day.”

By the time rookies Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed stepped to the first tee on Sunday to lead off the session the U.S. was trailing 10-6 with an entire continent, not to mention history, vying against them.

The U.S. team’s Sunday blueprint was well established. In 1999 when the U.S. team rallied from a similar 10-6 hole they won six of the first 12 singles matches to complete the comeback and in ’12 the Europeans claimed the day’s first five flags to pull off the same rally.

The U.S. team responded, at least initially, with American flags flying in eight matches by mid-afternoon, but slowly, methodically, the Europeans chipped away at the idea of glory at Gleneagles.

Give Northern Ireland the assist for circumventing the rally with the team’s two Ulsterman singlehandedly taking the fight out of the U.S. early.

First, Rory McIlroy played his first three holes in 4 under par and closed out Rickie Fowler, 5 and 4, and then Graeme McDowell did what Graeme McDowell does.

Down three holes at the turn, McDowell won the next four to mar an otherwise stunning singles debut for Spieth, who played his last eight holes in 3 over.

Add the decision to give McDowell the lead-off spot on Sunday, a notion that dates back nearly two years, to the litany of flawless chess moves McGinley made at Gleneagles. If Paul Azinger cracked the code for the U.S. team in 2008, the Irishman perfected the template. Not that the self-deprecating leader had any interest in the credit.

“I didn’t execute the plan, all these guys did,” McGinley said. “I know how difficult it is to play in a Ryder Cup, but we relish this challenge and did so with a smile on our face which is so important.”

Even without the wild-eyed brilliance of Ian Poulter, who was inexplicably quiet for much of the week, the European captain battled complacency with a poise and presence that belies the diminutive captain’s stature, both physically and metaphorically.

Instead it was Jamie Donaldson and Victor Dubuisson – with a good measure of help from Justin Rose – who delivered Europe’s eighth Ryder Cup victory in the last 10 matches. The little-known twosome were a combined 5-1-1 for Captain Paul. To put that in context, those two outscored America’s six major championship winners on this year’s team who combined to produce just five points.

“It was lucky it came down to my match and just happened to be that way,” said Donaldson, who clinched the victory with a walk-off pitching wedge to a foot at the 15th hole for a 4-and-3 victory over Keegan Bradley to end what had already become a forgone conclusion.

“The most important thing this week is that the team won. We had an inspirational captain this week, and we all came together as a team to play well enough to win the Ryder Cup.”

If the Americans are going to make a game of future cups, they may want to consider mandating that Nick Faldo, who rankled the European team this week by saying Sergio Garcia was “useless” during the ’08 matches, be the all-time captain.

If the PGA of America learned anything from the Old Tom experiment, it is that a captain can make the difference, a point Mickelson made clear in a not-so-subtle indictment of his leader this week.

“There were two things that allowed us to play our best I think that Paul Azinger (the 2008 captain) did,” Mickelson said. “One was he got everybody invested in the process. ... The other thing that Paul did really well was he had a great game plan for us.

“We use that same process in the Presidents Cup and we do really well. Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula.”

Watson fired back moments later in an awkward exchange during the U.S. news conference, which included all 12 players and their captain, “You know, it takes 12 players to win. It's not pods. It's 12 players.”

It seems Watson lost the team room long before the Ryder Cup.

If there was a silver lining amid the gloom that hung low over Gleneagles for the U.S. side it was the play of its three rookies. Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth and Jimmy Walker combined to contribute 8 1/2 points, more than half of the American team total.

Reed, the first American rookie to go 3-0-0 in his debut since Mickelson in ’95, closed the week in emotional style with a gritty 1-up victory over Henrik Stenson. The sometimes-abrasive Reed fist-pumped and prodded his way to an undefeated 3-0-1 record and has the look of being America’s answer to Poulter’s enthusiasm.

But all that was little solace for another defeated American team.

“If I could put my finger on it, I would have changed this s--- a long time ago but we haven't and we are going to keep searching,” Furyk said.

As the European team celebrated yet another victory, the U.S. side set out into a cold Scottish night in search of those elusive answers.

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With baby on the way, Piller WDs from Zurich

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 2:45 pm

AVONDALE, La. – With wife Gerina set to give birth to their first child, Martin Piller figured he’d need to check his phone every few holes at the Zurich Classic.

He didn’t even make it that far.

Piller withdrew before the start of the first round Thursday.

Piller’s partner, Joel Dahmen, who only got into the field because of Piller’s status as the team’s A player, was allowed to remain in the event.

Piller was replaced in the field by Denny McCarthy. The new team of McCarthy-Dahmen will tee off at 2:36 p.m. ET.

The format change at the Zurich should make things easier for the new teammates. The first round is now best ball, not alternate shot.

The only event that Gerina, a three-time U.S. Solheim Cupper, has played this season was the Diamond Resorts Invitational in January. The couple’s baby was due May 3, and she said that she plans to take off the entire year.

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China's Jin (64) leads by one in Beijing

By Associated PressApril 26, 2018, 12:28 pm

BEIJING – Daxing Jin took a one-stroke lead at the China Open after shooting an 8-under 64 Thursday in the first round.

Jin's bogey-free round at the Topwin Golf and Country Club included six birdies and an eagle on the par-5 eighth. The 25-year-old Jin is playing in only his eighth European Tour event and has made the cut only once.

Matt Wallace (65) had an eagle-birdie finish to move into a tie for second with Nino Bertasio, who also produced a bogey-free round. Alexander Bjork and Scott Vincent (66) were a further stroke back.

Defending champion Alexander Levy, who won last week's Trophee Hassan II in Morocco, is in a large group five shots off the lead at 3 under.

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Putting prepared Park's path back to No. 1

By Randall MellApril 26, 2018, 12:13 am

Inbee Park brings more than her unshakably tranquil demeanor back to the top of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings this week.

She brings more than her Olympic gold medal and seven major championships to the Mediheal Championship on the outskirts of San Francisco.

She brings a jarring combination of gentleness and ruthlessness back to the top of the rankings.

Park may look as if she could play the role of Mother Teresa on some goodwill tour, but that isn’t what her opponents see when she’s wielding her Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball mallet.

She’s like Mother Teresa with Lizzy Borden’s axe.

When Park gets on one of her rolls with the putter, she scares the hell out of the rest of the tour.

At her best, Park is the most intimidating player in women’s golf today.

“Inbee makes more 20- and 30-footers on a regular basis than anyone I know,” seven-time major championship winner Karrie Webb said.

All those long putts Park can hole give her an aura more formidable than any power player in the women’s game.

“A good putter is more intimidating than someone who knocks it out there 280 yards,” Webb said “Even if Inbee misses a green, you know she can hole a putt from anywhere. It puts more pressure on your putter knowing you’re playing with someone who is probably going to make them all.”

Park, by the way, said Webb and Ai Miyazato were huge influences on her putting. She studied them when she was coming up on tour.

Webb, though, believes there’s something internal separating Park. It isn’t just Park’s ability to hole putts that makes her so intimidating. It’s the way she carries herself on the greens.

“She never gets ruffled,” Webb said. “She says she gets nervous, but you never see a change in her. If you’re going toe to toe with her, that’s what is intimidating. Even if you’re rolling in putts on top of her, it doesn’t seem to bother her. She’s definitely a player you have to try not to pay attention to when you’re paired with her, because you can get caught up in that.”

Full-field scores from the LPGA Mediheal Championship

Park has led the LPGA in putts per greens in regulation five of the last 10 years.

Brad Beecher has been on Park’s bag for more than a decade, back before she won her first major, the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open. He has witnessed the effect Park can have on players when she starts rolling in one long putt after another.

“You have those times when she’ll hole a couple long putts early, and you just know, it’s going to be one of those days,” Beecher said. “Players look at me like, `Does she ever miss?’ or `How am I going to beat this?’ You see players in awe of it sometimes.”

Park, 29, won in her second start of 2018, after taking seven months off with a back injury. In six starts this year, she has a victory, two ties for second-place and a tie for third. She ended Shanshan Feng’s 23-week run at No. 1 with a tie for second at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open last weekend.

What ought to disturb fellow tour pros is that Park believes her ball striking has been carrying her this year. She’s still waiting for her putter to heat up. She is frustrated with her flat stick, even though she ranks second in putts per greens in regulation this season.

“Inbee Park is one of the best putters ever,” said LPGA Hall of Famer Sandra Haynie, a 42-time LPGA winner. “She’s dangerous on the greens.”

Haynie said she would rank Park with Kathy Whitworth, Mickey Wright and Nancy Lopez as the best putters she ever saw.

Hall of Famer Joanne Carner says Park is the best putter she has seen since Lopez.

“I thought Nancy was a great putter,” Carner said. “Inbee is even better.”

Park uses a left-hand low grip, with a mostly shoulder move and quiet hands.

Lopez used a conventional grip, interlocking, with her right index finger down the shaft. She had a more handsy stroke than Park.

Like Lopez, Park prefers a mallet-style putter, and she doesn’t switch putters much. She is currently playing with an Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball putter. She won the gold medal with it two years ago. She used an Oddysey White Ice Sabertooth winged mallet when she won three majors in a row in 2013.

Lopez hit the LPGA as a rookie in 1978 with a Ray Cook M1 mallet putter and used it for 20 years. It’s in the World Golf Hall of Fame today.

“I watch Inbee, and I think, `Wow, that’s how I used to putt,’” Lopez said. “You can see she’s not mechanical at all. So many players today are mechanical. They forget if you just look at the hole and stroke it, you’re going to make more putts.”

Notably, Park has never had a putting coach, not really. Her husband and swing coach, Gi Hyeob Nam, will look at her stroke when she asks for help.

“When I’m putting, I’m concentrating on the read and mostly my speed,” Park said. “I don’t think mechanically about my stroke at all, unless I think there’s something wrong with it, and then I’ll have my husband take a look. But, really, I rely on my feel. I don’t think about my stroke when I’m out there playing.”

Hall of Famer Judy Rankin says Park’s remarkably consistent speed is a key to her putting.

“Inbee is definitely a feel putter, and her speed is so consistent, all the time,” Rankin said. “You have to assume she’s a great green reader.”

Beecher says Park’s ability to read greens is a gift. She doesn’t rely on him for that. She reads greens herself.

“I think what impresses me most is Inbee has a natural stroke,” Beecher said. “There’s nothing too technical. It’s more straight through and straight back, but I think the key element of the stroke is that she keeps the putter so close to the ground, all the time, on the takeaway and the follow-through. It helps with the roll and with consistency.”

Park said that’s one of her fundamentals.

“I keep it low, almost like I’m hitting the ground,” Park said. “When I don’t do that, I miss more putts.”

Beecher believes the real reason Park putts so well is that the putter brought her into the game. It’s how she got started, with her father, Gun Gyu Park, putting the club in her hands as a child. She loved putting on her own.

“That’s how she fell in love with the game,” Beecher said. “Getting started that way, it’s played a huge role in her career.”

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Teams announced for NCAA DI women's regionals

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 25, 2018, 10:50 pm

Seventy-two teams and an additional 24 individuals were announced Wednesday as being selected to compete in the NCAA Division I women's regionals, May 7-9.

Each of the four regional sites will consist of 18 teams and an extra six individual players, whose teams were not selected. The low six teams and low three individuals will advance to the NCAA Championship, May 18-23, hosted by Oklahoma State at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

The four regional sites include Don Veller Seminole Golf Course & Club in Tallahassee, Fla., hosted by Florida State; UT Golf Club in Austin, Texas, hosted by the University of Texas; University Ridge Golf Course in Madison, Wis., hosted by the University of Wisconsin; TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, Calif., hosted by Stanford University.

Arkansas, Duke, UCLA and Alabama are the top seeds in their respective regionals. Arizona State, the third seed in the Madison regional, is the women's defending champion. Here's a look at the regional breakdown, along with teams and players:

Austin Regional Madison Regional San Francisco Regional Tallahassee Regional
Arkansas Duke UCLA Alabama
Texas USC Stanford Furman
Michigan State Arizona State South Carolina Arizona
Florida Northwestern Kent State Washington
Auburn Illinois Oklahoma State Wake Forest
Oklahoma Purdue North Carolina Vanderbilt
Houston Iowa State Colorado Florida State
Miami (Fla.) Virginia Louisville Clemson
Baylor Wisconsin N.C. State Georgia
Texas A&M Campbell Mississippi Tennessee
BYU Ohio State Cal UNLV
East Carolina Notre Dame San Diego State Kennesaw State
Texas Tech Old Dominion Pepperdine Denver
Virginia Tech Oregon State Oregon Coastal Carolina
UTSA Idaho Long Beach State Missouri
Georgetown Murray State Grand Canyon Charleston
Houston Baptist North Dakota State Princeton Richmond
Missouri State IUPUI Farleigh Dickinson Albany
Brigitte Dunne (SMU) Connie Jaffrey (Kansas State) Alivia Brown (Washington State) Hee Ying Loy (E. Tennessee State)
Xiaolin Tian (Maryland) Pinyada Kuvanun (Toledo) Samantha Hutchinson (Cal-Davis) Claudia De Antonio (LSU)
Greta Bruner (TCU) Pun Chanachai (New Mexico State) Ingrid Gutierrez (New Mexico) Fernanda Lira (Central Arkansas)
Katrina Prendergast (Colorado State) Elsa Moberly (Eastern Kentucky) Abegail Arevalo (San Jose State) Emma Svensson (Central Arkansas)
Ellen Secor (Colorado State) Erin Harper (Indiana) Darian Zachek (New Mexico) Valentina Giraldo (Jacksonville State)
Faith Summers (SMU) Cara Basso (Penn State) Christine Danielsson (Cal-Davis) Kaeli Jones (UCF)