Here come the Yanks

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2011, 7:51 pm

SANDWHICH, England – One of the most demanding days in major championship golf begat what promises to be the most volatile grand slam finale in recent memory that will ultimately be decided, as it always is at the game’s oldest tilt, by another fearsome forecast.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Darren Clarke still leads, the front-running Ulsterman almost a cliché following an effortless 69 on a day that defied even the most high-tech rain gear. His one-stroke advantage will dominate the headlines on this side of the Atlantic, but the subtext to Sunday’s showdown will be what is shaping up to be an American revival.

Relegated in some circles to Dodo-like extinction, American golf has become the Washington Generals to the Globetrotters of late – pay-for-play punch lines that have been relegated to sixth-man status by the four corners of the map.

There was last year’s one-point mud wrestling loss at The Ryder Cup, a world ranking that features just four Americans in the top 10 and a grand slam drought that stretches back to last year’s Masters. On the baseball diamond 1-for-5 gets one optioned to Single-A Peoria. On the golf course, or more to the point in the golf media, it’s a reason to second guess the college system, the PGA Tour, lucrative contracts and global warming.

But if perception is indeed reality, Saturday’s slog through the worst weather this side of Muirfield in 2002 was nothing less than a step in the right direction for the red, white and blue.

The leaderboard at the 140th Open Championship has more American flags than a Fourth of July celebration. All total, six of the top 10 are American, including primary contender Dustin Johnson who powered his way through a throat infection and over much of Royal St. George’s pitfalls for a day’s-best 68 which was matched only by fellow American Rickie Fowler.

“Apparently the death of American golf has been greatly exaggerated,” Joe Ogilvie tweeted from half a world away.

There are no guarantees that the United States can get off the grand slam schneid, particularly considering Clarke’s commanding performance, but there is reason to be optimistic.

Not that any members of the U.S. contingent were overly concerned with the perceived slump.

“The European Tour guys have been playing well, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Americans,” said Johnson, who will head out in Sunday’s final group at a major for the third time in the last five grand slam gatherings.

Problem? What problem?

At least that’s been the collective take. 

“I guess we need to play better,” Glover said on Friday. On Saturday, they did.

After Johnson and Fowler, who is tied for third place three shots back, sits Glover (73), a resurgent Anthony Kim (70) and a refreshingly optimistic Phil Mickelson, who turned a round of sixty-something into a 71 with a collection of missed putts.

Still, Lefty is only five back at an event that has been the professional equivalent of advanced math. He has just a single top 10 in 17 Open tries, had broken 70 just once in his last 10 rounds and arrived on the southeast English coast with a new game plan – play this Open like it was his first.

“There’s nothing more exciting than on Sunday having a chance in a major,” Mickelson said. “I know that I’m not leading, but I’m also right there. To me that is so much fun, and I’m excited. I feel like it’s my first time over here.”

We’ve heard, for some time now, that this Continental shift is nothing more than a natural cycle, but on Saturday the Americans were more concerned with the cyclone that buffeted the English coast.

In what many called the worst conditions they’ve ever played in the day’s scoring average ballooned to 74.69. Long-hitting Gary Woodland made an 8 at the par-5 14th and yet still sounded like a man who had just gotten away with something.

Trevor Immelman needed six towels, 10 gloves and 72 strokes to round his wet and wild 18 on Saturday and considered himself one of the fortunate ones. “That could easily be the worst conditions I’ve ever played in,” he offered without a hint of hyperbole.

Even Old Tom Morris, eh . . . Watson, a veteran of 34 Opens who defied time and the torrent with a 72, called Saturday’s slop the worst he’s seen since that raw day in ’02 at Muirfield. We’ll take his word for it.

Even more concerning, particularly for those holding out hope for an American winner, was a forecast for Sunday that looked frighteningly similar to Saturday’s ordeal.

“A lot of blank faces coming off the golf course wondering what the English summer is all about,” is how Englishman Paul Casey summed up Saturday’s action.

Whether the American slide is real or a media-driven perception doesn’t matter, not when Clarke, raised and recently returned to Northern Ireland’s Royal Portrush links, is playing like Samuel Ryder’s chalice is waiting for him on Sunday and the weatherman is churning out carbon-copy forecasts for the finish.

On this home-field advantage goes to the Ulsterman with webbed feet and a wide smile. But there was still plenty of optimism, if not for American golf than for the overall outcome.

“What are you laughing about?” Watson asked the assembled scribes after his round. “You just love to see us pros suffer.”

Maybe, but we also love a good story. And right now the transatlantic scuffle is the best tale in town.

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Bjorn adds four Ryder Cup veterans as vice captains

By Will GrayMay 22, 2018, 1:05 pm

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn has added a quartet of vice captains for the biennial matches this fall in Paris.

Bjorn had already named Robert Karlsson as his first assistant, and he announced Tuesday at the BMW PGA Championship that his group of advisors will also include major champions Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell, and former world No. 1s Lee Westwood and Luke Donald.

Westwood is among Europe's most decorated Ryder Cup players, and his addition in this role signals he likely won't participate as a player in the matches for the first time since 1995. The Englishman has spoken openly about his desire to captain the European squad at Whistling Straits in 2020, but he's been quiet on the course in recent months, with a missed secondary cut at the Houston Open his only start since mid-February.

Harrington is seen as another possible captain for the 2020 matches, and he'll don an earpiece for the third straight Ryder Cup, having represented Europe as a player on six straight teams from 1999-2010.

Donald played on four Ryder Cup teams from 2004-12, with the Europeans winning each time he was on the roster. This will mark his first stint as a vice captain, as Donald announced last month that he would be sidelined indefinitely while recovering from a back injury.

At age 38, McDowell will be the youngest vice captain in the room, having holed the winning putt eight years ago at Celtic Manor. He won the French Open in both 2013 and 2014 at Le Golf National, site of this year's matches, and will also be making his debut as a vice captain.

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Bidder pays $50,000 to caddie for Woods

By Grill Room TeamMay 22, 2018, 12:28 pm

Someone has paid $50,000 to caddie for Tiger Woods at this year’s Hero World Challenge.

An unnamed bidder paid for the opportunity at an auction Saturday night at Tiger Jam, where monies are raised to support the Tiger Woods Foundation.

The Hero World Challenge will be contested Nov. 29-Dec. in Albany, Bahamas. The pro-am is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 28.

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NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2018, 11:28 am

The NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship is underway at Kartsen Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

After three days of stroke play, eight teams have advanced to the match-play portion of the championship. Quarterfinals and semifinals will be contested on Tuesday, with the finals being held on Wednesday. Golf Channel is airing the action live.

Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho won the individual title. Click here for live action, beginning at 4 p.m. ET.


TV Times (all times ET):

11AM-conclusion: Match-play quarterfinals (Click here to watch live)
4-8PM: Match-play semifinals

4-8PM: Match-play finals

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Arizona grabs last spot with eagle putt, playoff win

By Ryan LavnerMay 22, 2018, 3:18 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – With her team freefalling in the standings, Arizona coach Laura Ianello was down to her last stroke.

The Wildcats began the final round of the NCAA Championship in third place, but they were 19 over par for the day, and outside the top-8 cut line, with only one player left on the course.

Bianca Pagdaganan had transferred from Gonzaga to compete for NCAA titles, and on the 17th hole Ianello told her that she needed to play “the best two holes of your life” to keep the dream alive.

She made par on 17, then hit a 185-yard 6-iron out of a divot to 30 feet. Not knowing where she stood on the final green, Pagdaganan felt an eerie calm over the ball. Sure enough, she buried the eagle putt, setting off a raucous celebration and sending the Wildcats into a play-five, count-four team playoff with Baylor at 33 over par.

Their match-play spot wasn’t yet secure, but Ianello still broke down in tears.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring

“Bianca is such an inspiration for all of us,” she said. “She’s the kind of kid that you want to root for, to have good things happen to.”

Arizona prevailed on the second playoff hole. As the 8 seed, the Wildcats will play top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals Tuesday at Karsten Creek.

Though the finish had plenty of drama, no teams played their way into the coveted top 8 on the final day of stroke-play qualifying.

Baylor came closest. The Bears barely advanced past regionals after a mysterious stomach virus affected several players and coaches. They competed in the final round with just four healthy players.

On Monday, Gurleen Kaur put Baylor in position to advance, shooting 68, but the Bears lost by three strokes on the second extra hole.

Arkansas finished one shot shy of the team playoff. The second-ranked Razorbacks, who entered NCAAs as one of the pre-tournament favorites, having won seven times, including their first SEC title, couldn’t overcome a 308-300 start and finished 10th. Player of the Year favorite Maria Fassi finished her week at 19 over par and counted only two rounds toward the team total.