Tag: Brooks Koepka

The 2021 Ryder Cup

Whistling Straits, Haven WI

The 2021 Ryder Cup

Today begins the long-awaited, and highly anticipated 2021 Ryder Cup. With all the pent-up energy of waiting an extra year (postponed from 2020 due to COVID), and then being trapped inside for much of the time, you don’t have to be Nostradamus to predict the crowds will be even more motivated and raucous than usual. Tournament organizers briefly considered holding the competition without fans last year, but that idea was quickly dismissed after negative comments made by a number of players, most notably Brooks Koepka (“The fans make the event”). And the fans have been particularly important for the American side. Europe has taken the Cup in seven of the last ten competitions, including four of the last five, and the three won by the American side have all come on home soil. Prior to each, the general consensus would always be that the American team should dominate because they had so much depth of talent, yet somehow the Europeans, with a couple of stars and a host of no-names, would walk away with a shocking victory. Well, this year’s battle will be no different with a powerhouse American team going up against Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, what’s his name, and who’s that guy. Just don’t take it to the bank—the European players have been ingrained with a hate-to-lose attitude that goes all the way back to Seve Ballesteros. And two of their biggest victories have come right here (Oakland Hills in ’04 and Medinah in ’12). Something tells me this is going to be a special weekend.

The History

The first Ryder Cup was played in 1927 at Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts, and named in honor of English businessman and golf enthusiast, Samuel Ryder. The American team, captained by Walter Hagen, pounded the Europeans led by Ted Ray with a thumping 9 1/2 to 2 1/2 victory. Until 1977, the European team consisted of only players from Great Britain and Ireland, and the American team dominated the competition, winning 21 of the 25 Ryder Cups played. Beginning in 1979 the rules were modified, allowing players from all of continental Europe to participate in the competition, and the tide began to turn. The American team, led by Jack Nicklaus, won handily in ‘79 and ‘81, but the 1983 Ryder Cup was extremely close as the Americans pulled out a tough 14 ½-13 ½ victory. In ’85 and ’87 the American teams went down to defeat, ushering in a period of intense competition and European ascension, led by the charismatic leadership of Seve Ballesteros. Since 1985, the European team has won 11 times, the American team 5 times, and there was one draw (1989). The last quarter century of Ryder Cup competition has produced some of the most memorable moments in sports history, including the “War on the Shore” (1991) and the “Miracle at Medinah” (2012) as the European team staged an incredible comeback victory following the tragic passing of Seve Ballesteros.

The Teams

The 2021 American team is captained by Steve Stricker, and includes a powerful group of big names, including Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth. Long hitting Tony Finau, a resurgent Harris English, up-and-coming Scottie Scheffler and the gritty Daniel Berger round out an incredibly deep cast of talented players. The European team, captained by 3-time major champion Padraig Harrington, will be anchored by Rory McIlroy and Jon Rham, two of the greatest players in the world. Backing them up will be seasoned veterans of Ryder Cup competition Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Paul Casey. They will be joined by Tommy Fleetwood and Shane Lowery, a pair of solid professionals who don’t back down to anybody, as well as talented youngsters Victor Hoveland and Matthew Fitzpatrick. Tyrell Hatton and Bernd Wiesberger, two of the top players on the European tour, round out a tough European team.

The Venue

Whistling Straits, located in Haven WI, and host to three PGA Championships (2004, 2010 and 2015) will host the 2021 Ryder Cup. Home to two Pete Dye masterpieces (Irish/Straits) and opened in 1998, Whistling Straits is among the finest golf resorts in the World. The matches will be fought on the Straits course, which boasts a course rating of 77.2 and a slope of 152. Don’t miss a minute of what is sure to be some of the greatest golf you will ever see.

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The Tour Championship

East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta GA

The BMW Championship Wrap-Up

Last week concluded the BMW Championship, the final event leading up to the Tour Championship this weekend—and what a way to head into the final week of the PGA season. The back nine battle on Sunday between Patrick Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau was every bit as thrilling as “The Duel in Sun” between Jack and Tom Watson at Turnberry back in ’77, or the epic struggle between Phil and Henrik Stenson in the final round of the 2016 Open Championship. Cantlay and DeChambeau began the day tied for the lead, and it ended the same way as they each fired sizzling rounds of 66 and went to a playoff. Bryson ramped up the pressure throughout with titanic bombs off the tee, while Cantlay countered with steely discipline and tremendous nerve, making clutch putt after clutch putt. On the par 5 sixteenth, DeChambeau took a one-shot lead after making birdie, and on the par 3 seventeenth it looked like Cantlay was finished when his tee shot found the water. But he refused to quit, getting up and down from a hundred yards by canning yet another huge putt to stay within a shot after Bryson hit a poor chip and failed to convert his putt for par. On the eighteenth, Cantlay dug deep yet again, knocking in a twenty-foot birdie putt to force a playoff.  It took six holes of pressure packed thrills, but Patrick finally prevailed. With the win, Cantlay sits atop the FedEx Cup standings, just ahead of Tony Finau. It would seem too much to ask for another finish like this one, but with the cast of heavyweights who will be teeing it up at East Lake, anything can happen.

The Tour Championship

Today marks the first round of the season ending Tour Championship at famed East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia. The tournament was founded in 1987, and was originally played in November. However, in 2007 with the establishment of the FedEx Cup, the tournament was moved up to September. The field includes the top 30 players in the FedEx Cup points standings, and because of a format change adopted in 2019, Patrick Cantlay will start the tournament at -10, based on finishing first in the FedEx Cup point standings. Tony Finau, at second, will be starting at -8, while Bryson DeChambeau, sitting at number 3, will start at -7 and so on down to the last five players in the standings who will start at even par. Historically, the Tour Championship was structured such that a player could win the Tour Championship, but not win the FedEx Cup. The change in format now means that the winner of the Tour Championship will also take home the FedEx Cup (along with the $15 million that comes with it). With such a fantastic lead-up to the main event, it appears the PGA Tour season is headed for a final weekend of pure excitement—so don’t miss a minute.

The Course

East Lake Golf Club was founded in 1908, originally designed by Tom Bendelow, and remodeled by Donald Ross in 1913. The course was later updated by George Cobb and most recently by Reese Jones in 1994. In addition to the Tour Championship, the home course of the legendary Bobby Jones has hosted many prestigious championships over the years, including the 1950 U.S. Women’s Amateur, the 1963 Ryder Cup and the 2001 U.S. Amateur. With a USGA course rating of 76.2 and slope rating of 144, East Lake is a fitting test to crown the FedEx Cup champion each year.

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The PGA Championship-Phil Mickelson

PGA Championship, Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort SC

Congrats, Phil!

Watching Phil Mickelson stroll up the 18th hole at Kiawah Island with a two-shot lead over Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen was almost surreal. I think many of us “Phil fanatics” kept pinching ourselves during those final moments thinking it was a dream. The idea of Phil, at fifty plus, holding off the imposing figure of Brooks Koepka to win the PGA Championship, seemed like an impossibility. Like Ali when he fought George Forman—there would be flashes of brilliance and plenty of determination, but sooner or later the big one would land. I kept thinking about the 2014 PGA Championship, 2015 Masters, and 2016 Open Championships where Phil fought his heart out, put up strong performances with great thrills, but ultimately came up just short. Not this time though, as Phil found an even deeper level of resolve to deliver a historic win for the ages, just as Mohamed Ali did back in 1974. It was a remarkable day, and most certainly the high point of Phil’s fantastic career. And do we dare get our hopes up for that elusive U.S. Open title? You bet we do!

Phil’s Fanatics 

Early in his career, Phil Mickelson garnered the nickname “Phil the Thrill” because he had a seemingly endless number of shots in his arsenal, and was willing pull them out of his bag at any time, regardless of risk, almost always with unlikely and eye-popping success. Since he broke out on tour in 1991, and won the Northern Telecom Open as an Amateur, everyone knew that this young lefty was going to provide us with a ton of excitement. Phil immediately captured the hearts of golf fans with his fan friendly, warm persona, along with his aggressive style of play. That style of play cost Phil quite a few tournaments, including a number of major championships, but that just endeared him to the golfing public even more. Eventually Phil’s following of loyalists became known as the “Phil fanatics.” No matter how poorly Phil might be playing, these fans never left his side. Well, the Phil fanatics were out in full force for Lefty last week at the PGA Championship. They cheered and hollered for him all week, and assembled around the 18th green to share the moment with their hero. Not since Arnie’s Army has a player generated that kind of love and excitement from golf fans—and richly deserved.

The Thrills Keep Coming

Phil’s last major victory came all the way back at the 2013 Open Championship, and there have been a number of highs and lows since then. A dry spell in 2014 and 2015 saw Mickelson drop his longtime swing coach, Butch Harman, and hire Andrew Getson. Getson revitalized Phil’s game, and their partnership resulted in 6 top 5 finishes in the 2016 season, including 3 runner-up’s—but unfortunately no victories. 2017 proved to be another winless season for Phil, now 47 years old with many believing that his days of winning on tour were behind him. But lo and behold, Phil reached into his bag of magic and surprised us all by winning the WGC Mexico Championship in 2018. It was an unbelievable victory, as he took down Justin Thomas in a thrilling playoff and proved that Lefty was not done quite yet. And then in 2019, Phil won again, capturing his fifth AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, only to struggle for the remainder of the year, failing to record a single top ten. The 2020 season proved to be another disappointment for Lefty, with only two top 5 finishes in the shortened season. And going into the PGA Championship this year, Phil hadn’t placed among the top 20 in a single event, most recently a disastrous finish at the Wells Fargo where he opened with a 64, only to follow that up with a 75 and a pair of 76’s. While most of the golf world viewed it as yet another sign that Phil was done, his fanatics (and most importantly Phil himself), saw only the brilliant 64, and continued to believe. Well, he’s done it again—shocking the world when everybody counted him out. Congratulations Phil, this was truly an epic performance. You can bet that Phil’s faithful flock will have swelled to record numbers for the Open at Torrey Pines next month, and win or lose, you know he will be giving it everything he’s got. A seventh major? Don’t count him out.  

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