There is nothing in golf quite like the scene surrounding the first tee at the Ryder Cup, especially for the singles session. The grandstands at Celtic Manor this week horseshoe around the tee, building an amphitheater of tremendous spirit, cheer and innovative song. And no shortage of humor.
As each European crossed the bridge from the practice area and made the long walk to the opening tee, players were greeted with a cheer that started softly and built to a crescendo just as they appeared past the corner of the front-right grandstand. The result wasn’t so much loud applause as a resonating clap of continuous thunder.
For Rory McIlroy, who went off in Game 2, the chant aimed at the U.S. team was “You’ve got Big Mac, we’ve got Little Mac.”
When Jim Furyk squinted down the fairway trying to see through the mid-morning fog that made it nearly impossible to see, a lone fan yelled out, “Follow your nose.” Furyk doubled over in laughter.
When Dustin Johnson completed a practice swing while waiting for the fairway to clear, a fan yelled “Fore!!!” And the fans also had a big time with John Paramor, chief referee for the European Tour, who was stationed near the first tee making sure the foggy conditions were still good enough in which to play. Fearing some delay, a voice cried out, “C’mon, John. I’ll NEVER get Tuesday off!”
There apparently might even have been a Catholic priest among the throng which was enjoying the start to another great Ryder Cup day. As American Rickie Fowler stood around waiting to hit, he shouted, “Hurry up, Rickie, I’ve got double mass this afternoon.”
Nearly all of it was in good humor, and those Americans who played along, such as Furyk and Fowler – he wiggled his hips when hearing whistles during his traditional first-tee picture – received the fans’ appreciation.
When the odd U.S. voice would pipe in with something, such as “We’ve got your cup,” it only sparked the crowd, which in unison returned a song that went, “Not for long, not for long, not for looooong …”
Japanese teenage sensation Ryo Ishikawa will provide inspiration to competitors at this week’s Asian Amateur Championship.
Taking time out from his hectic schedule, the nine-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour will speak at a private dinner for players and officials, assuming an inspirational role filled by Gary Player at last year’s inaugural event in China.
Hur Kwang-soo, president of the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), said: “Ryo is a golfing icon to the people of Japan. At a young age, he has quickly become a contemporary example of how global success helps breed the growth of a sport in one’s homeland. His message will no doubt be further inspiration for every player in the championship field to fulfill their dreams in golf.”
Ishikawa has already made appearances at both the Masters and Open Championship.
Ishikawa, who turned 19 last month, claimed his first Japan Tour victory in 2007 as a 15-year-old amateur. He celebrated his best finish in a major championship at this year’s Open when he tied for 27th at St. Andrews.
“I am optimistic that others may learn from my experiences and help grow this great game, which has already given so much to me and my family,” Ishikawa said.
Hosted at the West Course at Kasumigaseki Country Club, the field for the Asian Amateur Championship is made up of top amateurs from 34 APGC-member nations. An invitation to play in the 2011 U.S. Masters awaits the winner; both the winner and the runner(s)-up also earns spots in next year’s International Final Qualifying for The Open Championship.
Rickie Fowler’s father, Rod, was downright giddy watching his son’s clutch play Monday at Celtic Manor.
Four down through 12 holes and 3 down with four to play, Rickie Fowler made four consecutive birdies to halve his match with Edoardo Molinari and force the 38th Ryder Cup matches on the shoulders of Hunter Mahan.
Only three non-conceded birdies were made on the 18th hole all week, and two belonged to Fowler. The most dramatic was the 15-footer Fowler made Monday to gain a crucial half-point to give Team USA a chance to win the Cup.
“He’s always been kind of a clutch player, he always feeds off the pressure,” said Rod Fowler, Rickie’s father, after Graeme McDowell clinched the winning point for Europe. “Unbelievable, I don’t know how he does it.”
Jim Furyk played with Fowler in second session foursomes and was impressed with Fowler’s magic. Fowler made a crucial birdie putt on the 18th hole to halve the match with Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer.
“When I played with him in alternate shot, he showed a lot of guts and a lot of grit,” Furyk said. “He was hitting against Lee Westwood and played him shot for shot. I promise you he had Lee sweating a little bit.”
Colin Montgomerie isn’t shy about asking for help.
Jose Maria Olazabal joined the European Ryder Cup team on Saturday as Montgomerie’s fifth vice captain. The late addition may be a preview of things to come for Olazabal, the two-time Masters champion.
Montgomerie said Monday that he will not captain Europe again after his team’s riveting one-point victory over the United States to regain the Cup.
“I think it’s only right that it should be shared around,” Montgomerie said. “We have a number of fantastic vice captains, plus Olazabal, and one of those five, I’m sure, will be your next European Ryder Cup captain who will defend, hopefully defend the trophy at Medinah in 2012. It will not be me.”
Montgomerie’s call to the 44-year-old Spaniard was perfect timing; Olazabal was in Wales for business.
It may be day-by-day for Tiger Woods, but on Monday at the Ryder Cup he finally came out of hibernation thumping Italian Francesco Molinari, 4 and 3.
It was less than 24 hours earlier that Woods, paired with Steve Stricker, received his worst defeat in Ryder Cup play, a 6-and-5 loss in foursomes to Lee Westwood and Luke Donald.
Not knowing how Woods’ game could rebound, the draw of world No. 32 Molinari could have been very difficult.
Woods lost his singles match in 1997 at Valderrama to another Italian, Constantino Rocca, 4 and 2, in what would make the difference in the U.S. losing 13 1/2-14 1/2.
On Monday, Woods toyed with Molinari for a while, but then made his move over the stretch of holes farthest from the clubhouse. He hit two solid iron shots that produced a birdie on the par-3 10th hole and a hole-out from the fairway on the par-4 12th hole. Neither Woods nor caddie Steve Williams knew the ball had found the hole. When the eagle was confirmed, Woods flashed his signature smile.
After three consecutive birdies and an eagle, Woods yelled out “chicken” when he pulled his iron shot on the par-3 13th hole into the heart of the green and 30 feet away from the hole. Moments later, Woods drained the putt to move to 4 up.
Woods was 9 under through the 15 holes, his best scoring round in 2010. He earned a total of three points at Celtic Manor, tying Stricker. He has earned 4 1/2 points in singles in his Ryder Cup career.
Said Woods: “I just stayed calm, stayed patient, stayed within myself and kept doing what I know I can do.”