Tag: Rory McIlroy

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 Players

TPC at Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach FL

The Arnold Palmer Invitational Wrap-Up

The Arnold Palmer Invitational concluded last week, with reigning U.S. Open Champion Bryson DeChambeau narrowly defeating a 47-year-old Lee Westwood. The final round offered plenty of excitement as Westwood, whose last tour win came at the St. Jude Classic back in 2010, fought tooth and nail with DeChambeau right down to final hole, only to lose by a single shot. Both men put on gutsy performances with everchanging gusty winds that made each shot a potential disaster. Jordan Spieth was once again in the mix on Sunday, continuing his run of solid play, but faltered on the back nine with bogeys on three of the last four holes. Still, he posted his third top five finish in his last four events (the other being a T15) and keeps knocking on the door in pursuit of his first win since the Open Championship in 2017 at Royal Birkdale. On a side note, Saturday’s round included a curious incident as tour veteran, Justin Rose, who started the day tied with Spieth and within four shots of the lead, suddenly walked off the course after making a nine on the par 4 third hole, leaving Jordan to play on alone. Rose later cited a back flare up as the reason he withdrew from the field mid-round. With DeChambeau’s victory, he catapulted to the top of the FedEx Cup standings, and heads to the Players Championship brimming with confidence.

The Players Championship

The Players Championship is one of the premier events on the PGA tour, often referred to as the “fifth major”. The Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass is an incredibly difficult test of golf, requiring not only power and precision, but a great deal of patience as well. Since the PGA Championship was moved from August to May, The Players will once again take place in March, the position it held in the tour schedule until 2007, when it was moved to May. Prior to 1982, when the TPC at Sawgrass became the permanent home, The Players was held at a number of different venues, including the Atlanta Country Club, Colonial Country Club, Inverrary Country Club, and Sawgrass Country Club. Some of the most memorable moments in golf history have occurred at The Players, including Gary Koch’s famous faux pas, “Better than most!” as Tiger Woods sank one of the greatest putts of all time on the Island Green 17th hole, Fred Couples raising his fist in celebration after making a lengthy eagle putt on the sixteenth hole en route to his second Players championship, and Fuzzy Zoeller famously wiping Greg Norman’s forehead with his towel following Norman’s victory with a record  score of -24. The Players is a very special event, and it takes a special player to win it. I can’t wait to see what is in store for us this year.

The Field

As always, the field for the Players will be the strongest and deepest on tour, with the possible exception of the major championships. In addition to the Arnold Palmer Invitational champion, Bryson DeChambeau, the field will include Rory McIlroy (reigning Players champion), Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm, Patrick Reed, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantley. While the eventual winner will no doubt be among the leaders in total driving, he will also be the player who keeps his cool when things get dicey—as they always do at some point on this Pete Dye masterpiece.

TPC at Sawgrass

The Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass, (TPC at Sawgrass for short) is located in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida near Jacksonville. Established in 1980, the magnificent facility features two 18-hole Pete Dye layouts (the Stadium Course and the Valley Course) as well as one of the finest practice facilities in the country. TPC at Sawgrass is also the headquarters of the PGA Tour. The Stadium course was designed by legendary architect Pete Dye, with his wife Alice, a fine architect in her own right. Modifications were later made by PGA Tour architect Steve Wezloff. The Valley course was designed by Pete Dye along with Jerry Pate and Bobby Weed in 1987. The Stadium course carries a rating of 76.4 with a slope rating of 155. The inspiration for TPC Sawgrass began with Deane Beaman, long time Commissioner of the PGA Tour, who wanted to create a bold and distinctive venue for The Players Championship that would stand the test of time. The TPC at Sawgrass is open to the public and partnered with the Sawgrass Marriot Golf Resort & Spa. When you prepare your golf destination bucket list, be sure to list it right at the top.

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The Arnold Palmer Invitational

The Arnold Palmer Invitational at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Orlando FL
Bay Hill Club & Lodge, Orlando FL

The WGC Workday Championship Wrap-Up

Last week concluded the WGC Workday Championship. The reigning PGA Champ, Collin Morikawa, took home the prize as he finished the tournament at -18, three shots clear of runners-up Brooks Koepka, Billy Horschel, and Viktor Hovland. This was the fourth tour victory for the 24 old Morikawa, and he won in dominating fashion. The Concession Golf Club, a Nicklaus design and venue for the Workday, played like a bear as expected. Unless you were hitting it long and extremely straight off the tee, you paid a heavy price with only 21 of the 50 top ranked players in the world managing to break par. Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, and Adam Scott, all major champions, each finished at +5. Jack doesn’t want to see a putting contest, and when a championship is held on one of his courses, you can bet the winner will be at the top of the ball striking stats for the week—particularly driving. Morikawa hit an incredible 84% of the Fairways at the Concession, while averaging 286 yards off the tee. Johnson, on the other hand, averaged 306 yards off the tee, but hit only 57% of the fairways. Rose and Scott each averaged just under 300 yards, but hit only 66% and 64% of the fairways, respectively. Horschel and Hovland, who tied for second, hit 82% and 77% of the fairways. The only player at the top of the leader board not among the leaders in driving accuracy was Brooks Koepka (64%), which is a testament to his determination and grit, particularly on display in high profile championships. The way Koepka is playing this year, it seems like a lock that he will lift another major championship trophy in 2021, although Collin Morikawa may well have something to say about it.

The Arnold Palmer Invitational

This week starts The Arnold Palmer Invitational, a tournament bearing the name of one of the greatest and most loved players in the history of golf. The PGA Tour has a long history of tournament play in Orlando, Florida, dating back to 1966 and the “Florida Citrus Invitational,” played at Rio Pinar Country Club (which Palmer won in 1971). In 1970 Palmer leased the Bay Hill Club, purchased it outright in 1975, and in 1979 the PGA moved their Orlando event to Arnie’s course as “The Bay Hill Classic” and later the “Bay Hill Invitational.” In 2007 the tournament became known as the “Arnold Palmer Invitational.” Arnie’s presence always made Bay Hill a popular event among the top tour players, and his legacy continues with Bay Hill as one of the crown jewels in the PGA Tour schedule. Notable winners include Tiger Woods (a record 8 wins), Lee Trevino, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Fred Couples, Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, and the late Payne Stewart. As a premium tour event, The Arnold Palmer Invitational awards 50 additional FedEx points to the champion.

The Field

As mentioned earlier, the Arnold Palmer Invitational features an extremely strong field. A few of the notable players competing this week include Bryson DeChambeau, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed, Justin Rose, Jordan Spieth, and Jason Day. Rory would appear to be the favorite, having won at Bay Hill in 2018 and a solid 2021 season thus far with 2 top-10’s and an additional 4 top-25’s. Jordan Spieth’s recent surge makes him another player to keep an eye on, and he may be particularly motivated after failing to make the field for last week’s WGC championship. It’s also a pretty good bet that Bryson DeChambeau will be among the leaders on Sunday, with all that power and a strong performance following his slow start at The Concession last week (and he came close when Rory won in ’18). Bryson has also made many references regarding his affection for Arnold Palmer and his strong desire to win at Bay Hill—so there may be a little extra on those booming drives. As always, this will be one of the special weeks on PGA Tour schedule, so be sure to tune in.

The Bay Hill Club and Lodge

The Bay Hill Club and Lodge is located in Orlando Florida and the original eighteen holes were designed by famed architect Dick Wilson in 1961 (Champion and Challenger Nines). In 1969 Bob Simmons added an additional nine holes (Charger Nine). From the moment Arnie purchased Bay Hill in 1975 he made continual updates and improvements to the layout, and in 2009 the course underwent a major renovation under his direct supervision, making Bay Hill Club and Lodge one of the finest facilities in the country. The Arnold Palmer Invitational will be played on the Champion and Challenger Nines, boasting a 76.4 course rating and a slope of 138.

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