Reveling in the Ryder Cup
I had that moment Monday on the 17th green at Celtic Manor. Standing amidst the joyous chaos, alternately keeping an eye on my cameraman so as not to lose him in the crush of revelers, I was mesmerized by what I was witnessing.
The crowds had lifted Edoardo Molinari in the air, as if he were the happy groom at a wedding. Again and again, he thrust two fingers in the air and led the delirious fans in song: “There are only two Molinari brothers. There are only two Molinari brothers!”
The electricity and emotion sent a shiver through me, with a twinge of remorse. It struck me. Among the things I’ll never know is how good it must feel to be hoisted like that in victory, a victory pleaded for by millions.
I play in a men’s basketball league back home and I’m certain that even if our collection of teachers and lawyers and businessmen wins the fall season championship we’ll only exchange high fives, then ice down our aging bodies.
Home-course advantage is worth a half point, everyone agrees, though the Europeans get extra credit for creativity. Their songs and their chants are funny but not unfair.
Now it’s gone quiet, quiet enough at least to round some thoughts together.
Let’s focus on the man upon whom the task of clinching the Cup nervously fell, without whom there would be no celebration, Graeme McDowell. He may not be America’s player of the year – that distinction, however tepid the case may be, will go to Jim Furyk with his three wins. But McDowell could be, if there was such an honor, golf’s man of the year. In a single season he became a national champion and a continental hero.
McDowell is Russell Crowe in Gladiator, stout hearted and brave, the kind of guy who’ll turn around with a wink and a joke just as he’s heading into the heat of the battle. Men want to be in his company and willingly follow his lead.
In the press center here at St. Andrews for the Dunhill Links Championship, McDowell explained how he reacted when told that he had to win his match against Mahan because Molinari had only halved his against Fowler just ahead.
“Oh sh–t,” McDowell recalled.
The room howled with laughter because people laugh when they’re with GMac.
He was on a roll. Asked what kind of reception he believes he’ll get when he goes to the States as the man who not only won the U.S. Open but also took the Ryder Cup away from the Americans, he says, “I just hope they let me in when I go to immigration. I’m just hoping they don’t send me home.”
He’ll play more in the U.S. next year, and it wasn’t lost on him last weekend that he was playing against “these guys who will become sort of my peers and colleagues.”
But the great thing about golf, McDowell believes, is that “we can share a beer and talk about these things.”
A man who can talk and play, McDowell’s a rare commodity in golf. His new peers would be well served to belly up to the bar with him.
He has a few good stories to tell.
Arizona captures NCAA DI Women's Championship
STILLWATER, Okla. – Turns out this match play format provides fireworks. Almost always.
In the four years since the women’s NCAA Championship has switched from the stale, 72-hole stroke-play format the championship matches have been pure magic.
This year, again, the title came down to the last match and Arizona took home its third title with a 3-2 victory over Alabama when Haley Moore defeated Lakareber Abe by making a birdie on the 19th hole. The last time the Wildcats won the NCAA Championship was in 2000, when coach Laura Ianello was on the team.
Arizona def. Alabama, 3-2
Yu-Sang Hou (AZ) def. Lauren Stephenson (AL), 4 and 3
Kristen Gillman (AL) def. Gigi Stoll (AZ), 4 and 3
Cheyenne Knight (AL) def. Bianca Pagdanganan, 4 and 2
Sandra Nordaas (AZ) def. Angelica Moresco (AL), 1 up
Haley Moore (AZ) def. Lakareber Abe (AL), 19th hole
Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier
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.
Jutanugarn sisters: Different styles, similar results
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.''
Wise: 'No hard feelings' over Nelson missed kiss
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."