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Crazy happened, and Seve saw it

By Dave Kindred

MEDINAH, Ill. -- This story begins on a sandy beach in the north of Spain. A boy with an old 3-iron. Hitting stones. Severiano Ballesteros, who in time would work magic. Better with a 3-iron out of a greenside bunker than most men with a sand wedge. Seve would win in ways no one else could imagine. To call him beautiful is to be precise, for he came to the world with looks and charm and with a gift of talent that he shared with us all.

He died a year ago, 54 years old, a cancer in his brain.

He was in Chicago this week.

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Photo: Montana Pritchard/Getty Images

Sunday morning , before anyone struck a golf shot in this Ryder Cup, the European captain, Jose-Maria Olazabal, told a reporter, "I felt Seve in the team room last night." They'd been friends and partners, Ballesteros and Olazabal. Both won the Masters. They won and lost Ryder Cups together. They shared life. Sewn into the left sleeve of the European team's shirts for the Sunday singles competition, Olazabal had asked for the iconic image of Seve, an arm raised, Seve triumphant.

This was the kind of day Seve Ballesteros lived for. It was a day when something gets done that no one thought could be done. To win the Ryder Cup, the Europeans needed an historic, unprecedented comeback. They needed to win 8 of 12 singles points on the other team's home course. They won 8.5.

Related: Five biggest Ryder Cup Goats

They won those points against an American dozen that had nearly turned the thing into a rout in the first two days. As the shadows lengthened at Medinah Country Club late Saturday afternoon, the U.S. led, 10-4. With 14 points available, needing only 4 ¿ to win, a certain confidence settled on the Americans -- until, in Saturday's last two four-ball matches, the Europeans produced unlikely victories. Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald defeated Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker. Then came Ian Poulter, the fire-breathing Englishman, "a cross between Rod Stewart and Sid Vicious," broadcaster Peter Jacobsen called him. Came Ian Poulter with five straight birdies on the last five holes to beat Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson.

There, in Poulter's work, was the turning point in this story. Poulter recognized it. "It was amazing to see the atmosphere change in that team room," he said. "The spirit, I mean, it just changed. ... All week we'd been beaten quite clearly, and we just felt there was that little glimmer of hope."

Two hours into Sunday's rounds, the glimmer had grown to a glow. Midway through most of the 12 matches, the Europeans led three and were all-square in seven. Suddenly, the game was afoot. On a golden autumn day, with Medinah's thousands of trees blazing orange, red, and yellow, the Ryder Cup became the best sports event in America. Better than any World Series spread over two midnight-oil weeks ... better than any NBA Finals, because, really, Oklahoma City? ... better than any Super Bowl because Mother Nature's spectacle is better than anything the NFL can create ... better, mostly, because the Ryder Cup is golf, and golf, more than any sport, gives us real narratives that, in the best of its stories, cause us to wonder how in hell anybody can breathe let alone draw it back for a shot over a pond the approximate size of the Atlantic.

Related: Winners & Losers from the 2012 Ryder Cup

Then the blue went up on the scoreboards, the European blue. The Scotsman, Paul Lawrie, defeated Brandt Snedeker, 5-and-3. That wasn't supposed to happen. Then Rory McIlroy defeated Keegan Bradley, 2-and-1 -- this after McIlroy had lost track of Illinois time and needed a state-trooper escort to reach Medinah 12 minutes before his tee time. Next, Poulter defeated Webb Simpson, 2-up, and he talked, haltingly, of "this good man on my left sleeve right now that's going to pull us through this."

A fantasy, that. But the signs were there for those who would see.

It turns out that McIlroy can make six birdies in Ryder Cup play without warming up, unless stuffing a breakfast sandwich into one's mouth while putting on one's shoes is warm-up enough at age 23. Soon enough, three Europeans had chipped in for birdies from distances as great as 100 feet. Lee Westwood heard silence and knew what it meant during his match with Matt Kuchar: "Quiet... then you knew that when you start hearing fans, 'Matt, we need you, they are under pressure."

The story is things we didn't know. "A Ryder Cup is not for the faint of heart," Poulter said, and the Belgian Nicolas Colsearts said, "It gets you through the guts." The Canadian sportswriter Bruce Arthur, in a tweet, called the developing story a mash-up of "Happy Gilmore and an Idiocracy Presidential convention." Meaning, let's guess, that Arthur liked the goofy improbability of it all. "It's what golf is all about," U.S. team captain Davis Love III said.

Now we have seen Keegan Bradley on fire. We have seen Jason Dufner impervious. Tiger Woods, the ultimate soloist, came down the first fairway this morning to cheer for a teammate. Zach Johnson has iron in his spine. All those Europeans, with their stout hearts, earned this Ryder Cup; with the Cup at stake, they made 51 birdies to the Americans' 44. This after trailing in birdies the first two days, 99-74.

Related: Memorable Ryder Cup celebrations

Whoever wrote this implausible story foreshadowed its end early. The fourth American out, Phil Mickelson seemed to have a critical point won only to see the Englishman Justin Rose steal it by rolling in three straight putts on the last three holes, the last two for heroic birdies.

And Rose said of his last stroke, "As soon as I holed that putt, and as soon as I came off the green, my first thought was of Seve."

There were groups behind, the story moving quickly to its end now.

"He's been an inspiration for this team all week long, and who knows, if something crazy happens today, I know that were are going to be looking upwards."

Crazy happened. Seve saw it.

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News & Tours

Media: Johnny Miller and the missing C word

Jim Furyk.jpg
(Getty Images photo)

By John Strege

The word with which Johnny Miller, broadcaster, is most closely associated went conspicuously missing at the Ryder Cup on Sunday, even as the U.S. team methodically unraveled, its insurmountable lead surmountable after all.

Miller never mentioned the word "choke," though the U.S. team squandered a 10-6 lead and lost 14 1/2-13 1/2. We can only surmise the criticism he has taken for using the word freely over the years has had an effect on him.

He flirted with the word, at least. "You could say this is the colossal collapse in Chicago," Miller said after Steve Stricker fell behind Martin Kaymer on the 17th hole in the penultimate match, putting the U.S. at a disadvantage. "America has played really poorly on the finishing holes today, which has allowed this to happen. It really is a collapse."

Mark Rolfing also ventured into the vicinity of the word, when after a poor bunker shot by Jim Furyk (shown above) in a tight match at the 17th hole he faced a 15-foot par putt to maintain a 1-up lead over Sergio Garcia.

"It's been a long summer for Jim Furyk in terms of finishing things off in big situations," Rolfing said.

Furyk missed the putt, then lost the 18th hole and the match.

Monty: 'Absolutely ridiculous'

Rory McIlroy was savaged for arriving at Medinah Country Club only 11 minutes prior to his Ryder Cup tee time on Sunday. Good thing for his sake he won his match against Keegan Bradley.

The outspoken Colin Montgomerie was most critical, eviscerating McIlroy as well as European captain Jose Maria Olazabal and his assistants and his caddie J.P. Fitzgerald.

"That's absolutely ridiculous on this level," Montgomerie said during his stint in the NBC booth. "Quite unbelievable...the world number one golfer. How this happened I do not know.

"Where's the captain? Where are the vice captains? Where's his caddie? We were fortunate that he's the one guy, the most natural player on our team, that didn't need to practice. If we had a Faldo or Langer we'd be in trouble."

NBC's Roger Maltbie, meanwhile, was waxing on how impressed he was that McIlroy arrived so late, yet "walked onto the first tee with a smile and went about his business."

"It was embarrassing though," Miller said.

"I wouldn't argue with that," Maltbie replied.

Shanks for the memory

It's no secret that Miller often invokes his own experiences in his analysis, but he had two prime opportunities to do so on Sunday and said nothing.

-- When Webb Simpson shanked his tee shot at the eighth hole, Miller said, "That was one of the fastest swings I think I've ever seen. That's a bad feeling when you've got national TV, Ryder Cup, all these fans, and to think, 'oh, am I going to do it again.' You hit with a shank and people never forget it."

He was speaking from experience, though he failed to inform the audience of that. In the 1972 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am, Miller was in contention on the 16th hole of the final round, when he shanked a shot. He went on to lose to Jack Nicklaus in a playoff.

-- Instructor Jim McLean, who counts Keegan Bradley among his students, posted this on Twitter regarding McIlroy's tardiness and inability to hit balls prior to the starting his round:

"A number of great players hit no balls prior to teeing off. One was Johnny Miller. Wonder if Johnny will mention this?"

He did not.

A graphic reminder

NBC put up a graphic showing those who have gone undefeated in Ryder Cups, and Larry Nelson appeared twice, once going 5-0, once 4-0.

It was a reminder of a glaring oversight on the PGA of America's part, that it never made Nelson a U.S. Ryder Cup captain.

Nelson won two PGA Championships and a U.S. Open and played on three Ryder Cup teams.

On Twitter

Steve Flesch: "I still can't help but to think how big a mistake it was sitting Phil and Keegan yesterday. Every point matters. Strick and Tiger 1-7"

Michelle Wie: "Watching the tv while covering my eyes. I cant watch this....so nervous!! #rydercup #gousa"



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News & Tours

Confused McIlroy narrowly avoids missing tee time

By Bill Fields

MEDINAH, Ill. - As the 11:25 CDT starting time approached Sunday at the Ryder Cup, there was one small problem for Europe.

rory_olazabal.jpgBefore teeing off, McIlroy had to assure a concerned captain Jose Maria Olazabal. Photo by Getty Images

Its biggest name, two-time major champion Rory McIlroy, wasn't at Medinah CC. "All of a sudden, we realized Rory wasn't here," said European captain Jose Maria Olazabal.

Related: McIlroy not looking like world's best at Medinah

McIlroy, back at the hotel watching pre-match coverage on television, apparently was confused by the fact that the tee times were being listed in EDT. He thought he had about 90 minutes to spare. He actually only had about half an hour.

With the aid of a police escort, McIlory was driven to Medinah and arrived at 11:14 a.m. CDT, 11 minutes before he was to tee off.

A few putts, a few swings with a couple of clubs without hitting any practice balls, an energy bar and McIlroy was off to the first tee, where the pro-American gallery had some fun.

Related: Saturday's winners and losers in Chicago

"Cen-tral Time Zone," they chanted.

McIlroy pushed his opening tee shot, but halved the first hole with a par.




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News & Tours

Huggan: Will the real Rory McIlroy please stand up?

By John Huggan

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Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

MEDINAH, Ill. -- "They're playing well; they're having fun."

That was US captain Davis Love's smiling verdict on the so-far dominating performance of his own side as the second series of four-ball matches in this 39th Ryder Cup neared their conclusion. Across the way, however, things were very different. For the increasingly beleaguered European side, led by world number one Rory McIlroy, the defense of Samuel Ryder's gold trophy has been hard going almost from the very first tee-shot.

Anything else would have been at least mildly surprising, even in the wake of what was his second victory in four matches, but McIlroy was looking pretty fed up. More than that, the 23-year old Ulsterman appeared flat, done in and unlikely to be fully prepared -- either mentally or physically -- for yet another Ryder Cup match less than 24 hours later.

Related: Memorable Ryder Cup celebrations

Even the presence of the ever-lively Ian Poulter alongside him in their four-ball encounter with Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson had failed to rejuvenate one of golf's most appealing figures. His making a mere two birdies during a tough last-green win over the Americans was proof enough of that fact. Only two birdies? On a course with little or no rough? Will the real Rory please stand up?

Which is not to say, through what has clearly been a fairly traumatic two days, that McIlroy ever stopped giving his all, or making all the right noises.

"I'll really enjoy the intensity Ian brings," he said just after a morning loss with his compatriot and close pal, Graeme McDowell. "I'll enjoy feeding off him. We'll feed off each other hopefully and try to get a blue point on the board."

Related: Rory McIlory swing sequence

But it wasn't to be, even when Poulter turned the game by finishing with an astonishing five successive birdies. While the glorious McIlroy rhythm and swing were flowing as smoothly as ever, there was no spark or life about the two time major champion's game. Especially on the greens, where a succession of makeable putts slid by without ever really looking as if they might drop, it was a struggle. On the last green his putt for birdie came up short, which aptly summed up his day.

Still, McIlroy was understandably happy with the eventual result, even if its sole purpose was to pull the visiting side to within four points of their hosts with only 12 singles matches to play.

"It was great to be a part of that," he said. "Ian was incredible and deserves all the credit for our win."

Significantly, he didn't have much to say about his own play. For once, the world's best golfer looked like nothing more than a young man in need of his bed.

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News & Tours

Media: 'They can get tired next week, OK?'

Bradley Mickelson.jpg
(Getty Images photo)

By John Strege

Even on a day the U.S. opened a commanding lead, 8-4, in the Ryder Cup, American captain Davis Love III was unable to dodge criticism, most of it on Twitter, for his decision to sit the suddenly dynamic team of Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley in the afternoon fourball on Saturday.

Love was following on his intention of providing every player a rest for the purpose of having him fresh for Sunday singles. Yet Mickelson and Bradley dispatched Luke Donald and Lee Westwood in only 12 holes Saturday morning, in an alternate-shot format.

"Just saw the afternoon draw. Don't like that Phil and Keegan are sitting. They only played 12 holes earlier. They bring so much passion!" former U.S. Ryder Cup player Chris DiMarco said.

PGA Tour player Bob Estes replied with this: "@ChrisDiMarco Good point! 12 holes hitting every other shot. How tired can they be?!"

From PGA Tour player Joe Ogilvie, who is never shy about offering an opinion: "Herb Brooks decides not to play Mike Eruzione against Finland for the gold medal game...sorry I meant to say Davis not playing Phil/Keegan."

The inimitable Dan Jenkins summed it up this way: "So to recap: Davis is benching a 3-0 team (Phil & Keegan) and is trying again with an 0-2 team (Tiger & Stricker)."

Finally, NBC's Johnny Miller weighed in: "They can get tired next week, OK?"

It did nothing to support Love's case that the team of Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker lost again to go 0-3 in this Ryder Cup.

Good call, Johnny

Miller questioned the wisdom of Zach Johnson hitting driver at the short par-4 15th, when he possesses one of the best wedge games in golf. Indeed, Johnson proceeded to drive it into the water right of the fairway and green, leaving partner Jason Dufner to lay up.

They would up losing the hole to Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter, who evened their match there.

Careful, Gary

NBC's Gary Koch might have run afoul of Ian Poulter, as Johnny Miller once did, and Miller was there to warn him.

"Look at statistically, his ball striking by tour standards, pretty average," Koch said of Poulter.

"You're going to be tweeted for that one, Gary," Miller said.

"Statistics don't lie, Johnny," Koch replied.

Two years ago, Miller was critical of Poulter's ball-striking and Poulter responded via Twitter:

"Johnny miller saying today I wasn't a good ball striker. I guess I do alright for a duffer then. He talks such bollocks at times," Poulter wrote.

Related: What's Not To Like?

Stanford teammates? No

When discussing Luke Donald it was noted that he considered attending Stanford before settling on Northwestern.

"And had he gone to Stanford, maybe he would have played on the golf team with Tiger Woods," NBC's Peter Jacobsen said. "What a team that would have been with Notah Begay and Casey Martin."

Well, no. Donald was a Northwestern freshman in the fall of 1997. Woods left Stanford in 1996, Martin and Begay in 1995.

On Twitter

Arron Oberholser: "If Ian Poulter played this way every week he'd be #1 in the world"

David Feherty: "Bubba and Poulter are what the Ryder Cup is all about! Magic on grass, joy in sport, love to the fans. You've got to love them."


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News & Tours

The key to Ryder Cup success? Lighten up

By Dave Kindred

MEDINAH, Ill. -- If Ian Poulter knows anything, the Englishman knows a moment when he hears it. So, at 7:20 a.m. on the second day of this Ryder Cup, fully 11 hours before he became supernatural, he turned to the folks in the bleachers behind the first tee, most of them Americans, and invited them to come on with the noise.

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Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty IMages

The idiosyncratic American, Bubba Watson, had not encouraged such noise the day before -- he had demanded it. For a few centuries, witnesses have been confined in a cone of silence when a professional golfer was at work, the flop shot as brain surgery. But here the reigning Masters champion ordered the paying customers to get loud. And get louder WHILE he hit a tee shot.

Bubba's explanation: the Ryder Cup ought to be fun. Poulter had learned of the heresy, and when the Saturday pairings put him with Watson on the first tee, he decided Bubba had a bloody good idea there.

Below those cheering thousands with their flags and raucously declared loyalties, anyone about to hit an opening tee shot in Ryder Cup competition is amped up already, even if at address the only sound is a squirrel at breakfast. "I knew Bubba was going to do it again, so why not join him?" Poulter said later. "My heart rate went from, I would say, 100 to 180 pretty quickly. ... it was a great buzz."

Related: Is teeing off to cheers the next big thing?

Where Poulter's tee shot went, no one cared. (Into a fairway bunker.) Watson followed with a reprise of his first-day act, only with the noise ratcheted up six turns. And when he left the tee, he left the long way, walking a hundred yards along a gallery fence, all the way slapping hands with fans.

What an idea, a game as fun. Golf's favorite wit, David Feherty, a Ryder Cup player himself before becoming a teevee idol, made notice of the concept in a morning tweet: "Bubba and Poulter are what the Ryder Cup is all about! Magic on grass, joy in sport, love to the fans. You've got to love them."

It's silly to say Ryder Cups give more love to the funsters. But make of this what you will: in Ryder Cup play, Tiger Woods is 13-17-2 lifetime. Ian Poulter is 11-3-0. The game's new main man, Rory McIlroy, is 3-2-2, a touch better than Bubba Watson's 3-4-0. As to why Woods, arguably the best player ever, has been beaten more often than not, here's a guess: he has flown solo for so long -- driven by abnormal forces that shut him off from humankind -- that he never learned to play well with others. For Woods, it is brain surgery, and without anesthetic.

Related: Ryder Cup birdies & bogeys

It is not silly to say the Ryder Cup creates more pure fun than the Masters, the Opens, and the PGA Championship do combined. Those events are freighted with history, even burdened by history, and they demand payment in pain from any player who would make their history his. Next to those exercises in masochism, the Ryder Cup is a dawn-patrol tee time with your buddies.

It's Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson on fire. It's Jason Dufner caught smiling. It's Bubba being Bubba. It's Poulter flat-out on his stomach at green's edge, lining up a putt for his partner. It's all that, and it's a wizened veteran of Ryder Cups, Jim Furyk, saying of the crowd at Medinah Country Club, "They were loud and rowdy ... you show up on a Tuesday and you've got people chanting, 'USA,' and you're still three days from putting it in the ground." It's a rookie, Brandt Snedeker, saying, "It's just crazy out there. Keegan and Phil have got this crowd going absolutely nuts, and if you can give them anything at all to get excited about, they're going to."

Before Watson teed off for his Saturday afternoon round, he caused such commotion at the first-tee amphitheater that the noise reached the putting green. It told Keegan Bradley what he had to do. He hurried over to watch Bubba be Bubba. "And it was one of the most exciting moments of my week so far. I mean, I was freaking out. For me, personally, I'd probably miss the ball. I'm already so jacked up on the first tee that if they started doing that, I don't know where it would go."

Related: 10 burning Ryder Cup questions

Bradley's emotional level had risen to that usually associated with persons who paint their faces. He said that coming from behind to win the 2011 PGA Championship and "having my life change overnight" created the most emotional week of his life. "But this is a different type of emotion ... It's just a great atmosphere for me" -- he's a New Englander -- "because I love watching the Patriots and Celtics play, and I love when they get the crowd going. I love when they run up to them and get them excited, and for me that was kind of my mentality this week."

Most likely, though records are unclear on the matter, Bradley set an all- time record for hugs/embraces/crushes applied to one's Ryder Cup partner, for there seemed to be seconds, not minutes, separating Bradley-Mickelson celebrations Saturday morning. They won, 7-and-6, over Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, Englishmen having none of that Poulter fun. It's also true that Bradley, on the occasion of important shots done well, to pump up the crowd, struck a dozen different flex-poses of a kind normally associated with linebackers who have sacked Tom Brady.

He's 26 years old. He's 3-0-0 in the first Ryder Cup of his life. He's a star in what has become an American rout of the invading Europeans. He's a kid having fun.

Ian Poulter is 36, old enough to know better but still a kid, too. He's 3-0-0 in this Ryder Cup. What he did Saturday morning -- help make four birdies in a 1-up victory -- was only a whispered suggestion of his implausible afternoon -- five-straight birdies on the last five holes for a 1-up victory over Woods and Steve Stricker.

Each birdie putt brought from Poulter a symphony of screams, yowls, and howls that caused his handsome face to appear so ferocious, even deranged, that, if a photograph from those moments is not on the front page of every English newspaper tomorrow, Rupert Murdoch will ask for editors' heads on a platter. "Incredible," Poulter's partner, McIlroy said. "A joy to watch."

Ah, there is David Feherty's word again. Joy. Keegan Bradley and Ian Poulter brought the joy. You gotta love 'em.

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News & Tours

Tenuous golf connection: When Gretzky was benched like Woods

By Sam Weinman

It's an unthinkable notion: the greatest player of his generation, quite possibly of all time, sat out in a crucial session of international competition.

Tiger Woods in Saturday foursomes of the Ryder Cup? Well, yeah, that, too. But we were actually referring to Wayne Gretzky in the 1998 Winter Olympics.

So maybe a hockey game from nearly 15 years ago doesn't immediately spring to mind when looking at the bold decision by Davis Love III to bench Woods after his 0-2 start at Medinah CC. But it's worth noting the U.S. captain isn't first guy to bypass a living legend.

gretzky_470.jpgLike Woods on Saturday morning, Gretzky in 1998 had to watch players with inferior careers carry on in his place.

Some back story: the 1998 Winter Games marked the first time the NHL allowed its stars to participate in the Olympics, which meant that Gretzky, by then the most decorated star in the game's history, could represent his native Canada. Like Woods now, Gretzky's career record dwarfed all of his contemporaries (by the time of his retirement, he owned 61 NHL records). But like Woods, he was at that point in his career struggling to maintain the same level of play, finishing the Olympics with just four assist in six games.

When a semifinal game against the underdog Czech Republic headed to a shootout, Canadian coach Marc Crawford faced a decision not unlike Love's. Like foursomes, shootouts are a quirky format, and not necessarily a gauge of the best players. And just as Love opted to go with less-decorated players like Jason Dufner and Brandt Snedeker for Saturday foursomes, Crawford tapped the likes of Joe Nieuwendyk, Eric Lindros, and Brendan Shanahan for the shootout -- leaving Gretzky to watch helplessly from the bench.

The result was that the Canada failed to score, the Czechs won the gold medial, and the dispirited Canadians couldn't even get past Finland in the bronze medal game. Gretzky retired a year later, but his Olympic benching remains a controversial topic today.

Whether Woods' absence from play on Saturday will have the same sort of ripple effects is unlikely, especially if the U.S. holds onto its lead at Medinah. But for what it's worth, Love is one of the few professional golfers who knows something about hockey.



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Instruction

Weekend Tip: How to Be a Painless Partner

By Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman


partners.gifIf you're not watching the Ryder Cup this weekend, you must not like golf. It just doesn't get any more exciting than this. Also, you can learn a lot about fourball (better ball) strategy by watching the matches. This is the format that most golfers play in their weekend groups, and viewing the action reminded me of a column that Golf Digest Professional Advisor and noted sport psychologist Bob Rotella wrote way back in 1988. "Two things can happen when you play as a team," wrote Dr. Bob. "You take pressure off yourself because you've got a partner. Or you put pressure on yourself because you don't want to let your partner down." The principles he talked about then still apply today. Here are three key points you can use in your partners game this weekend:

1. Share a common objective. It might be simply to have a good time and enjoy each other's company. It might be to win. Whatever the objective, it needs to be the same for both. Discuss it and agree on it.

2. Set ground rules for communication on the course. Some teams talk a lot. Some don't. Some give advice. Some don't. But good teams know the limits before they start. What they avoid at all costs is the kind of "advice" that really isn't advice at all, but rather a sign that you've lost confidence in your partner. For example, during a recent better-ball match, my partner and I were 2 down with two holes to go. One of the players had a flip wedge to the 17th green, fronted by a small creek, to par or possibly birdie the hole and close us out. As he addressed the ball, his partner said, "Make sure to get it there." Not surprisingly, he dumped it in the creek; we went on to win in sudden death. That's the kind of advice that's better not given. It says to your partner, "I've lost confidence in you." It    


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News & Tours

Media: Next time he wants a drop, Jim, give it to him

McDowell and Furyk.jpg
(Getty Images photo)

By John Strege

It is a moment generally lost in the years of greatness that followed, but is worth recalling here, the lesson that Arizona State's Phil Mickelson gave a college rival, Arizona's Manny Zerman, in the All American Collegiate in 1991.

Mickelson wanted a drop from what he said was a plugged lie in the mud, 50 yards from the green. Zerman would not allow him to take one, so Mickelson holed his next shot for eagle.

"The next time he wants a drop," Zerman's coach said to him, "give it to him."

We bring this up in the wake of the Graeme McDowell-Jim Furyk flap at the second hole of morning foursomes on Friday at the Ryder Cup. McDowell wanted a drop away from a sprinkler head. Furyk argued he wasn't entitled to one. A rules official eventually agreed with Furyk, raising the possibility that it was a pyrrhic victory for McDowell and partner Rory McIlroy.

"I think questioning the ruling on the second green backfired on the American team," ESPN's Paul Azinger said.

The European team of McDowell and Rory McIlroy appeared fired up after that and eventually took a 3-up lead early on the back nine.

"The whole dynamic began to change at number two when these took this match a little more personal," Azinger said.

Though Furyk and partner Brandt Snedeker pulled even, they lost the match at the 18th hole. But the impetus for the victory came in the nine holes following Furyk's challenge and helped prevent an American rout on Friday.

The next time he wants a drop, Jim, give it to him.

Tirico's great call

A remarkable day of golf came down to this, as told by ESPN's Mike Tirico: "The U.S. will lead. It will either be five-three or five-and-a-half, two-and-a-half. And has been the case most of the last 15 years in golf, one guy standing alone and all eyes are on him."

That, of course, was Tiger Woods, who was eyeing a birdie putt for him and partner Steve Stricker to halve the last match with Lee Westwood and Nicolas Colsaerts. Woods narrowly missed, and the U.S. leads, 5-3.

'Tiger needs to go out of character'

Tiger Woods' play in the morning match was unsightly, but his leadership qualities (or lack of them) were called into question as well, by both Strange and Azinger.

"He was a great teammate," said Strange, Woods' Ryder Cup captain in 2002. "He was fantastic in the team room. He was great on the golf course. The one thing I wish he would do more, even now, is be more of a vocal leader. He leads by example, very quietly. It would be very advantageous for him to put his arm around Steve Stricker a little bit more or whoever he plays with and help the team out a little bit more vocally."

Azinger: "Tiger needs to go out of character and become a little more of an encourager in situations like this."

ESPN, get back to live golf

ESPN began a recap of earlier play while two tight matches were still being contested, the second time on Friday that it broke from live play. At the conclusion of morning foursomes, with the afternoon fourballs already underway, it cut to Scott Van Pelt doing a 10-minute recap.

Golf Digest's Stina Sternberg, via Twitter, reacted to ESPN's miscue this way: "PSA: The Ryder Cup is still live, without highlights on rydercup.com and Sky online."

Curtis said what?

Andy North and Curtis Strange had this exchange regarding Europe's Nicolas Colsaerts:

North: "He looks like he's out playing with a bunch of buddies on a Friday afternoon. He's relaxed, he's laughing, he's smiling."

Strange: "I wish more players could play like that. Not take it so seriously. Just go play golf."

Say what? Strange, one of the most intense players of his generation, never played that way in competition.

Related: My Shot: Curtis Strange

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Gear & Equipment

Cleveland/Srixon installs new Japanese leader

By E Michael Johnson

It didn't take long for Cleveland/Srixon to name a new boss after Greg Hopkins' resignation Sept. 25. In a press release this afternoon, the company announced Hideki Sano as its chairman, effective January 1, 2013.  
 
After earning a Master's degree in engineering from Osaka University in Japan, Sano joined Sumitomo Group in 1977, working his way up the ranks of the Dunlop Sports division, developing a strong background in R&D and production. Sano was executive officer of production engineering in 2004 and became a member of the board of directors in 2007. His most recent role was as executive director of R&D, Production, Purchasing and Logistics, as well as maintaining his membership on the Board. Sano's name also has appeared on golf-ball patents.
 
"I fully expect that making this organizational change in the North American business unit, with the team being led by Sano, will bring further improvement of the brand value of Cleveland Golf/Srixon," said Yasushi Nojiri, President and Representative Director of Dunlop Sports.
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