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2:20PM

Tiger, 0-4: ‘I’m one of the contributing factors why we lost the Ryder Cup’

By Art Spander

SANT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France — It couldn’t have ended in a more appropriate fashion, a Phil Mickelson tee shot splashing into a pond, immediately followed by the European Ryder Cup team splashing Champagne to celebrate a victory that was inevitable.

Once more, an American team of stars — Phil and Tiger Woods, who didn’t score a measly point between them, and Dustin Johnson, a recent world’s No. 1, who at least did score a measly point — was beaten, make that overwhelmed, by Europe, this time 17½ to 10½.

You now can amend the adage; there’s nothing sure but death, taxes and an American defeat when the Ryder Cup is held on the far side of the Atlantic. This was the sixth straight time the Euros have won in Europe. Also the ninth time in 12 matches, wherever they have been played.

That the 48-year-old Mickelson, making a 12th and surely farewell Ryder appearance, didn’t score in two matches at Le Golf National near Paris — one of those the Sunday singles — could be excused.

But what about Tiger getting blanked in all four of his matches? Or Johnson picking up only a single point in four matches? And that wasn’t in singles, where Sunday he was whipped by Ian Poulter.

Tiger, Phil and Dustin combined for one point of a possible nine, which is unimpressive even if the 42-year-old Woods is exhausted from his win a week ago, even if Mickelson has been slumping as he is aging, and even if Johnson reportedly has domestic problems.

“I did not play well this year,” conceded Mickelson. “This could very well, realistically, be my last one.”

America basically lost the Cup it had won two years ago at Hazeltine near Minneapolis after three sessions this time, when Europe made history by taking all of Friday’s alternate shot foursomes and then Saturday morning taking three of the four fourballs (or better balls).

For those who want to dodge reality and find wonderful French pastry in this mess, the U.S. trailing 10-6 before the 12 Sunday singles briefly cut the margin to 10½-9½. Hey, Gert, here they come. No, sorry. There they go again.

“It’s disappointing because I went 0-4,” said Woods candidly, “and that’s four points to the European team. And I’m one of the contributing factors why we lost the Cup, and it’s not fun.

“It’s frustrating because when we came here I thought we were all playing pretty well. I just didn’t perform at the level that I had been playing and just got behind early in the matches and never got back.”

Whether or not he was worn out, Woods said, “Yeah, I mean, I played seven out of nine weeks ... So a lot of big events, and a lot of focus, a lot of energy goes into it. I was fortunate enough to have won one, and we were all coming here on a high and feeling great about our games, about what we were doing, and excited about playing this week.”

But as Mickelson and the team captain, Jim Furyk, agreed, they were outplayed.

Patrick Reed, “Captain America,” got back a bit. He won Sunday. So did three other Americans, Cup rookie Justin Thomas (who beat Rory McIlroy), Wade Simpson and cup rookie Tony Finau. That was it for the red-in-the-face, white and blue.

Jordan Spieth? Crushed, 5 and 4, by a Swede named Thorbjorn Olesen, who has three fewer major victories than Jordan but Sunday had a lot more birdies, seven compared to Spieth’s two.

“I had some in-between numbers,” said Spieth of his yardages to the greens, meaning he was unsure what club to use. “And I didn’t really pick the right shot, and I got in trouble. Chipping let me down. I had a couple opportunities to save par and stay even, dropped to two, three down, and then he out-putted me.”

This from a 25-year-old who is known as a brilliant putter.

Road games bring out the best — or worst. Every course has 18 holes, but on the European Ryder Cup courses those holes are surrounded by huge crowds chanting “Ole, ole, ole….oh-le” and rattling the American pros. Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus never seemed to mind, but the new kids are bothered.

And Euro pros such as Olsen, Sergio Garcia and Poulter seem never to miss a putt in the Ryder Cup. The contention is the Euros bond better, but most of them, Poulter, Justin Rose, Jon Rahm, Henrik Stenson, play the U.S. PGA Tour. Besides, this isn’t basketball. You don’t pass a golf ball around. It’s an individual game, even when you have a partner.

“Let’s be honest,” said Mickelson. “The European side played some exquisite golf. I mean, it was some phenomenal golf, and they flat-out beat us.”

As they always do in Europe. Ole, ole, ole, ohh-le.

2:41PM

Furyk on U.S. Ryder Cup shutout: ‘I bet we’ll be fine’

By Art Spander

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France — It was historic. It was embarrassing. The supposedly unbeatable United States Ryder Cup team turned out to be as soft as a croissant.

Not only did it fail to win any of the four afternoon matches Friday on opening day of the 2018 Cup, it couldn’t even come close.

In the alternate-shot format that vexes Americans even more than trying to correctly pronounce “Chantilly” — one golfer hits the tee shot, his partner the next shot — the U.S. couldn’t extend any match beyond the 16th hole.

So Europe, which lost three of the four-ball or better-ball matches in the morning, roared back to take a 5-3 lead and seemed destined to continue America’s frustration each time the biennial event is held on this side of the Atlantic. The U.S. hasn’t won in Europe since 1993.

With fans hooting and chanting as if they were at a soccer match and not a tournament at Le Golf National some 20 miles southwest of the Eiffel Tower, the Euros became the first team ever to record a shutout in alternate-shot, or foursomes, and the first to get a sweep in any session since 1989.

This wasn’t a match, it was a mismatch. It was Alabama against Arkansas State. It was bewildering, mystifying and nonsensical. The pairing of Phil Mickelson, at 48 surely playing his last Ryder Cup, and Bryson DeChambeau, at 25 playing his first, lost seven of the first eight holes, including five in a row to Sergio Garcia and Alex Noren.

On the 10th tee, Mickelson-DeChambeau were 7 down. Or if you want to make a drink of it, Garcia and Noren were 7 up. That Mickelson-DeChambeau lost only 5 and 4 proves something, but what no one is sure.

Mickelson was a captain’s pick by Jim Furyk, who apparently wanted Phil’s experience (this is his 12th Ryder Cup). Well, Mickelson now has a new experience with which he can relate: getting stomped.

Tiger Woods, another Furyk pick, didn’t play the afternoon alternate shots. In the morning, Tiger was paired with Patrick Reed, the Masters champion, and they were flattened by Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari, 3 and 1. A good job selecting by Furyk.

Of course, as the Euro captain Thomas Bjorn reminded, “The players play; we just try to get them ready.”

The U.S. hardly was ready for its collapse, or should it be Europe’s resurgence?

“They played great golf,” said Spieth of Fleetwood and Molinari. “Hats off to the Europeans. They were even or under par (in all four afternoon matches), and on this course, in that wind, that’s just fantastic in this format.”

You might presume that Furyk would be depressed the way his foursomes got whipped, but he carries a golfer’s eternal optimism, the belief that the next round will be, if not near perfect, then at least highly rewarding.

“In match play,” said Furyk, “you lose 6 and 5, you lose 2 and 1, it’s the same result. We have to shore things up. And I’m guessing we’ll switch things in the afternoon (Saturday). We’ve already been thinking about that.

“Does it pose a problem? I think our guys will respond. I really do. I have a lot of confidence in our guys. It’s going to leave a sour taste in their mouths, and they have to sleep on that. We’ll come back. I bet we’ll be fine.”

There are four more four-ball matches and four more foursomes Saturday. On Sunday, there are 12 singles. That used to be where the U.S. could be counted on to dominate, but in the 2012 Cup, in Chicago, it was the Euros who came from behind with victories in singles.

“There will be adjustments,” Spieth said of the alternate-shot session Saturday. “Foursomes, it’s a tough one. You know what team to throw out there.”

On Friday, whatever the team, it appeared to have been thrown under the bus.

“We knew it was going to be a grind,” said Rickie Fowler, who paired with Dustin Johnson was a 3 and 2 loser to Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson. “We struggled to get the momentum going, and when we did it was too late.”

It is no secret that the course was set up for the home team, narrow fairways to negate the power of people such as Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka. But the Americans should have been able to adapt.

“We thought this would be a good format for the tee shots,” said Mickelson, “hitting a bunch of irons off the tee. We just didn’t play our best.”

But the Euros did.

8:34AM

Newsday (N.Y.): Jordan Spieth remains upbeat despite making a big mistake

By Art Spander
Special to Newsday

ST. LOUIS — He called it a perfect storm, brought about by a less than perfect golf shot.

Jordan Spieth worked a miracle to win last year’s British Open, salvaging a bogey from a driving range. Saturday in the third round of the PGA Championship, there was nothing miraculous, only disastrous.

Read the full story here.

Copyright © 2018 Newsday. All rights reserved.

9:10PM

Tiger, Phil, Rory, Jordan battered at the Open; welcome to the past

By Art Spander

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — Welcome to the past. Welcome to the days when the U.S. Open was full of double bogies and angry faces, when the greens were as slick as a con man running a street corner crap game and players almost could lose a ball while inexorably they were losing strokes.

Sure, some people didn’t fall victim. Four golfers were even under par in Thursday’s first round at historic Shinnecock Hills, which is so far out on Long Island it seems nearer to London than Manhattan.

But they were only at 1-under, so the four, with scores of 69, Scott Piercy, Ian Poulter, Russell Henley and Dustin Johnson, shared the lead.

But that was just four golfers out of 156. On opening day, when usually at least a dozen — occasionally a dozen and a half — break par. And other than Johnson, Open winner in 2016 at Oakmont, none of the four would be labeled a marquee attraction — like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy.

Those guys could be found stomping around in the rough that makes America’s golfing championship the test it can be. They also could be found way, way down the scoreboard, although not as far down as Scott Gregory, a 23-year-old Englishman who having won the British Amateur two years ago upped and turned pro. Oops.

Gregory, with 10 bogies, three double-bogies, two triple-bogies and only three pars, shot a 22-over 92, the highest score in a U.S. Open in 16 years and sighed, “I didn’t get it off the tee.”

He meant onto the fairway. On a day when the wind blew in off the neighboring Atlantic, some of the more accomplished and better known golfers had the same problem.

In the morning, three of the game’s more famous competitors, Mickelson, McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, were grouped — and were battered, Mickelson shooting a 7-over 77 and coming in lowest among the threesome.

Spieth had his worst Open round ever, a 78, and McIlroy, with seven bogies, three double bogies and three birdies, shot 80.

Tiger, with an afternoon tee time, began with a triple-bogey 7, botched a comeback with consecutive double-bogies at 13 and 14 and shot an 8-over 78.

At least Woods talked after his misfortunes. So give him points for that even if his game was less than impressive.

“It was tough out there, but you shouldn’t make two doubles in a row,” said Woods. “It was frustrating because I hit the ball well. A four-putt. For most of the day, I didn’t putt well.”

Mickelson, who needs an Open for a career grand slam, and McIlroy, who lacks the Masters for his slam, signed their cards and silently slipped away — if silently is an accurate description when fans are hollering for autographs.

Spieth, who has won the Masters, U.S. and British Opens — clever grouping, huh, three guys one short of history — did speak post-round, if for someone who normally explains everything and anything, with uncharacteristic brevity.

“Very difficult,” said Spieth. “Got it off to a good start. It was hard after that. You just have to stay patient and understand that you are going to shoot four-over par once you are four-under through two holes.

“I tried to do too much on the second hole, and it kind of bit me. From there it was kind of a grind. There were certainly some dicey pins, but at the same time there were guys under par. So I could have played better.”

That’s a comment that used to be heard at Opens, where even-par or higher was the eventual winning score. In 1974, seven-over par was good enough on another New York course maybe 100 miles from Shinnecock. That led to a championship for Hale Irwin and a book about the struggle, Massacre at Winged Foot, by the late Dick Schaap.

Things were less severe after that. In fact, for a while the Open didn’t quite look like the Open.

But it did on Thursday, with tough conditions and high scores.

And you were reminded of a comment by Tony Lema, the Oakland kid who became a winner. “The Masters,” said Lema, comparing, “is fun. The U.S. Open is work.”

As it should be.

9:18AM

Newsday (N.Y.): Jordan Spieth makes run at another jacket, but finishes two shots back

By Art Spander
Special to Newsday

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Jordan Spieth was nine shots behind, virtually out of this Masters when he teed off Sunday in the final round. Not only was he trailing the leader, Patrick Reed, but major winners such as Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson and Henrik Stenson, an all-star cast.

The plan then was to play with no expectations, “stress-free golf,” he called it.

Read the full story here.

Copyright © 2018 Newsday. All rights reserved.