The Matchmaker

By Rex HoggardSeptember 9, 2010, 12:01 am

Ryder CupNow that Corey Pavin has made his captain’s picks, here comes the hard part.

With apologies to those who got the “It’s not you, it’s me” call from U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin late Monday, the four wildcard picks were largely low-hanging fruit. “Away games” are mean, soul-searching affairs and the U.S. team room already had its quota of rookies.

If Rickie Fowler is an investment in the U.S. side’s future, Pavin’s other three picks are about the here and now. Tiger Woods, Zach Johnson and Stewart Cink have all weathered the unfriendly confines of overseas Ryder Cups, and when the phone calls had to be made, that mattered.

Now Pavin must play matchmaker if he has any chance to nix an overseas Cup drought that spans nearly two decades. The heroics of Valhalla aside, the last time an American team stole one on Continental turf was in 1993 at The Belfry.

That’s 17 years. Cicadas don’t simmer for that long.

To put the ’93 matches in perspective, Davis Love III, one of Pavin’s assistant captains this time around who is being groomed for his own turn in the big chair, was a Ryder Cup rookie and 51-year-old Raymond Floyd, a captain’s pick and the oldest competitor in match history, helped secure victory with an emotional singles win over José Maria Olazábal.

Corey Pavin
With Corey Pavin's picks made, the American Ryder Cup team is set. (Getty Images)

Outside of Wrigleyville, it may be sport’s most omnipresent schneid.

For those who base their concept of pressure on Saturday afternoons, Celtic Manor is akin to “The Swamp” or “Death Valley” in terms of what Pavin’s dozen can expect, and no one knows the rigors of the away game better than Woods.

Three of Woods’ five Ryder Cups have been played in front of hostile crowds and the American anchor has traditionally pulled the home team’s top player, which only serves to intensify the partisan atmosphere. He knows there’s only one way to survive the European punchbowl.

“You want to play well enough to make the crowd go quiet,” Woods said.

Johnson tried to hush the 13th man at the K Club but had little luck. In his defense Johnson had the misfortune of drawing Darren Clarke, the emotional core of the European team whose wife had recently passed away, in his Sunday singles match in 2006.

“I didn’t know what to expect and when I got to the first tee the crowd went bonkers,” said Johnson, a rookie in ’06 who lost to Clarke, 3 and 2. “When I handed him that putt on the 16th (hole) I got emotional for him. It stunk, I wanted to win the match but the golf gods were not on my side.”

The golf gods, to say nothing of Colin Montgomerie, will have similar options in Wales. Among Monty’s crowd pleasing options will be the all-Northern Irish duo of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, the all-sibling tandem of Edoardo and Francesco Molinari, and the all-England choice of Lee Westwood, who is fresh from a calf injury and will likely play the role of on-course captain for the Euros.

Whether Pavin – whose style so far seems to be twofold: take few risks and say even less – burrows from 2008 captain Paul Azinger’s highly successful “pods” system or plods his own course remains to be seen, but his ability to mix and match his dozen, along with his group’s putting fortunes, will likely decide the outcome.

On Tuesday Pavin said, “nothing is set in stone” as far as possible pairings, but history suggests there are some combinations he’s already penciled into the lineup card.

The 1991 matches at Kiawah were the last time the U.S. won the foursomes frame, going 6-1 on the way to a rousing one-point victory, and the American side has a Mendoza Line-like record since then, going 4-10-4 in alternate shot the last two decades.

To stem that trend Pavin will send Woods and Steve Stricker out early and often. The duo swept foursomes and four-ball play last year at the Presidents Cup, going 2-0 in alternate shot.

A Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler marriage also seems in the cards. Lefty savors youthful projects, teaming well with Anthony Kim in 2008 at Valhalla, another energized cup rookie, and Sean O’Hair last year at Harding Park.

The options become less obvious after that, but Jim Furyk was undefeated in foursomes play in 2008 and would mesh well with the likes of a veteran such as Zach Johnson or Stewart Cink.

In this case less really is more. The danger of over thinking the pairings is what gave us that Woods-Mickelson 0-fer Friday experiment at the 2004 matches.

For Pavin, the heavy lifting has already been done by Azinger in 2008 and Freddie Couples last year at Harding Park. Whether he was paying attention remains to be seen.

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Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 10:25 pm

Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.

Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.

And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.

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Jutanugarn sisters: Different styles, similar results

By Associated PressMay 23, 2018, 10:20 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn play golf and live life differently.

The sisters from Thailand do have the same goal in the LPGA, hoping their shot-to-shot focus leads to titles.

The Jutanugarns are two of six women with a shot at the Volvik Championship to become the circuit's first two-time winner this year. The first round begins Thursday at Travis Pointe Country Club, a course six winners are skipping to prepare elsewhere for next week's U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama.

''Everybody has a chance to win every weekend,'' Moriya said. ''That's how hard it is on tour right now.''

Ariya competes with a grip-it-and-rip-it approach, usually hammering a 3-wood off the tee.

Moriya takes a more calculated approach, analyzing each shot patiently.

That's perhaps fitting because she's 16 months older than her sister.

''It's funny because when we think about something, it's always the different,'' she said. ''But we pretty much end up with the same idea.''

Off the course, they're also different.

The 22-year-old Ariya appears careful and guarded when having conversations with people she doesn't know well. The 23-year-old Moriya, meanwhile, enjoys engaging in interesting discussions with those who cross her path.

Their mother, Narumon, was with her daughters Wednesday and the three of them always stay together as a family. They don't cook during tournament weeks and opt to eat out, searching for good places like the sushi restaurant they've discovered near Travis Pointe.

Their father, Somboon, does not watch them play in person. They sisters say he has retired from owning a golf shop in Thailand.

''He doesn't travel anymore,'' Moriya Jutanugarn said.

Even if he is relegating to watching from the other side of the world, Somboon Jutanugarn must be proud of the way his daughters are playing.

Ariya became the first Thai winner in LPGA history in 2016, the same year she went on to win the inaugural Volvik Championship. She earned her eighth career victory last week in Virginia and is one of two players, along with Brooke Henderson, to have LPGA victories this year and the previous two years.

Moriya won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles, joining Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the two pairs of sisters to have LPGA victories.

On the money list, Ariya is No. 1 and her sister is third.

In terms of playing regularly, no one is ahead of them.

Ariya is the only LPGA player to start and make the cut in all 12 events this year. Moriya Jutanugarn has also appeared in each tournament this year and failed to make the cut only once.

Instead of working in breaks to practice without competing or simply relax, they have entered every tournament so far and shrug their shoulders at the feat.

''It's not that bad, like 10 week in a row,'' Moriya said.

The LPGA is hosting an event about five miles from Michigan Stadium for a third straight year and hopes to keep coming back even though it doesn't have a title sponsor secured for 2019. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan told reporters he's confident Ann Arbor will be a long-term home for the circuit.

''I can't tell you the specifics about how we're going to do that,'' Whan acknowledged.

LPGA and tournament officials are hosting some prospective sponsors this week, trying to persuade them to put their name on the tournament.

Volvik, which makes golf balls, is preparing to scale back its support of the tournament.

''We're coming back,'' said Don Shin, president of Volvik USA. ''We just don't know in what capacity.''

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Wise: 'No hard feelings' over Nelson missed kiss

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 10:18 pm

Aaron Wise left the AT&T Byron Nelson with his first PGA Tour trophy and a seven-figure paycheck. But lost in the shuffle of closing out his breakthrough victory in near-darkness was his failed attempt for a celebratory kiss with his girlfriend on the 18th green.

Wise appeared to go in for a peck after his family joined him on the putting surface, but instead he and his girlfriend simply laughed and hugged. After the moment gained a bit of online notoriety, Wise told reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the young couple simply laughed it off.

"Yeah, I have been giving her some s--- about that," Wise said. "A lot has been made about it. It's really nothing. Like I was saying, she was just so excited to surprise me. I was kind of ruining the surprise a little bit that she was shocked, and she didn't even see me going in for the kiss."

At age 21, Wise is now one of the youngest winners on Tour. He explained that while both his girlfriend and mother flew in to watch the final round at Trinity Forest Golf Club, where he shared the 54-hole lead and eventually won by three shots, he took some of the surprise out of their arrival in true millennial fashion - by looking up his girlfriend's location earlier in the day.

Still getting used to his newfound status on Tour, Wise downplayed any controversy surrounding the kiss that wasn't.

"No hard feelings at all," Wise said. "We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was."

Mmm Visuals / Lancaster Country Club

Giving back: Chun creates education fund at site of Open win

By Randall MellMay 23, 2018, 8:04 pm

South Korea’s In Gee Chun is investing in American youth.

Chun broke through on the largest stage in women’s golf, winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago, and she’s making sure Lancaster, Pa., continues to share in what that brought her.

Chun is preparing for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham, Ala., but she made a special stop this week. She returned to the site of her breakthrough in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday, launching the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Education Fund. She announced Tuesday that she’s donating $10,000 to seed the fund. She’s expected to raise more than $20,000 for the cause in a fundraising dinner at the club Wednesday evening. The fund will annually award scholarships to Lancaster youth applicants, including Lancaster Country Club caddies and children of club employees.

“I’m excited to be back here,” said Chun, who put on a junior clinic during her stay and also played an outing with club members. “Winning the U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster gave me the opportunity to play on the LPGA and make one of my dreams come true.”

Chun also supports a fund in her name at Korea University, where she graduated, a fund for various “social responsibility” projects and for the educational needs of the youth who create them.

“Education is very important to me,” Chun said. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”

Chun made donations to the Lancaster General Health Foundation in 2015 and ’16 and to Pennsylvania’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust last year. Lancaster Country Club officials estimate she has now made donations in excess of $40,000 to the community.

“We are grateful In Gee’s made such a wonderful connection to our community and club,” said Rory Connaughton, a member of Lancaster Country Club’s board of governors. “She’s a special person.”