Langer had to name Monty to team
One of golf's most entertaining bloopers happened at the 1997 MCI Classic when Woody Austin left a long uphill putt 15 feet short, then proceeded to beat himself over the head with his putter, finally breaking the club and rendering it useless for the remainder of the round.
Austin has since said that he "needed to let a lot of frustration out."
Hmmm ... really?
While Austin came through with his second career PGA Tour win at the Buick Championship on Sunday, there's no doubt Fredrik Jacobson felt like breaking a few clubs over his head at the BMW International Open. Jacobson entered the week in position to qualify for his first European Ryder Cup team, but a share of sixth place wasn't good enough to hold that spot and captain Bernhard Langer eschewed the Swede in favor of Colin Montgomerie and Luke Donald.
But, as the Weekly 18 sees it, Langer didn't really have much of a choice.
If you wanted to learn whom Langer would name to his Ryder Cup squad but weren't fortunate enough to be present at the BMW in Germany, then chances are you were watching The Golf Channel's coverage following the final round.
Before Langer's press conference began, the station ran a clip of soundbites from already-qualified Euro team members. One by one, each man lobbied for Montgomerie to make the team.
Sure, Monty's 16-7-5 overall Ryder record (4-0-2 in singles matches) and his T-3 finish at the BMW helped his chances, but did Langer really have a choice? In international golf's only true team event of the year, keeping team harmony is perhaps the captain's largest role.
Not that Montgomerie was ever out of the team picture. In the 2002 Cup, Langer himself partnered with him for 2.5 points in three matches together, while Monty garnered 4.5 total points for the Euros. You can bet Langer remembered that while making his decision and you can expect to see Monty playing five matches once again come Ryder Cup week.
Perhaps Hal Sutton's most important job as U.S. Ryder Cup captain -- more vital than pairing players, making captain's picks, or even picking the team wardrobe -- is setting up the course design at Oakland Hills. The home team's captain always has this luxury, though it's questionable as to whether Sutton has set up the course to best suit his team. According to European captain Bernhard Langer, who had his assistant Anders Forsbrand go on a recent scouting mission, the course plays more favorably for shorter, more accurate drivers of the ball. The Oakland Hills' fairways get narrower the farther a ball carries (like Whistling Straits), meaning long but inaccurate U.S. players (Tiger Woods is 176th on tour in driving accuracy; Stewart Cink is 161st; Davis Love III is 147th; David Toms is 145th; and Chris Riley is 133rd) could be playing many approaches from what's expected to be a four-inch rough.
|Coming up this week|
Deutsche Bank Championship
First Tee Open
State Farm Classic
The campaign to pair Tiger Woods with Chris Riley in the first two days of the Ryder Cup is gaining momentum; even Woods lobbied for it himself at the NEC Invitational. But don't think that means it's going to happen. U.S. captain Hal Sutton has repeatedly said he won't pair players who are friends (Woods and Riley were paired together in the '95 Walker Cup). Expect Riley to see some time with college teammate Chad Campbell at Oakland Hills. As for Tiger? He won't be playing with Phil Mickelson anytime soon, but Woods and Davis Love III could make a formidable, take-no-prisoners team.
Interesting trend on the U.S. tours this week, but one which makes the fan stay tuned right until the very end. At the Tradition, three of the final four holes were par-5s and Craig Stadler capitalized, making birdie on each of them (and the par-4 17th) en route to the win. At the Wachovia, Lorena Ochoa took advantage of par-5s on the 16th and 18th holes with birdies on each during her run to a two-stroke victory. And at the Buick, Woody Austin birdied the drivable 296-yard par-4 before winning in a playoff. There's nothing better than drama on a Sunday afternoon and you can expect more courses to set up for similar results in the future.
At the PGA Championship, Tim Herron played in his first event since the British Open. He missed the cut in both majors, but had more on his mind than golf; Herron had become stricken with Lyme disease during the summer. That makes his second-place finish at the Buick even more remarkable and makes Lumpy, already a fan favorite, someone to cheer for throughout the rest of the season. A popular guy on tour, you can bet plenty of Herron's peers were rooting him on in the final round.
Some may look at Fred Funk's T-3 finish at the Buick and think the tournament's TPC at River Highlands course -- at 6,820 yards -- plays to the short hitter. Others see Hank Kuehne's T-13 finish and figure the short course can hardly contain a long bomber. Well, the truth is everyone's right. River Highlands has the unique distinction of catering to all types off the tee. Check out the discrepancies between the two aforementioned players: Entering the Buick, Funk led the tour in driving accuracy, but was 184th in driving distance; Kuehne was 191st in accuracy, but second in distance (at 313.3 yards per drive, trailing only Scott Hend).
With his T-2 finish at last week's Reno-Tahoe Open, Hunter Mahan climbed into the coveted 125th spot on the PGA Tour money list. At the Buick, he flirted with the lead on the weekend before fading to a T-21 finish. Mahan was a future star coming out of Oklahoma State, but has missed the cut in 12 of 23 events in his rookie season. Like fellow young guns Matt Kuchar and David Gossett, Mahan now finds himself fighting the battle to keep his tour card, but winning so far.
When Mahan edged into the top-125, John Rollins fell to No. 126 (he's now at 128). Rollins' name has been in the news lately because it was he who single-handedly could have held Tiger Woods winless so far this season. In the first round of the Accenture Match Play, Rollins was 1-up on Woods with two holes to play, but Tiger rallied to win the final two holes, then won his next five matches to capture his only win of the season. Rollins, meanwhile, hasn't enjoyed much success since then, with only one top-10 finish (T-8 at the John Deere Classic) and his fully exempt status up in the air for 2005.
Think driving distance is one of the most important aspects in becoming a successful professional golfer? Or maybe it's driving accuracy? Think again. The top five in the Total Driving category on the PGA Tour, which combines both distance and accuracy statistics, are Jeff Brehaut (159th on the money list), Joe Durant (88th), Lucas Glover (137th), Harrison Frazar (55th) and John Senden (96th). Those five players have combined for no wins and only eight top-10s on tour this season.
There are a couple of up-and-comers on the PGA Tour right now who may be confusing you a bit. Geoff Ogilvy and Joe Ogilvie and both young guys with a whole lot of potential and same-sounding last names -- and the similarities don't end there. Ogilvy, 27, is 54th on the current money list and has made the cut in 15 of 21 events with three top-10 finishes. Ogilvie, 30, is 59th on the money list and has made 17 of 25 cuts with two top-10s. Still confused? Well, there are differences. After all, Ogilvy is Australian and a distant relative of Sir Angus Ogilvy (of Britain's Royal Family) and Robert the Bruce (Scotland's King of Bannockburn). Ogilvie was born in Ohio but lives in Texas and is often described as the tour's financial whiz; he lists Warren Buffett and Bill Gates as his heroes.
Just going out on a limb, but Miguel Angel Jimenez may be having the best season of any player with a curly blonde ponytail and a mustache. With his win at the BMW International Open, Jimenez claimed his fourth victory of the season, becoming the first Spaniard to do so opn the European Tour since Seve Ballesteros in 1983. At 40, the "Mechanic" has been around for years, but is now playing the best golf of his career. He's currently fourth in the Euro tour's Order of Merit, matching his best finishes in '98 and '99.
In the wake of Ryan Moore's win at last week's U.S. Amateur, you may have been wondering: What ever happened to the Amateur winner from 2002, Ricky Barnes? Well, look no further than Sandy, Utah. That was the site of the Nationwide Tour's Utah Classic this week, where Barnes finished dead last out of those qualifying for the weekend. Barnes was actually in contention for the first three rounds, shooting 70-71-67 to begin Sunday only seven strokes off the pace. But the former University of Arizona product shot a final-round 82 to fall well off the pace. Barnes currently has no status on any of the major U.S. or European tours and will have to lose big numbers like that 82 if he hopes to make it through Qualifying School at the end of the season.
The First Tee Open, a new Champions Tour event which will debut this week at Pebble Beach includes one of the coolest and most innovative ideas on that tour in years. Each player in the field will be paired with a youngster from the First Tee program, a World Golf Foundation initiative which promotes youth golf, especially in inner cities. Not only will this idea provide the thrill of a lifetime for many kids, it will pump some life into an event that comes the week after the final major and should prove to be one of the more entertaining Champions Tour tournaments of the season.
Just five years ago, Boston native Allen Doyle was making around $30,000 operating a driving range in LaGrange, Ga. Doyle now makes much more as a member of the Champions Tour, but that doesn't mean he keeps it all. Recently, Doyle donated $1.1 million to his alma mater, Norwich University -- the second $1 million-plus gift he's given to the school in the past three years.
One year ago this week, Suzy Whaley was subject of a media blitz in her home state of Connecticut, as she became the second woman to play in a men's PGA Tour event in 2003 (joining Annika Sorenstam, who played at the Colonial). This week, Whaley toiled in relative anonymity, playing as a sponsor's exemption in the LPGA's Wachovia LPGA Classic in Kutztown, Pa., where she shot 73-76 to miss the cut by five strokes.
Nancy Scranton's best finish on the LPGA money list was 16th in 1991, the year she won her first and only major -- the du Maurier Classic. In recent years, she has slipped from 21st (in 2001) to 66th (in 2002) to 123rd (last season), but Scranton has enjoyed a resurgence as of late, finishing T-4 at last week's Wendy's and T-6 at the Wachovia. Her secret? She's playing for three. Scranton is currently pregnant with twins, but the last two weeks have been her most productive on tour in more than two years. Doctors have recommended she play in only two more events before sitting out the remainder of the season.
This one comes to us from the Fort Myers (Fla.) News Press: During the PGA Championship, Amy Mickelson handed one of her children to her husband, only to realize it wasn't Phil standing next to her -- it was Tiger Woods. Said Amy, "Sorry, I'm still used to guys who can't win majors."
"Colin Montgomerie, from England, is my first pick. No? Scotland? Well, he's lived in England long enough."
--European Ryder Cup captain Bernhard Langer, announcing his first captain's pick at a press conference on Sunday.
Information from ESPN.com's wire services is included.
Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.
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