Posted on: November 20, 2011 4:32 pm
Edited on: November 20, 2011 4:35 pm

Creamer ends '11 in familiar form -- frustration

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Paula Creamer is nothing if not prescient.

She spent a half-hour after the third round of the LPGA season finale on the putting green Saturday night, working on testy little left-to-right putts.

Sunday, it seemed like that's all she saw.

Her prep work notwithstanding, just like the season as a whole, everything mostly broke left-to-wrong.

Creamer, 25, came up two shots short at the CME Group Titleholders at Grand Cypress Resort, finishing in a tie for second behind first-time winner and largely unknown Hee Young Park of South Korea.

"Every single putt I had today was a left-to-righter," Creamer said. "So just in a weird way, you have one thing that you've been really working on and you're constantly going against it."

That goes double for 2011 in general, a compilation of what-ifs and might-have-beens. With yet another week of frustration, Sunday marked the completion of a second winless season in three years for Creamer, one of the biggest stars in the game, and arguably the most talented American at world No. 7.

It was a fitting end, really. Playing in the penultimate group and two shots off the lead after 54 holes, Creamer three-jacked the second hole from four feet, then missed a three-footer for birdie after a perfect tee shot on the par-3 fourth.

"I wanted it too badly, probably," she said.

Five shots behind at the turn, Creamer birdied Nos. 11, 13 and 14 to crawl back within two strokes of the surprisingly unflappable Park, 25, but the latter never blinked.

It marked Creamer's seventh top-five finish of the year and her second runner-up result. Denied, right to the very end.

"I gave myself a lot of chances," Creamer said. "I have to be very proud of myself after the start I got off to, to finish where I did."

Creamer already has nine LPGA wins, but only one in the past three years, as she's struggled with assorted physical ailments, like a bad wrist and stomach issues. For a player of her ability, that's an eye-popping statistic. In terms of talent, and certainly popularity, she's clearly a top-five-caliber player.

This year, she's been tweaking her swing, which certainly looked solid on Sunday. But she putted like another famous, former Isleworth resident.

"I gave myself countless opportunities, and that's all I can ask for," said Creamer, who shot a 2-under 70. "Just have to work on those putts."

There wasn't much wrong with the rest of her 13-club tool set. But the Titleholders has come and gone, and she holds no title yet again.

"It's been a year of definitely just, almost there, but not quite good enough for a lot of things," she said. "But I look at it, and these last couple tournaments I definitely played a lot better. My attitude on the golf course this year was 100 times better than I believe it's ever been. 

"Confidence-wise, I think that I'm a little bit back, and when you struggle your confidence tends to go away, and these last couple events I've definitely gotten that back."

Creamer, 25, is playing one more offshore event in Taiwan in two weeks, then is shutting it down for the rest of the year and planning on doing some traveling and decompressing.

"I'm really looking forward to the offseason," she said. "I want to win. I want to be the best, and I know what it takes. Unfortunately I didn't win this year, but next year is another year."

Another one, hopefully unlike the other one.

Category: Golf
Posted on: November 20, 2011 12:27 am
Edited on: November 20, 2011 12:33 am

American elders lead way to PrezCup win

ORLANDO, Fla. -- A physics question. Or maybe it's geology. Something or the other.

If an entire team is spiraling down the commode in the Southern Hemisphere, does it spin down the drain in the opposite direction?

For the first five hours of the final day of Presidents Cup matches, expected to be a fait accompli and exercise in perfunctory trophy hoisting, the Americans seemed intent on turning a runaway romp into a nervous sprint.

Leading by a whopping four points entering Sunday singles play at diabolical Royal Melbourne, it would have taken losses in nine of the final 12 matches for the U.S. to lose the cup for only the second time in nine Presidents Cup competitions.

Forget red, white and blue. The graybeards made sure it never happened.

Playing as steadily as they had all week, the U.S. rode its four veteran players to a 19-15 victory, with an inexplicably reborn Jim Furyk leading the way with a perfect 5-0 mark.

"The old standbys at the end worked well," U.S. captain Fred Couples said.

They also worked overtime. Furyk beat Ernie Els, 4 and 3, and was joined in the singles' winner's circle by fellow 40-somethings Steve Stricker and David Toms. Along with Phil Mickelson, 41, who lost Sunday, the quartet was a combined 13-4 for the week. Furyk earlier in the week teamed with Mickelson for a 3-0 mark.

"I had Phil and he was playing great and had a positive attitude," said Furyk, who struggled through one of his least-productive seasons. "I have a feeling he probably asked to play with me because he felt he could get a lot out of me."

They seemingly nudged along each other.

Mickelson, who has played in all nine Presidents Cup matches, struggled Sunday but was 3-1 for the week, as was Toms. Stricker, playing in the final match off the tee, 2 and 1, to help hold off the International rally.

With anchor men Tiger Woods and Stricker yet to tee off, the U.S. was leading in one of the first 10 matches underway. Mickelson had hacked up the first few holes so badly, Adam Scott had hit exactly one putt on the first three greens as Lefty kept conceding hole after hole, losing four of the first five.

Furyk helped stop the initial bleeding with an eagle on the second hole to take a fast lead over Els. But the Internationals kept coming, cutting the lead to 14-12 at one point, but the back end of the International lineup could not sustain the early momentum, not with the U.S. veterans bringing up reinforcements from the rear.

Furyk, 41, became the third American player in event history to finish 5-0 for the week and improved his career mark to 20-10-3, matching Woods for most victories. He's the first player in his 40s to have a perfect week.

Fittingly, he scored the U.S. team's 17th point with a 5-and-3 victory over Els, ensuring the Americans would retain the cup with a tie, at minimum. Interestingly, Furyk was voted the 2010 PGA Tour Player of the Year, but tanked at the Ryder Cup last fall, winning a half point. After struggling in 2011, he was the cup hero, making more key putts than he had all year.

"I didn’t expect to play as well as I did," he said, "but it had a lot to do with my putting."

Easy as it was to identify the core of the American success, the Internationals sputtered in large part because the crowds were never really in the matches all week.  That's because, as impressive as the elder foursome was for the winning American side -- who won the cup for the seventh time in nine competitions, with one tie -- the host Australian contingent was a huge disappointment.

With five Aussies on the 12-man team, piloted by Oz legend Greg Norman, the local knowledge turned out to be a complete myth. World No. 8 Jason Day personified the Aussie struggles, shooting 44 on the front nine and losing 5-and-3.

The Australian five were a combined 7-14-3, and Melbourne native Geoff Ogilvy was the only Aussie with a winning record at 3-1-1. The other four had at least three losses apiece.

Category: Golf
Posted on: November 19, 2011 3:47 am
Edited on: November 19, 2011 7:36 am

Norman goes top-heavy in hopes of toppling U.S.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- With only the slimmest chance of winning, International team captain Greg Norman loaded much of his heavy firepower near the top and middle of his Sunday singles lineup in the hopes of getting some early momentum started.

The Americans hold a 13-9 lead entering the dozen Sunday singles matches and no team that has trailed entering the final session has ever won the Presidents Cup.

U.S. captain Fred Couples placed many of his most experienced players at the end of the card, including Steve Stricker, the top-ranked player in the 24-man event at world No. 5, in the last match off the tee,

He will be proceeded in the penultimate pairing by former world No. 1 Tiger Woods, though by the time they play, the result of their matches may be close to moot.

The singles matches will be broadcast live on the Golf Channel starting at 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday night.

Sunday's singles lineup at Royal Melbourne:

1. Webb Simpson (U.S.) vs. K.T. Kim
2. Dustin Johnson (U.S.) vs. Charl Schwartzel
3. Bubba Watson (U.S.) vs. Ryo Ishikawa
4. Bill Haas (U.S.) vs. Geoff Ogilvy
5. Hunter Mahan (U.S.) vs. Jason Day
6. Nick Watney (U.S.) vs. K.J. Choi
7. Phil Mickelson (U.S) vs. Adam Scott
8. Matt Kuchar (U.S.) vs. Retief Goosen
9. Jim Furyk (U.S.) vs. Ernie Els
10. David Toms (U.S.) vs. Rob Allenby
11. Tiger Woods (U.S.) vs. Aaron Baddeley
12. Steve Stricker (U.S.) vs. Y.E. Yang

Posted on: November 19, 2011 3:09 am
Edited on: November 19, 2011 4:30 am

Furyk, Mahan lead USA to cusp of win in Oz

ORLANDO, Fla. -- For a good long while on Saturday, the Presidents Cup began taking on a familiar feel for Hunter Mahan and his American mates.

That is, if numb counts as a feeling.

It was wet, the fans were getting all wound up and the U.S. fortunes were heading in the wrong direction again, just like last year at the Ryder Cup in Wales.

But this time, they weathered the cool weather, quieted the home-field crowd and got one hand clasped firmly on the trophy heading into the final day of the Presidents Cup at treacherous Royal Melbourne.

“It definitely had a Ryder Cup atmosphere and today we had Ryder Cup weather,” said Mahan, whose birdie on the 17th hole helped win a crucial point in the afternoon best-ball session. “Boy, there was a lot going on here today – this was the Australian team we were playing here and you heard it all day.”

Just not so much at the end.

Just as the International team mounted a brief and frantic rally at the end, the Americans scored key best-ball wins behind Mahan and veteran Jim Furyk to take a commanding 13-9 lead into Sunday singles.

It ain’t exactly over, but fat women are warming up their chords at the Sydney Opera House. In the eight previous eight President Cup matches, no team that has trailed entering the 12 Sunday singles matches has managed to win to cup.

After demonstrably winning Saturday’s morning alternate-shot session 4-1 to take an 11-6 lead into the afternoon best-ball format, the International team finally made some noise as the situation got close to desperate. All five best-ball matches went to the 17th or 18th holes, in fact, but the Yanks mostly dodged the heavy mortal fire.

Furyk won his match with Nick Watney, 1 up, when opponent Adam Scott missed birdie putts from seven and 25 feet on the last two holes that could have resulted in the Americans losing a full point.

Furyk, one of four players on the U.S. team in his 40s, was the only one of the foursome who hasn’t sat out a match and improved to 4-0 for the week after one of his most disappointing seasons. He and Phil Mickelson teamed for wins in their first three matches before Lefty took the afternoon session Saturday off to rest.

After this week’s utterly unforeseen spurt, Furyk now has a PrezCup record of 19-10-3, matching Tiger Woods for most full points in event history. He’s 4-2 in career singles in the event, too.

Last year, Furyk was the PGA Tour Player of the Year, but he was winless in 2011 and rarely was in the Sunday mix. This week marked the first time in 14 combined Ryder or Presidents Cups that Furyk, 41, amassed a 4-0 mark.

Mahan redeemed himself some, too. He lost the deciding point at the Ryder last year when he flubbed a chip shot in the final match against Europe’s Graeme McDowell. Saturday, after animated Aussie Jason Day drained a 35-footer for birdie on the 17th hole to seemingly extend the match, Mahan dropped a 20-footer of his own to secure a 2-and-1 victory. In other words, the Internationals won the afternoon best-ball session, 3-2, but it could have been far worse for the Yanks.

"The putt Hunter Mahan made on the 17th hole was clutch," International captain Greg Norman said. "That is what makes you the professional golfer, what you are. That's why these guys win golf tournament, because they love that moment."

The wins by the Mahan and Furyk pairings certainly let some air out of the Aussie arena, so to speak. In the five times that the Yanks have led by four or fewer points heading into Sunday play, the team has never lost the singles session.

In broad terms, the Internationals must muster 8 of the 12 points to have a chance to secure a tie in the matches, in which case the U.S. would still retain the cup. Only once in eight previous Presidents Cups has either team managed eight points in singles, when the U.S. won the 1994 Sunday session, 8-4, to win the cup in an overall 20-12 rout.

Barring a complete crash and burn, the Americans will be 7-1-1 in the event on Sunday night.

Category: Golf
Posted on: November 18, 2011 1:44 am
Edited on: November 18, 2011 10:01 am

New mates Lefty and Furyk pave way for U.S.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The guy who grew up within blocks of the course hadn’t often seen the Presidents Cup’s venerable host venue with more teeth bared.

The greens were turning a crispy brown, the winds whipped players and shots all over the property, tree limbs rattled overhead and the conditions were as tough as anybody had seen in the history of the competition.

“Royal Melbourne doesn’t get any harder than this,” said Geoff Ogilvy, an International team veteran and a former caddie at the famed Melbourne track.

That said, who better, then, to lead the American charge than the two most experienced players on the squad, a pair who has just about seen everything the game has to offer?

The pairing of international veterans Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk, who both played in the Presidents Cup matches at Royal Melbourne in 1998 and have some familiarity with the venue, held on to win 2-and-1 in their best-ball match Friday and remained unbeaten after two days of the play.

It’s been the most pleasant surprise of the week for the Yanks.

Born within a month of each other -- they attended rival schools in Arizona -- the two 41-year-olds were paired at the request of Mickelson, who thought they might mesh effectively. They have turned into the best twosome on the American side, which split six matches Friday and holds a 7-5 lead with two days of play remaining.

Few would have envisioned Lefty and Furyk leading the way after the decidedly mediocre seasons each experienced. Furyk, the PGA Tour Player of the Year in 2010, didn’t win a tournament this year and Mickelson rarely contended after winning in April in Houston. Both have had huge issues this season on the greens.

But in whistling winds at Royal Melbourne, they were at their experienced best. All Mickelson could do was laugh afterward at the difficulty of the course, where the greens were harder than linoleum.

“This is crazy,” Mickelson said. “When you get winds like this on greens that are 14-plus on the Stimpmeter, it’s hard to imagine because you never see it at a local club.

“This was a case where we were trying to read the wind on putts. Apparently, we did a good job because Jim made a bunch of good, solid four- and five-footers.”

Mickelson, who was unbeaten in the last Presidents Cup matches in San Francisco two years ago, is 6-0-1 in his last seven matches in the event. He has played in all eight Presidents Cup matches and Furyk has made the team six times.

Amazingly, they had never been paired.

Despite playing with a broad range of partners, Mickelson is now undefeated in his last 10 matches at the event and has absorbed one defeat in his last 17, dating to 2005.

At the other end of the spectrum was teammate Tiger Woods, the third member of the current team who played at Royal Melbourne in 1998. Woods and partner Dustin Johnson lost 1 up, leaving Woods as the lone American player who hasn’t scored at least a half-point after two days.

Woods, a controversial captain’s pick by Fred Couples, was on the losing end of a 7-and-6 decision on Thursday, which matched the most lopsided loss in event history.

Over two days, Woods has been credited with two birdies in two days, though his play improved on Friday.

Still, it marked only the second time Woods has lost two consecutive matches at the Presidents Cup -- the other instance was at Royal Melbourne in 1998, when he lost three matches in a row.

Woods fell to 5-8-0 in best-ball play at the Presidents Cup, giving him more losses in the format than any other player in event history. The former No. 1 and his two partners have only won one hole over two matches this week, over a span of 30 holes played.

Category: Golf
Posted on: November 17, 2011 4:17 pm

U.S. Fab Four: Long on glitter, short on wins

ORLANDO, Fla. -- It sparkled, it shined and was surely hard to miss.

Morgan Pressel wore a diamond-encrusted belt buckle during the first round of the LPGA's season finale at Grand Cypress resort on Thursday, and the glint was as impressive as her round, a 5-under  67 that left her one stroke out of the lead.

The buckle appropriately contained the gleaming letters that have not often been seen this year atop LPGA leaderboards: USA.

Even in an era when American players have been scrapping for a place at the premier table for years, it's been a lean 2011 as the tour plays the CME Group Titleholders event this week. In fact, American players have combined for a total of four victories this year, one by a non-member of the tour at the time.

One of the most publicized players in the women's game, Pressel has been stuck on two victories in more than three years. The Solheim Cup regular and her three most famous countrywomen, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer and Michelle Wie, have collectively posted a glaring quadruple donut this year.

It seems like every year at this time, the question of American firepower is broached, from the decades-long drought in terms of leading the money list or the similar skein in winning the Player of the Year award.

But this is lean by any measure, metric or yards.

"I think that there's just a tremendous depth of talent on our tour," Pressel said. "I don't think that you can really look at any of the champions and think that any of them have been flukes."

Kerr finished with a 4-under 68 and is attempting to extend one of the more impressive accomplishments of her career. A former world No. 1, Kerr has claimed at least one victory in each season since 2004, the longest active streak on tour.

She has eight top-four finishes, battled a wrist issue at the Solheim that caused some discomfort for a few weeks, then returned from last week's event in Mexico with a case of the stomach flu. She spent Wednesday in bed, eating toast, some oatmeal and not much else, and missed the pro-am.

"It's felt like a bit of bad luck," Kerr said. "Some of the tournaments where I finished second I played awesome, and somebody played better. It's been frustrating."

Montezuma's Revenge pretty much cements the sentiment.

"It's kind of the way this year has gone," she said.

Creamer has been a disappointment this season, certainly relative to her career norms, at least. She has nine top-10 finishes, but not many near-misses. Creamer shot 69 and is T6, playing just a few miles down the road from her Orlando home.

Wie, still finishing her senior year at Stanford, could have made it quite a team photo for last-gasp heroics on Thursday, but blew up down the stretch. She was 4 under with seven holes to play and locked into the top five, then made three bogeys and fell to T20 at 1 under.

Minus the four cover girls, at least others have made some noise. Tampa's Brittany Lincicome, probably the fifth-most-famous American player, won twice this year, and promising Stacy Lewis won the season's first major. Teenager Lexi Thompson, who wasn't a tour member at the time, is the lone other Yank with a victory.

The far more fabled quartet -- each of them blessed with a slew of rich endorsement deals -- has three days left to fill a pretty huge seasonal void.

"The rest of us have been close but we haven't been able to get it done," Pressel said. "We've got one event left, and we'll see what happens. Maybe we'll come out firing next year."

Category: Golf
Posted on: November 17, 2011 11:36 am
Edited on: November 17, 2011 11:42 am

National terror Hollis Stacy gets top honor

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Former LPGA star Hollis Stacy certainly piled up plenty of national championships in her golfing career, starting at a very young age.

Now she's been given the ultimate global honor.

Stacy, 57, who won an impressive four major championships in an eight-year span, including three U.S. Opens, will be part of the 2012 list of inductees at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Fla., it was announced Thursday at the LPGA's season-ending Titleholders event.

Stacy won 18 times on the LPGA and was inducted via the Veterans Category, created in 2000 for worthy players who might have been overlooked in the past. She also won the du Maurier championship, no longer a major, in 1983.

Since she didn’t qualify for Hall inclusion via the LPGA's points system, she was wondering if the phone call would ever come.

"I had conditioned myself not to think about it," she said. "It bugged me, it just bugged me."

She becomes the second member of the class of 2012, which will be inducted in May. Last week, Phil Mickelson was named as the first inductee via the PGA Tour ballot.

Only four players have won the U.S. Open three or more times and Stacy also won the prestigious U.S. Junior Girls' title three times while competing against the likes of age-group peers Nancy Lopez, Laura Baugh and Pat Bradley.

She got the call about the induction from LPGA commissioner Mike Whan last Thursday.

"I think I said three words -- I'm shocked, overwhelmed and so honored," Stacy said.

Stacy is one of 10 children and promised that the induction would be a joyous experience for her family. Her younger sister, Martha, will handle the introduction.

"That's why I was so shocked when the call came I never thought my mom would live to see me get in because of the politics of getting elected into the Hall," she said.

She amassed 22 of the required 27 points for automatic inclusion via the LPGA system.

Category: Golf
Posted on: November 17, 2011 2:36 am

Weather brings break for U.S. viewers

ORLANDO, Fla. -- With bad weather in the forecast for Melbourne, tee times for Day Two of the Presidents Cup matches were moved up and broadcast times on the Golf Channel were adjusted accordingly for Thursday night's airing in the States.

On the East Coast, live coverage will run from 5:30 p.m. to midnight. Here are the second-day pairings for the best-ball format.

Bubba Watson-Webb Simpson v. Ernie Els-Ryo Ishikawa

Tiger Woods-Dustin Johnson v. Jason Day-Aaron Baddeley

Phil Mickelson-Jim Furyk v. Adam Scott-K.T. Kim.

Bill Haas-Nick Watney v. Geoff Ogilvy-K.J. Choi

Steve Stricker-Matt Kucher v. Y.E. Yang-Robert Allenby

Hunter Mahan-David Toms v. Retief Goosen-Charl Schwartzel.
Category: Golf
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