Love takes the hit; Olazabal skips the high road

By Rex HoggardOctober 5, 2012, 4:24 pm

What goes faster than Ryder Cup week? Answer: a four-point U.S. lead – ba-da-boom.

A week removed from the Meltdown at Medinah, Cut Line is still trying to score a hectic week that featured more plot twists than a Clive Cussler tome. Before we put the 39th matches in the books, however, it’s time to applaud Europe’s MVPs (most vocal players) and send out an APB (all-points bulletin) for America’s missing stars.

Made Cut

MVPs. To suggest that the Europeans care more about Samuel Ryder’s golden chalice is a disservice, both to the Americans and the matches.

The U.S. side cares, maybe too much, but there is no mistaking Europe’s passion for the event. From Ian Poulter’s bug-eyed perfection to Rory McIlroy’s inspired sprint to the first tee on Sunday, the Euros have become adept at delivering when it counts.

“It’s a passion I've seen at the Ryder Cup for years and years as a kid growing up, and it's something that comes from within,” said Poulter, the undisputed man of the match with a perfect 4-0 record. “I just love it.”

No, the Europeans don’t want it more than the Americans, they’ve just figured out how to turn their passion into performance.

Tweet of the week: @McIlroyRory “Wow! Did that just happen! Unbelievable performance from all the boys today! Seve (Ballesteros) . . . this one is for you! #Europe”

Editor’s note: Given the gravity of the comeback, we forgive the Ulsterman for his overuse of exclamation points.

Tweet of the week, II: @IanJamesPoulter “On the plane on the way back to Orlando, why does it feel like we robbed a bank? Not sure how long it’s going to take to sink in.”

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Oh, captain. Martin Kaymer’s 6-foot clincher at Medinah’s 18th hole hadn’t hit the bottom of the cup and the hand-wringing had already begun.

U.S. captain Davis Love III failed to adjust on the fly; he allowed his players to dictate the plan when a command decision was in order; he over-thought Sunday’s lineup and allowed the Europeans to build momentum.

Lost amid the armchair quarterbacking was the fact that Love and Team USA had built a four-point lead through two days and Sunday’s singles card, at least on paper, accounted for every possible contingency save one – a suddenly hot-putting European side.

As expected, Love owned the defeat, “If you need to blame somebody for this loss, blame me,” he wrote in a captain’s diary on History will not be kind to Love when the 2012 Ryder Cup epilogue is written, but the harsh reality is sometimes you just get beat and no amount of scripting and pop psychology will change that.

Tie-d up. Maybe European captain Jose Maria Olazabal was caught up in the moment, maybe he wanted a measure of revenge for America’s Brookline faux pas. Either way the Spaniard missed the exit for the high road late Sunday at Medinah with the Ryder Cup already decided.

Amid the mayhem of Kaymer’s cup-clinching putt at the 18th, good for a 14-14 tie which assured the Europeans would retain the cup, Ollie told Francesco Molinari, who was locked in a meaningless bout with Tiger Woods at the time, “It's not the same, winning or halving.”

Per the captains' agreement, all matches must be played out to conclusion even if the cup has already been decided, so the American and Italian continued to play with Woods eventually conceding a 4-footer to Molinari to lose the hole, halve his match and give Europe an outright 14 ½ to 13 ½ victory.

There are no hard and fast rules for these types of surreal episodes – although Jack Nicklaus’ famous concession to Tony Jacklin at the 1969 matches, which ended in a tie, would seem to be the gold standard – but at worst, Ollie’s insistence on a victory seems petty and at best an opportunity missed.

Missed Cut

What happens in Vegas . . . News last week that Justin Timberlake will step down as tournament host of the PGA Tour’s Sin City stop was particularly curious considering the event’s move to the FedEx Cup portion of the schedule beginning in 2013.

Seems Timberlake, according to the report, wasn’t exactly the host with the most.

“Justin’s a wonderful person,” Raoul Frevel, the tournament chairman, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “But we tried everything we could to get him more involved with our kids and the hospitals. But it seemed that when the TV cameras weren’t on, he disappeared.”

Just a hunch, but that cheesy poem at last week’s Ryder Cup likely didn’t help Timberlake’s street cred with the Tour either.

Missing persons. You can blame Love, the Europeans' sizzling Sunday putters and even Lombard (Ill.) deputy police chief Patrick Rollins, who rushed McIlroy to the golf course on Sunday, for America’s Medinah meltdown. But for those intent on assigning culpability look no further than the U.S. three-ball of Woods, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk.

Combined, the power threesome contributed 1 ½ points to the U.S. effort, with Stricker posting an 0-4 record including a singles loss to Kaymer, who was a pedestrian 1 over par on Sunday.

“In order to win cups, you have to earn points and we certainly have not earned points,” Woods said before the matches began, his words echoing late into Sunday night in the aftermath of the U.S. loss. “Phil (Mickelson, who actually went 3-1 in Chicago), Jim and myself have been put out there a lot during those years. So if we are not earning points, it's hard to win Ryder Cups that way.”

In match play it is the hot hand, not historical context, that counts, but if the U.S. is going to wrench itself off the Ryder Cup schneid it will need more from its veterans.

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Tour still focused on security after death of suspected Austin bomber

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 4:07 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Although the suspect in the wave of Austin-area bombings was killed early Wednesday, the PGA Tour plans to continue heightened security measures at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

According to various news outlets, Mark Anthony Conditt has been identified as the bombings suspect, and he was killed by an explosion inside his car in Round Rock, Texas, which is 19 miles north of Austin Country Club.

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“We do not comment on the specifics of our security measures, but we are continuing to work in close collaboration with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in Austin to ensure the safety of our players and fans at this week’s tournament,” the Tour said in a statement. “Regardless of the recent developments, our heightened security procedures will remain in place through the remainder of the week.”

Authorities believe Conditt is responsible for the five explosions that killed two people and injured five others in Austin or south-central Texas since March 2.

Play began Wednesday at the Match Play.

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Monahan addresses alcohol, fan behavior at events

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 3:53 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Fan behavior has become a hot-button topic on the PGA Tour in recent weeks, with Rory McIlroy suggesting on Saturday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational the circuit should “limit alcohol sales on the course.”

The Tour’s policy is to stop selling alcohol an hour before the end of play, which is normally around 5 p.m., and on Wednesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play commissioner Jay Monahan said it’s something the Tour is monitoring.

“When you have people who aren’t behaving properly and they’ve had too much alcohol, then I agree [with McIlroy],” Monahan said. “In those incidences those people who are making it uncomfortable for a player alcohol sales should be cut off.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Fan behavior became an issue with some players when Tiger Woods returned to competition at last month’s Genesis Open. During the final round of the Honda Classic Justin Thomas had a fan removed when he yelled for Thomas’ tee shot at the par-4 16th hole to “get in the bunker.”

Monahan declined to address Thomas’ situation at PGA National specifically, but he did seem to suggest that as interest grows and the Tour continues to attract more mainstream sports crowds, vocal fans will continue to be the norm.

“I believe that there was more that went into it that preceded and in a situation like that we’re hopeful our players will reach out to our security staff and they can handle that,” Monahan said. “[But] yelling, ‘get in the bunker,’ that’s part of what our players have to accept. In any sport, you go to an away game, in any other sport, and people aren’t rooting for you. Sometimes out here you’re going to have fans that aren’t rooting for you, but they can’t interfere with what you’re trying to do competitively.”

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Senden playing first event since son's brain tumor

By Will GrayMarch 21, 2018, 3:03 pm

John Senden is back inside the ropes for the first time in nearly a year at this week's Chitimacha Louisiana Open on the Tour.

Senden took a leave of absence from professional golf in April, when his teenage son, Jacob, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He didn't touch a club for nearly four months as Jacob endured six rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, a gauntlet that stretched from April until mid-November.

But Senden told that his son's tumor has shrunk from the size of a thumbnail to the size of a pinky nail, and after a promising MRI in January he decided to plan his comeback.

"I haven't really played in 12 months, but in that time Jacob has really, really hung tough," Senden said. "His whole body was getting slammed with all these treatments, and he was so strong in his whole attitude and his whole body. Just really getting through the whole thing. He was tough."

Senden was granted a family crisis exemption by the Tour, and he'll have 13 starts to earn 310 FedExCup points to retain his playing privileges for the 2018-19 season. He is allowed five "rehabilitation" starts as part of the exemption, but will reportedly only make one this week before returning to the PGA Tour at the RBC Heritage, followed by starts in San Antonio, Charlotte and Dallas.

Senden, 46, has won twice on Tour, most recently the 2014 Valspar Championship.

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Added videos shed light on Reed rules controversy

By Will GrayMarch 21, 2018, 2:39 pm

Additional fan videos shed some light on a rules controversy involving Patrick Reed during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, when Reed suggested that Jordan Spieth would have gotten free relief after he was denied a favorable ruling.

Reed had sailed the green with his approach on the 11th hole Sunday at Bay Hill, coming to rest under a palm tree. As the below thread of videos from fan Tyler Soughers illustrates, Reed wanted a free drop because he believed a nearby television tower was in the way of the shot he planned to play.

The initial rules official didn't "see" the shot Reed planned to attempt given the tight confines, and his decision to deny Reed a free drop was upheld by a second rules official. Reed eventually tried to play the ball, moving it a few feet, before being granted relief from the tower from the ball's new position. He ultimately made double bogey on the hole and tied for seventh.

After finally taking his free drop away from the tower, Reed was heard muttering to nearby fans, "What a crock of s---."

Reed and Spieth will have plenty of time to discuss their favorite rulings Friday, when the two players face off on the final day of round-robin play in Group 4 during the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin.