Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
The word is compatibate.
And the American Ryder Cup team can thank Boo Weekley for it.
Leave it to Boo to throw out a word that really isn’t a word to describe what made this Ryder Cup team different from the last three that, apparently, didn’t compatibate.
Boo couldn’t exactly define what compatibate means when asked Sunday night but it means something like 16 ½ - 11 1/2 , which was the final score at Valhalla Golf Club.
Maybe the Ryder Cup comes down to nothing more than which team plays the best. There is a strong correlation between holing putts and winning trophies, no matter which trophy is at stake.
But U.S. captain Paul Azinger had a plan that first popped into his mind a few years back when he was watching a documentary. If he ever captained the Ryder Cup team, Azinger decided he would use the concepts he learned from the documentary, which suggested breaking big groups into smaller groups.
With 12 players on his team, Azinger broke them into four-man groups for practice rounds, team matches and, I’m guessing here, seating assignments at dinner.
It was easy to pick out the groups.
The alpha group included Phil Mickelson, Anthony Kim, Hunter Mahan and Justin Leonard. Funny, how they were the first four guys to go out in Sunday’s singles.
The second group included southerners Kenny Perry, J.B. Holmes Boo Weekley and Pennsylvania native Jim Furyk, who was an adopted southerner while in Louisville.
Those four, coincidentally, went out in the middle of the singles lineup.
The final group – Stewart Cink, Steve Stricker, Ben Curtis and Chad Campbell – the mild-mannered, quiet guys went at the end.
“I had to sell it to the players and they were, to a man, behind this,” Azinger said.
See what happens when you compatibate?
Saturday, September 20, 2008
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Despite the decision by captain Nick Faldo to rest stars Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood, the European team closed the gap on the United States in Saturday's morning session at the Ryder Cup, cutting the American lead to 7-5 entering the afternoon four-ball play.
The Europeans got a huge boost from the team of Henrik Stenson and Oliver Wilson, who rallied from 4-down to upset Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim 2 & 1.
Europe also got help when Miguel Angel Jimenez and Graeme McDowell won the 18th hole to salvage a tie against Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahan.
Ian Poulter and Justin Rose easily defeated Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell 4 & 3 while the American's only win came in a 3 & 1 decision by Jim Furyk and Kenny Perry over Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson.
“We're digging deep,” McDowell said. “We're over here to win the trophy.”
Faldo's strategy to sit Garcia and Westwood, saying he wanted fresh legs in the morning matches, could have backfired with the Europeans starting the day three points behind.
When Mickelson and Kim began misfiring, however, the momentum shifted. The Americans lost six of the last 11 holes in the match, often creating their own problems with wayward tee shots.
“For Stenson to turn that match around with Ollie Wilson, that is just fantastic,” Faldo said. “I said, ‘Just chip away, one at a time, one at time' and he really looked after Ollie Wilson. Just unbelievable.”
- Ron Green Jr.
Friday, September 19, 2008
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – In his blue jeans, white T-shirt and white Ryder Cup cap, Michael Jordan spent Friday just the way he wanted – watching the Ryder Cup matches at Vahalla Golf Club.
Jordan, who has attended every Ryder Cup since the 1997 in Valderrama, Spain, intends to spend the weekend at Valhalla before returning to Charlotte in advance of the Charlotte Bobcats’ preseason training camp.
“It’s my favorite event (outside of basketball),” Jordan said while watching Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim play Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson Friday morning.
“I love the competition. There’s no money. It’s all about pride. Every shot makes somebody happy or sad.”
Jordan said he’s been in Louisville since Tuesday, playing golf with friends before the matches began Friday.
Next fall, when the top American professionals face the International team in the Presidents Cup matches in San Francisco, Jordan is expected to be an assistant on captain Fred Couples’ staff.
“I heard I have no choice,” Jordan said. “Yeah, I’ll be there.”
Thursday, September 18, 2008
When Anthony Kim qualified for the U.S. Ryder Cup team earlier this year, Phil Mickelson quickly called captain Paul Azinger and asked to be paired with the Wachovia Championship winner.
“I said, ‘Way to go out on a limb, Phil. You want Anthony Kim, really?” Azinger cracked after announcing the pairings Wednesday afternoon.
Mickelson got his wish, pairing with Kim to face the powerful European duo of Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson in the first match at 8:05 a.m. Friday.
If there was a surprise to the pairings, it was that Azinger elected not to pair Kentuckians Kenny Perry and J.B. Holmes in the first match, as he hinted he might.
Instead, Perry will play with Jim Furyk in the final morning match against Europe’s top duo, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood.
“It just made sense to me that it would be a really solid pairing,” Azinger said.
Azinger added that he will play all 12 players on Friday, meaning Boo Weekley, Steve Stricker, Ben Curtis and Holmes will play in the afternoon best-ball matches.
Faldo wouldn’t make the same commitment about playing all of his players on Friday.
“I’m not going to make any promises or assumptions or anything,” Faldo said.
The United States has not led after the morning session since 1991 and has not led at the end of a day since its famous winning comeback on Sunday in 1999.
- 8:05 a.m.: Phil Mickelson-Anthony Kim vs. Padraig Harrington-Robert Karlsson.
- 8:20: Justin Leonard-Hunter Mahan vs. Henrik Stenson-Paul Casey
- 8:35: Stewart Cink-Chad Campbell vs. Justin Rose-Ian Poulter
- 8:50: Kenny Perry-Jim Furyk vs. Lee Westwood-Sergio Garcia
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Monday, September 08, 2008
Thursday, September 04, 2008
Recently, NBC commentator Johnny Miller said Vijay Singh is playing the best golf any 40-something has played since Ben Hogan was hitting soft fades in his heyday.
He's probably right.
Singh has been on a remarkable roll, winning three of his last four starts, including the first two FedEx Cup playoff events to sap the drama out of the season-ending money grab.
In the process, Singh has reminded us of what an exceptional player he is, not just now but over the span of his career. He's not in the best of the best class -- that's Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones and a few others -- but Singh is just outside it.
And imagine if he could putt.
Singh is, at times, a terrific putter. You don't win 34 PGA Tour events including three majors by slapping it around on the greens. It's no great revelation, however, to point to Singh's perpetual love-hate relationship with his putter as his most glaring deficiency.
His reputation has been built on his legendary practice regimen and his devotion to the gym, where he spends more time than some basketball coaches. Sheer work and will account for a sizeable portion of Singh's success but he also possesses rare talent.
It has been tough for the public to warm up to Singh over the years, in part because he's been so guarded with the media. There's obviously a funny, playful side to Singh -- there are too many stories and compliments to dispute it -- but it's been hard for the world to see.
I don't think Singh cares much about how popular he is, though he's earned enormous respect. In the process, Singh seems to have softened and why not?
At 45, he's still close to the prime of his career.
And he keeps reminding us of it every week.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
As U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger announced his four at-large choices for his Ryder Cup team Tuesday morning, everything was going fairly close to expectations.
Steve Stricker was a lock. He's too good to leave off and he's playing well, something in seriously short supply among the American side.
Hunter Mahan made sense. He made some silly remarks last month about how guys didn't want to play in the Ryder Cup and, discovering he sounded like a jerk, Mahan recanted and deserved the spot Azinger offered.
J.B. Holmes wasn't a surprise. Azinger has seemed infatuated by Holmes' enormous power off the tee and his familiarity with Valhalla, where the matches will be played in two weeks. It didn’t hurt that Holmes is a Kentucky native, though the fact remains that the vast majority of fans on site in Louisville will be from someplace outside Kentucky state lines. This isn't going to be like Rupp Arena, in other words.
The shocker came when Azinger named Chad Campbell as his final choice.
What about Rocco Mediate? Or Scott Verplank? Or D.J. Trahan? Or any of a half-dozen other guys?
No, Azinger chose Chad Campbell, who finished tied for seventh Monday in the Deutsche Bank Championship, thereby earning a spot based on Azinger's pre-determined criteria -- whomever is playing well at the moment.
Azinger was, in effect, trapped by his determination to go with the hottest American players because there really aren't any.
He thought about rookie Kevin Streelman but that would have been an ultra long-shot pick.
He thought long and hard about Mediate, whose personality would have been worth at least half a point to the American side.
He thought about a bunch of guys and settled on Campbell, who seemed almost as surprised as everyone else that he was picked.
Campbell had a nice run in July when he finished tied for seventh at the John Deere and third at Milwaukee but those aren't high-profile events. He did have a tie for 14th at the World Golf Championship event at Firestone but, until his top-10 in Boston, he had a missed cut and a tie for 65th. Not exactly smokin.'
The truth is Azinger didn't have many easy choices.
Across the pond, European captain Nick Faldo was already getting beaten up for picking Ian Poulter over Darren Clarke, a move that has the tabloids in a frenzy.
By his own admission, Azinger is a control freak and likes to be a dominant personality. He restructured the team selection process to give himself more say-so in his roster in part because he wanted it that way and, in part, because nothing else has worked for the Americans since 1999.
He solicited advice from many people, crunched some numbers and, finally, made his own choices.
There is a tendency to give the captains too much credit for what goes right and what goes wrong in the Ryder Cup. They make the pairings, pick the outfits then sit back and watch.
Azinger will bring the fire to the American team. In Faldo's case, there is reason to wonder if the players can warm up to a coach who was so coldly dismissive of others for so many years. Is this the year when the Europeans' famous cameraderie finally fails them?
And it's still more than two weeks before we get any answers.