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10:01AM

Ryder Cup nastiness runneth over

By Art Spander

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France — Tiger Woods was talking about applause in golf. Or really the lack of it. “The art of the clap is gone,” said Woods. Fans have one hand wrapped around a cell phone and their minds wrapped around the idea of creating chaos.

In his advice to spectators — patrons, they’re called — at the Masters, the late Bobby Jones said it would be impolite and improper to cheer a competitor’s mistakes. Which brings us to the Ryder Cup, a tournament where virtually anything goes and everything is yelled, especially insults.

The Cup’s nastiness runneth over. And ain’t it wonderful?

It you’re not familiar with the Ryder Cup, it’s a biennial event that matches golfers from the United States against golfers from Europe, many of whom live at least part-time in the United States. The 2018 Cup is Friday through Sunday at Le Golf National, a course about 20 miles from Paris.

Nobody in America seemed to notice the Cup, much less care about it, until back in the early 1990s when, whoops, Europe, with players such as Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam and Nick Faldo began to kick America’s you-know-what.

As Davis Love III, a player and then a two-time American captain, recalled, “I got home, and a friend had two questions: What’s the Ryder Cup and how did we lose it?”

With considerable regret, that’s how. All those handshakes at the close of the tournament cover up a great deal of deep-felt irritation that once became public in comments by Paul Casey.

In the Sunday Times of London, Casey was quoted as saying he learned to “properly hate” Americans during the Cup and went on to explain that U.S. fans can be “bloody annoying” and the vast majority of American fans don’t know what’s going on.

The story made its way to the tabloid Daily Mirror, where a headline quoted Casey as saying, “Stupid Americans. I hate them.” That Casey, an Englishman, attended Arizona State, was married to an American and is based in Arizona didn’t seem to matter.

Casey, who plays the U.S. PGA Tour, is back on the European Ryder team, saying very little, unfortunately.

It’s football season in the U.S. (also in Europe, if a different brand of football). The Cup can use a few vocal barbs to get attention.

The Euros have grumbled about the manner American fans acted and bellowed during the 2016 matches at Minneapolis. Surely there will be a response this time around.

Tom Watson, the Stanford guy and five-time British Open champion, gets some of the blame. The 1991 Ryder Cup was held at Kiawah Island in South Carolina shortly after the U.S. military operation Desert Storm. To whip up interest, Watson, the U.S. team captain, called the matches “The War by the Shore,” and the fans roared at every missed Euro putt.

Six years later, 1997, the Cup was in Spain, and the Americans were harassed as much as possible. The next chapter was in 1999 at The Country Club in Boston, when Justin Leonard of the U.S. sank an enormously long birdie putt near the end of day three and his U.S. teammates and some of their wives and girlfriends celebrated on the green — even though opponent José Maria Olazabal had yet to putt.

That was 19 years ago, but a writer from Scotland brought it up the other day. These people have long memories and sometimes short fuses.

Sergio Garcia, the Spaniard, is a captain’s pick. Through the years he’s also been a pain in the neck for the U.S., holing long putts at the most opportune times — or inopportune for the Americans.

Someone suggested the U.S. has copied the camaraderie long evident among the Euros. “It may seem they are doing a little bit better,” said Garcia. “I don’t know what goes on in their team room, but I know what goes on in ours. It comes easy. It comes naturally.

“Then we will go out there and play the best we can and make sure we have a shot at winning the Cup.”

From the American team, we hear the sound of one hand clapping.

9:34PM

Masters: Tiger’s back, Sergio’s shocked

By Art Spander

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Just one of those things. A song title from Cole Porter about a flamed-out romance. An observation from Sergio Garcia about a round of golf so painfully flamed out — he is the defending champion, is he not? — it almost made us forget about the over-hyped return to the Masters of Tiger Woods.

Almost.

You were aware, certainly, that Mr. Woods, after an absence of three years, is once more in the Masters, literally if not exactly after an opening round 1-over-par 73 Thursday, back in contention — although as he resolutely reminded, “it’s a bunched leader board.”

Is it fair to say that seven shots behind this era’s Tiger, young Jordan Spieth, and in a tie for 29th Tiger is not exactly in the bunch?

No matter. With 54 holes remaining at a tournament he has won four times, and the first major of the year, we can say anything — and Woods can disprove anything and everything.

Except that he failed to take advantage of the par-fives, the holes that in his glory years were responsible for his success because of repetitive birdies. He had nothing but pars on those four holes Thursday.

Garcia could only wish that had been his situation. Alas, on the 15th, the 530-yard hole so many of those at or near the top did birdie — Spieth, Tony Finau, Matt Kuchar, Henrik Stenson, and Rory McIlroy — Garcia made 13.

That was eight over par. That matched the highest score ever on any single hole in any Masters, and this is the 82nd.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” Sergio told us. He knocked five balls into the pond in front of the 15th green, the last four hitting the green and then trickling back down a very slippery slope.

“It was just one of those things,” he said. “It’s the first time in my career where I make a 13 without missing a shot.”

Tom Weiskopf made a 13 on the par-3 12th in 1980 (five balls into Rae’s Creek). Tommy Nakajima made a 13 on the par-5 13th (balls behind trees, into Rae’s Creek). When someone that day asked Nakajima if he lost confidence, he responded, “No, I lose count.”

What counted for many was Tiger’s presence.

Sure, he hadn’t played a Masters since 2015. Sure, he holds the Masters scoring record. Sure, there seemed to be more anticipation and excitement for this 2018 Masters than for others of late. But how much publicity is too much?

Tiger was mentioned in 130 pre-tournament interviews with players other than Tiger.

ESPN, televising the Thursday and Friday rounds, had a Masters preview Wednesday night that mentioned only Tiger’s chances.

It was as if he was the lone golfer entered.

But, we learned quickly enough, there was Sergio, who would shoot a 9-over 81 (which isn’t bad when you go 8-over on one hole) and there was Jordan, the 2015 winner, who shot a 6-under 66.

What we learned about Tiger, in his return, is that despite the scandal of ’09, he’s still wildly popular — “The people were incredible,” he said of the boisterous galleries — and he’s still wild with some of his shots.

“I hit it better than I scored,” was the Woods analysis, a frequent explanation. He had five bogies and four birdies, two of the birdies at 14 and 16, neither of which is an easy hole.

He saw a reason to be satisfied, even if over par.

“Seventy-three is fine,” said Woods. It is? While over the years Tiger has started slowly at Augusta, he’s now 42 years old and hasn’t won a Masters since 2005.

And yet, he was back.

“Yes, I played in a major championship again,’” Woods said, “but also the fact I was — I got my myself back in the tournament, and I could have easily let it slip away. And I fought hard to get back in there, and I’m back in this championship. There’s a lot of holes to be played.”

Indeed, but the issue is how will he play them?

One bad swing or bad break and, well, as Sergio knows too well, one of those things can happen all too quickly.

10:19PM

Los Angeles Times: U.S. wins Ryder Cup for first time since 2008

By Art Spander
Los Angeles Times

CHASKA, MINN. — It was a Sunday of laughter and tears, of success and relief. It was an afternoon on the prairie when America’s golfers stood up to anxiety and knocked down the criticism.

It was the day the United States finally won the Ryder Cup.

Read the full story here.

Copyright 2016 Los Angeles Times

1:44PM

Tiger takes on historic Merion

By Art Spander

ARDMORE, Pa. — The site is a work of art in miniature. "Merion the Small," it could be named, a course trapped by geographical restrictions in a leafy suburb of Philadelphia. Yet through the years, it has been large in the history of American golf.
   
It was at Merion, the 1930 U.S. Amateur, where Bobby Jones completed the fourth and final leg of the Grand Slam. It was at Merion where Ben Hogan, a year removed from his awful auto accident, hit that splendid 1 iron to get into a playoff for the 1950 Open. It was at Merion where Lee Trevino tossed a rubber snake before a playoff in the 1971 Open, in which he would beat Jack Nicklaus.
  
That’s how we think of Merion. That’s how we think of golf. Who did what and when. And so the question to Tiger Woods on Tuesday, two days before the 2013 Open is to begin at Merion, was more logical than it seemed in a crowded press tent.
   
When Woods shows up at a special tournament, an Open, a Masters, a British Open, does he feel a responsibility to respond to the situation, to play as we expected him to play in a major, stepping forward into the figurative spotlight if not into the literal lead?
   
Those who have watched Tiger, who have listened to Tiger, could have predicted the response. If Woods is not always consistent in his golf — who is? — he is in his answers. They remain unchanging.
  
“I think,” he reminded, “I just enter events to win, and that’s it, whether there’s a lot of people following or nobody out there. It’s still the same. It’s still about winning the event . . . just to try to kick everyone’s butt.”
   
It’s Tiger’s derriere which has been kicked in major championships of late. Not since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines has Woods been first in a major. Some good finishes, but not the finishes Woods, “all about winning,” has sought.
   
A shade under 7,000 yards in this era of 7,500-yard courses, Merion has been judged the perfect place for Woods to get that win — he rarely has to use the driver, the worst club in his bag — but also, because it negates his length, the most difficult course for Woods to get that win.
  
“I don’t have an exact feel for it yet,” said Woods, “what we’re going to have to do and what we’re doing to have to shoot.” His practice rounds have been played on a Merion soaked by relentless rain, a Merion whose fast greens have been slowed.
 
“We haven’t dealt with teeing it up in a tournament yet with it raining and drying out and mud balls appearing.”
  
He has dealt with the Sergio Garcia Affair, and the media forces him to continue doing so. Garcia was angry with Woods when they were paired together last month at The Players. A few days later, at function in London, Garcia attempted to crack wise about Tiger, saying he was inviting him to dinner and would serve fried chicken – a comment that could be considered racist.
  
Garcia apologized, and Monday, Garcia and Woods shook hands. Queried, Tiger explained, “We didn’t discuss anything. Just came up and said, ‘Hi,’ and that was that . . . He’s already (given an apology). We’ve already gone through it all. It’s time for the U.S. Open, and we tee it up in two days.”
  
When he spoke, a couple hours after Woods, Garcia confirmed an Associated Press story that he had left a handwritten note for Tiger.
  
“And hopefully,” Garcia said, “he can take a look at it. And it’s a big week, and I understand that it’s difficult to meet up and stuff. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do it. If not, at least he has read the note, and he’s happy with that.”
  
What Tiger was unhappy with 10 days ago was his play at the Memorial, a tournament that Woods had won five times but this year ended up in a tie for 65th, making some wonder if that was proper preparation for the Open.
  
“I didn’t play well,” Woods conceded about the Memorial. “I didn’t putt well. I didn’t really do much that I was pleased about. But it was one of those weeks. It happens, and you move on from there.”
   
Move on to America’s national championship. Move on to Merion, where the bunkers are large and the crowd will be boisterous. After all, this is Philly, where during a holiday pageant at halftime of an Eagles game the fans began to boo the poor chap dressed as Santa Claus.
  
“This is our U.S. Open,” said Tiger, "and obviously there won’t be as many people as there were at Bethpage, I think it will be just as loud and just as electric. I’m sure we’ll hear them.”
  
They will. He will. Merion and its history are special. Tiger Woods and his history are special. The game is on.

3:31PM

Global Golf Post: Sergio Surges Into 2012 PGA Tour Season

By Art Spander
For GlobalGolfPost.com

PACIFIC PALISADES, CALIFORNIA -- Sergio Garcia has started the PGA Tour season with some leftover momentum from two late victories on the European Tour in Spain last year. Garcia raised some eyebrows at the Northern Trust Open on Sunday afternoon with a 6-under 30 on the back nine his first nine of the day. He finished with 64, low round of the tournament...

Read the full story here.

Copyright 2012 Global Golf Post