Let the Fun Begin

By Rex HoggardOctober 9, 2009, 7:33 am

Presidents CupSAN FRANCISCO – Forget fun. Forget chemistry. Forget breezy.

We’re not sure what International captain Greg Norman said to his dozen on the eve of the eighth Presidents Cup, or what he injected in that special beef he had shipped in for the pregame meal, but if the world side has a chance this side of the Tropic of Capricorn it should have been short and sweet – man up.

The axiom goes that the Americans play better at the Presidents Cup than they do at the Ryder Cup in recent years because the odd-year soiree is more slap and tickle than it is slam and tackle.


For the Internationals to have a chance here on the shores of Lake Merced, they had to make hay in the foursome sessions. And for that to happen they had to embrace the pressure that comes when something important is on the line.

For years the U.S. Ryder Cup team couldn’t do it and they struggled. For years the International side has fumbled the foursomes frame and we have a 5-1-1 team afterthought.

“When I look back over the history of the Presidents Cup and where we as a team have got beaten is in the first day, is in the foursomes, or on Saturday morning in the foursomes,” Norman said. “America has been very, very dominating in that department. So when we get behind the 8-ball, it's very hard.”

As a rule, the Internationals dig foursome holes on Thursday and Saturday and spend the rest of the week running up hill. In 1996 the Americans went 4-1 in Thursday foursomes, in 2000 5-0, in 2007 4-0-1 and won all those matches convincingly. By comparison, in 1998 at Royal Melbourne in Australia the Internationals won the Day 1 foursome matches (3-1-1) and their first and only cup.

On Thursday, the Internationals posted three blue-and-gold flags on the board before the final tee time reached the first fairway. By dusk – and thanks in no small part to a pair of misses by Retief Goosen, who failed to concede the putt, and Justin Leonard, who inexplicably failed to hole his 3 footer at the last – the visiting team trailed by a single point, 3 ½ - 2 ½. Goosen later apologized. No word on how Leonard’s mea culpa went over.

The one-point deficit was a victory by any measure for the Internationals.

“That's one of the better starts we've had, believe it or not, for the last three cups or so,” said Els, who teamed with Adam Scott for 2-and-1 victory. “So we are not too despondent about today. The first-day foursomes has always been a bit of an Achilles heel to us.”

Forget scoreboards, the day’s line could be read in each team’s body language. Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, who made road kill of Geoff Ogilvy and Ryo Ishikawa, looked nothing like the unbeatable tandem they were on the course following the round, while Ernie Els, Adam Scott and Ishikawa had the look of men who knew a secret the rest of Harding Park couldn’t fathom.

At worst, Norman’s crew didn’t break any china. At best, they built the frame of a puzzle that has been missing pieces since that twilight showdown in South Africa six years ago.

The theories behind the International’s foursome follies vary.

“America’s top players play (foursomes) every year while this is the only time we do it,” said Robert Allenby, who putted nothing like a man who ranks 189th on Tour in putting average. “You have to find the right combination with golf balls and someone you can gel with.”

And that’s why Norman didn’t build a Hall of Fame resume and an economic empire daydreaming about what could have been. Which brings us back to Harding Park and the matter at hand.

The Presidents Cup may be fun and games compared with the high-psi Ryder Cup, but Norman knew if he was going to inject some life into match play’s little brother his team had to get off the Thursday schneid and that required honesty. You can’t win the Super Bowl in the first quarter but you can sure loose it, and the Internationals have lost plenty of Cups one turn into the proceedings.

It may buck the current trend of getting lost in the process not the result, but Norman had to make this clear – for his team to have a chance they had to perform on Thursday and embrace the pressure.

Had the Shark been clever, he would have pointed across the locker room to honorary assistant U.S. captain diva Michael Jordan. No. 23 wrote record books embracing the pressure of the moment, not hiding from it.

A period into this team bout nothing has been decided, but compared with matches past, the Internationals still have a fighting chance and that’s something. Now, let the fun begin.

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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.