Rory McIlroy’s late entrance for Sunday’s singles at the Ryder Cup was clearly the most dominant story line early on. Set for an 11:25 a.m. tee time against Keegan Bradley, the world’s No. 1 got there at 11:15, or with only minutes to spare.
Europe’s staff could breathe easier at the sight of the mop-haired young man hustling to the first tee, but what soon generated was speculation about what might have been had he been even later. Some suggested that tee times would have been changed to accommodate McIlroy, or perhaps a one-hole loss would have slapped on him.
Turns out, McIlroy was minutes away from costing his team a full point – and considering that the Euros had nothing to spare at the end, it would have been a precious point.
According to Kerry Haigh, managing director of championships for the PGA of America, if McIlroy was more than five minutes late, he would have lost his match to Bradley.
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STOPPING AT FOUR: There was a commitment going in with Team USA that no one was going to play five matches, no matter what. What prompted that philosophy? Some numbers-crunching that indicated that those who play all four team matches do poorly in their fifth, the singles.
In the six Ryder Cups between 1997-2008 (2010 is not applicable, because miserable weather meant a change in format; instead of five sessions, there were just four), only 10 times did an American player go all five, compiling a 4-4-2 record. (Mickelson twice lost in singles after playing all four team matches, in 2008 and 2002.) In that same stretch, the Europeans relied upon a five-session guy 23 times, the record being 10-11-2.
(Of note, Colin Montgomerie is the exception, of course. He was utterly brilliant in singles, capping off five-match performances with wins in 2002, 1999, 1997, 1995 and 1993. Clearly, he had enough left in the tank for the Ryder Cup singles, but was out of gas for the majors.)
But Montgomerie aside, the data could be used to defend the American plan for 2012. Then again, critics might counter with this: The only two players who went all five this year were Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose and they won crucial singles matches Sunday.
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THEY’LL TAKE TURKEY INSTEAD: At first glance you would think that Europe’s star Ryder Cuppers were understandably exhausted, so they opted out of this week’s Dunhill Links in St. Andrews. More likely, though, the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final had more to do with McIlroy and Lee Westwood skipping the European Tour’s star pro-am, at which they’ve been fixtures in recent years.
McIlroy and Westwood will be joined by Tiger Woods, Webb Simpson, Rose, Hunter Mahan, Matt Kuchar and Charl Schwartzel in the $5.2 million tournament that begins Tuesday, Oct. 9 in Belek.
McIroy has played in each of the last five Dunhill Links, finishing second twice and third another time, while Westwood has been there 11 years in a row. Schwartzel has played in eight of the last nine.
The Dunhill Links is considered on par with the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, so far as attracting a great field, quality celebrities, and world-class courses (the Old Course, Kingsbarns, Carnoustie), but clearly the money in Turkey is too hard to turn down.
While no American Ryder Cup participant other than captain Davis Love headed to this week’s PGA Tour stop in Las Vegas, Dustin Johnson has chosen to tee it up at the Dunhill Links. Graham Delaet and Pat Perez will also play, as will Shaun Micheel and Rich Beem.
Riding a wave of emotions into St. Andrews will be several members of the victorious European Ryder Cup team – Paul Lawrie, Martin Kaymer and Peter Hanson. Also, all four European vice-captains will play – Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjorn, Paul McGinley and Miguel Angel Jimenez.
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MAKING THEIR PUSH: Certainly, there’s a big exhale in the aftermath of the 39th Ryder Cup, but not to a good many players who are in pursuit of job security for 2013. In other words, the chase for money-list standing resumes this week in Las Vegas at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
David Mathis currently sits 125th, but of those who rank from 126-140, only Chez Reavie (129th), Y.E. Yang (135th), and Gary Woodland (138th) aren’t in the field, and the latter two are set with exemptions through 2014 and 2013, respectively.
The most notable of those in the Vegas field who are trying to push their way up the money list has to be John Daly. He hasn’t ranked inside the top 125 since 2005, but he’s currently 132nd, having earned $479,595 in just 12 tournaments.
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COMING TO A TOURNAMENT NEAR YOU: PGA Tour fans may very well see a lot of the Belgian Bomber, Nicolas Colsaerts in 2013. The $652,886 he has earned in eight PGA Tour events (that includes three World Golf Championships) would have him 122nd on the money list and since he has a sponsor’s exemption into next week’s Frys.com Open, Colsaerts could go a long way in nailing down a card for next year.