International Men of Mystery

By Rex HoggardOctober 8, 2009, 2:46 am

Presidents CupSAN FRANCISCO – Don King couldn’t sell this lemon. Not with an unlimited marketing budget and the Rockettes making sales calls. Not with a stroke a side for Adam Scott and a two-club rule for Tiger Woods. Not if both Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh went to a belly putter at Harding Park.

Anything can happen in match play, we’ll hear that a lot the next 96 hours, but on paper, the Brawl by the Bay is a bust. That has to change, just probably not this week and that’s a shame.

The best chance for renewal will be in 2011 at Royal Melbourne. For the record, we’ll go four days at Harding Park and see where the American flags fall. If history holds, most will go in the ‘W’ column.

If International captain Greg Norman is looking for a celeb assistant, a la Michael Jordan, he should get Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin to draw up this week’s game plan: anything within a touchdown is a moral victory and defense is the best offense. Go, fight, win.

Angel Cabrera Camilo Villegas Presidents Cup
International team members Angel Cabrera (left) and Camilo Villegas are paired together for the opening foursome matches. (Getty Images)

America loves winners, to a point. Eventually the masses turn on you (See: Dallas Cowboys, New York Yankees, Mike Tyson), and America’s 5-1-1 Presidential line has rendered a once-promising grudge match something of a Ryder Cup test match.

After the major championships, team events are golf at its best. Even last week’s Tour Championship couldn’t touch Valhalla on the “chills meter.” And the Presidents Cup has all the juice to be top shelf – the game’s biggest stars, a classic municipal golf course, contrived head-to-head matchups only the golf gods can deliver at the majors, and Jordan.

The only thing that’s missing is parity. It's been that way since the beginning.

“You know what, they're just going to have to move it south. When we go south, we're good. We either win or we actually tie. When we play north, we have difficulty, so move it south,” said Ernie Els, noting the only International victory (Australia) and tie (South Africa) have come south of the equator.

It’s a fine point, but then what chance does the world side have north of Monterey?

Rename this the 24-man Skins Game and what we have is off the charts, but this event has the foundation to be so much more. So much better, in fact, than the Ryder Cup.

History aside, the founding fathers have this one right – six matches on Days 1 and 2, leaving no one out of the fray, and captains matching each other during each pairing session (I will see your Phil Mickelson/Anthony Kim and raise you a Geoff Ogilvy/Tim Clark).

All that is missing is a little helmet-on-helmet. Two years ago at Royal Montreal the matches were over before most Canadians opened their Sunday morning newspapers, but the event scored a last-minute mulligan when favorite son Mike Weir took down Woods in a heated singles match.

But warm and fuzzy only goes so far. Sooner or later substance, not style, must define an event.

The Ryder Cup suffered from a lack of interest and intensity until the powers pulled the rest of Europe onto the GB&I side. So unless the International side can annex Windermere, Fla., it’s up to Norman’s dirty dozen to fix this.

There is a line between contentious and consequential, and the Ryder Cup has overstepped that boundary in the past. Nobody wants that, not the misplaced aggression of Kiawah or the misguided esprit de corps of Brookline.

But the fire of Valhalla, the emotion of the K Club, the competitive pitch of Brookline, that would transform the Presidents Cup from biennial blowout to must-see title bout.

“It’s important that the matches are very competitive and I have no reason why they are not other than the fact that maybe because we get to play this format every year,” said Justin Leonard, a veteran of seven Ryder and Presidents Cups. “Greg Norman’s job is probably a little more difficult in bringing those guys together and only playing the format every two years.”

It took Paul Azinger’s passion and creativity to break the United States out of a similar Ryder Cup cycle last year, but the problem is Norman is no Azinger. The Shark arrives in San Fran the author of a pair of dubious picks, a doomed marriage and a shoulder on the DL.

That’s not to say the International side is without heroes or hope, but unless Els worked in an impromptu putting lesson with Dave Stockton since the Tour Championship or the Victorian Institute of Sport has found a way to clone Geoff Ogilvy and Robert Allenby the eighth Presidents Cup will be a title bout sans the bout.

A large sign in San Francisco Airport urged travelers to get their flu shots. Norman must have eyed the sign with interest. If only the cure for the International side’s woes came in a needle. Instead, he’ll just walk on them for the next four days, and we’ll all hope for the best.

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 12:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Friday, Day 2 (Times ET)

1:30-8:20AM (Watch): On a rainy Friday morning at Carnoustie, Rory McIlroy shot 69 to reach 4 under, while Zach Johnson fired a 67 for the early lead. Click here or on the image below to watch.

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.

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Fleetwood, with his fancy umbrella, fires 65 on Day 2

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 12:34 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tommy Fleetwood looked like an Open rookie when he set out on Friday under gray skies and a cold, steady rain.

Because the Englishman doesn’t have an equipment sponsor he made a quick turn through the merchandise tent for an umbrella – but at least he didn’t have to pay for it.

“We stole it,” he laughed when asked about his Open-brand umbrella. “We got one given for free, actually. We didn't steal it. We don't always carry an umbrella. So it just so happens this week that we've got a nice Open Championship [umbrella]. It looked quite nice, the yellow and the course.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

It was Fleetwood’s only rookie move on Day 2 at Carnoustie, posting a flawless 65 to move into an early tie for second place at 5 under par.

Fleetwood holds the competitive course record at Carnoustie, a 9-under 63 he shot last fall during the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship, but given Friday’s conditions and the difficulty of this course during The Open, his 65 on Friday might have been better.

“It's not a course record, but it's pretty good,” said Fleetwood, who was stroke behind leader Zach Johnson. “If you went out, you wouldn't really fancy being 6 under out there. So I think that's a good indication of how good it was.”

It was a dramatic turnaround for Fleetwood on Friday. He said he struggled with his ball-striking, specifically his tee shots, on Day 1, but he was able to turn things around with an hour-long session on the range following his opening round.

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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.