Inspired and confident, Europe shocks U.S. to win Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardOctober 1, 2012, 12:44 am

MEDINAH, Ill. – Conventional wisdom in the dark recesses of Saturday’s twilight suggested that at 12th in Sunday’s singles batting order the Ryder Cup would be over by the time Tiger Woods’ match reached a crescendo. They were right.

With America’s Achilles’ heel in the 18th fairway sheepishly kicking at the Medinah turf, much-maligned Martin Kaymer charged in a 6-footer 150 yards away to match the largest comeback in Ryder Cup history and return Samuel Ryder’s golden chalice back to the far side of the Atlantic Ocean.

On a surreal Sunday in this leafy Chicagoland enclave there was no Ben Crenshaw, no Justin Leonard, no ugly brawl in victory. This wasn’t Brookline, this was better – an away game in front of a hostile crowd with 12 angry men and the ghost of Seve Ballesteros gutting the United States’ cup chances one clutch putt at a time.

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Kaymer’s par putt at the last put the finishing touches on a pitched match with Steve Stricker and completed an inspired European rally from a 10-6 hole few in this time zone figured possible, particularly with their star Rory McIlroy starting the day with a near-catastrophic time zone snafu.

On Saturday night, U.S. captain Davis Love III figured he didn’t have to remind any of his players about Brookline in 1999, the last time a team on the wrong end of a 10-6 Sunday start clawed its way to cup glory.

On Sunday, the Americans endured a crushing sequel, with the Europeans winning the day’s first five matches and closing the comeback with clutch victories by stalwarts Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood. The late Ballesteros would have been proud.

On the eve of Sunday’s singles frame, European captain Jose Maria Olazabal, whose understated style was in sharp contrast to his Spanish mentor, gathered his team and offered a simple message.

“Seve will always be present,” the emotional captain said. “He was a big factor for this event, for the European side, and last night when we were having that meeting, I think the boys understood that believing was the most important thing, and I think they did.”

The September swoon seemed about right for the Chicago fans who are used to disappointment after more than a century of Cubs futility.

With the celebration in full bloom, Woods and Francesco Molinari finished their match with the American conceding a 4-footer to the Italian to halve his match and give the Europeans a 14 ½ to 13 ½ victory. That gives the Continent wins in eight of the last 10 biennial meetings.

It was a victory that six hours earlier seemed like wishful thinking, but from the outset of Sunday’s proceedings the vibe, and momentum, built exponentially for the Europeans.

Ian Poulter began his round with a chip-in for birdie and never let up, beating Webb Simpson, 2 up, to finish the week with a perfect 4-0-0 mark.

Channeling Seve, and Marilyn Manson, the wild-eyed Poulter improved to 3-0 in singles play. If the Englishman played the Ryder Cup every week he’d have 19 majors, and an ulcer.

Whatever life remained in the European team room late Saturday was courtesy of Poulter, who birdied his last five holes – including 37 feet of birdie putts on his last three holes – in his fourball match against Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson for a 1-up victory.

“Last night we took such a lot from those last two wins,” said Poulter, this Ryder Cup’s man of the match. “It was amazing to see the atmosphere change in that team room. You know what, guys were pumped up; for the first time this week we'd been beaten quite clearly, and we just felt there was that little glimmer of hope.”

It was a theme that built in Love’s ear throughout a cool, clear fall afternoon, with reports pouring in and none of them going the Americans’ way.

Paul Lawrie dropped a pitch into the hole at the fourth to take a 1-up lead on Brandt Snedeker and extended that advantage a hole later with an eagle putt. Luke Donald, in the day’s leadoff match, quickly pulled away from Bubba Watson, whose antics kept the raucous galleries on the edge of bedlam all week, and was 4 up through 12 holes.

By the time McIlroy closed out Keegan Bradley, 2 and 1, the rout was on. The world No. 1’s victory over the American rookie was compounded by the Ulsterman’s late arrival. With 10 minutes to spare and thanks to a police escort, that some could say led to Europe’s grand larceny of the Ryder Cup, McIlroy arrived at Medinah after he mistakenly thought Chicago was in the Eastern Time Zone. Had he missed that tee time the point would have gone to the Americans.

“If I let down these 11 other boys and vice captains and captain this week I would never forgive myself,” McIlroy said.

For Bradley the loss was the lone blemish on an otherwise stellar Ryder Cup card following a 3-0-0 start paired with Phil Mickelson in team play, and when the handwringing begins Monday morning it will likely be labeled one of Love’s missteps.

“Phil’s always got a plan,” said Love late Saturday when asked about his decision to sit Mickelson in Saturday’s fourball session despite a perfect start with Bradley. “He wanted to play two or three times the first two days and that’s his plan.”

Love’s “captain by committee” approach staked the U.S. to a four-point advantage heading into Sunday singles, but it also sent three rookies out in the final day’s first five matches which allowed the Europeans to quiet the crowd and pushed the Americans back on their heels for the first time all week.

But then captain criticizing ignores how well the Europeans played on Sunday, a truth embodied by the fact that Jason Dufner – who beat Peter Hanson, 2 up, in the fourth-to-last-match – was the only American to go the distance (18 holes) and come away with a victory.

“I wouldn't have done anything different,” Love figured in fading light.

On Sunday, however, the plan ran into a hot-putting group of Europeans with something to prove. Replete in navy blue and white, Ballesteros’ signature uniform, they played golf like the Spaniard, with passion and purpose.

“To be honest with you I was thinking about (Seve) on the 18th,” Kaymer said. “I was also thinking about Olazabal and how much that trophy means to him. We had to win that trophy for him.”

On Friday as foursome play got underway a team of skywriters carved a message into the fall sky, “Do it for Seve.” With an epic Sunday rally, they did.

Relive Day 2 matches Monday at 8 p.m. ET and the singles matches Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 10:15 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.

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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.

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How The Open cut line is determined

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.

The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.

• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.

• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.

The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.