A collection of my golf thoughts (including the passing on Arnold Palmer) from the week plus some player performance notes for this week’s Ryder Cup.
After two dramatic playoff wins on for Rory McIlroy in the Tour Championship and Alexander Levy Sunday closed with the sad news of the passing of golfing great Arnold Palmer, we will address Palmer’s influence and sad death at the end of the column but for now a quick look at the tournaments on Sunday.
Staring the round two shots back McIlroy and Ryan Moore (two of the three who made the playoff) made ground with McIlroy’s tremendous eagle on 16 put him in position to force the eventual playoff which was rounded out by Kevin Chappell. Chappell lead heading into round with Dustin Johnson but Johnson fell away shooting 73 compared to Chappell’s 66. Northern Ireland’s McIlroy won the playoff on the fourth extra hole after Chappell was eliminated at the first before Moore’s par on the 16th was bested by McIlroy’s birdie to secure both the tournament victory at Fed Ex Cup title.
In Germany Frenchman Alexander Levy eventually prevailed in to win the European Open in a tournament beset by fog which caused multiple delays. Levy delivered a great approach on the second playoff hole which set-up his triumph over England’s Ross Fisher after Levy had leads of as much as six shots during the fragmented tournament.
Player performance notes
Players I’m interested in to see how they go with notes that interest me and/or are related to capital investment, if that’s your things. With the possible changes to teams throughout the three days that is almost more of the story then the golf itself. We will have a slightly different look this week to this section of the column.
For those unfamiliar the Ryder Cup is played over three days with foursomes (alternate shot) and fourballs (best ball) on the opening two days (two v two from each team) heading into singles, essentially head-to-head on the final day. The final day is the most dramatic as 12 points are on offer and all players feature. As European hold the Ryder Cup they only need to claim 14 of the 28 points on offer whereas the USA needs to win 14.5.
Tip: Europe – McIlroy won on the weekend, Justin Rose won the Olympics in Brazil, Swede Henrik Stenson won the Open and Willett (with little experience at Augusta) won the Masters. The adaptability of the European players to win overseas/away from home puts them in a good spot to win here. The USA are favoured to win despite losing six of the last seven Ryder Cups and this seems to be on the basis that the USA team is more experienced but remember if the experienced European players fire a few of the six rookies won’t be needed to play much. My last big point in favour of Europe, Hazeltine throws up outside winners. The last two majors held on the course were won by YE Yang and Rich Beem! Chris Wood could easily be a hero if he gets a chance.
Players to watch:
Justin Rose – The Englishman was unbeaten in 2014’s RC win for Europe (claiming four of five possible points) and he beat Phil Mickelson in singles play in 2012’s ‘Miracle at Medinah’
Danny Willett – world number 10 Willett was second in his last tournament scoring 21 under. That’s nine strokes better than McIlroy’s score in the weekend. Yes it’s a different tournament/format but 21 under!
Dustin Johnson – Two wins from two in singles matches in his RC career Johnson has to put behind his collapse on Sunday and rally for this USA team.
Jordan Spieth – Won both his fourballs in 2014 and if we take a line that McIlroy missing the Olympics to focus on end of year priorities applies to the world number four he needs to continue this good form for the home side to have a hope of triumph.
Greens in regulation
Away from Minnesota, the Asian Tour hosts the Taiwan Masters after last weekend’s event (the Asia-Pacific Diamond Cup) was won by now world #215 Chinese Taipei’s Chan Shih-chang. Olympian Azhara Munoz made history becoming the first home winner of the Andalucia Costa del Sol Open de Espana Femenino in Marbella on the European Ladies PGA. This week the LPGA tour starts is Asian swing with the LPGA Classic in Beijing which was won by Mirim Lee when it was last played in 2014.
Away from the professional tour there was a significant result for Australian golf with a comprehensive victory to claim the prestigious Eisenhower Trophy, the World Amateur Teams Championship, winning by 19 strokes over England. Sydney’s Cameron Davis won the individual score with 17 under and his combined score with recent US amateur winner Curtis Luck and Harrison Endycott, also from Sydney, logged a team score of 38 under to claim victory in Mexico.
Much has already been said about the passing of seven-time major winner Arnold Palmer who was 87 when he died awaiting cardiac surgery at a Pittsburgh hospital.
A winner of close to 100 tournaments in his career Palmer stood out between February 1960 and October 1963 with the Pennsylvania native winning 29 tournaments – five of which were majors. Understanding the future development of the game, with an eye to his ‘second career’ in the sport, Palmer ventured away from the normally trodden golf path at the time visiting Australia in his playing career – he won the 1966 Australian Open.
Among the many tributes Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel relayed a terrific series of quotes which personifies how Palmer saw his role as it related to fans.
“I think the fact that the players are physically closer to the fans on the golf course, and from time to time they are privileged to talk to the fans, they have more of a relationship just through casualness,” Palmer said. “They are closer to the people that admire them and want to talk to them. The autographing isn’t something that you stand in line and do much the same as other sports where there’s, again, the contact is very little.
“In golf, an autograph is more personal I think. It’s something that actually happens and like I’m looking at you and talking and you’re asking for an autograph, that’s the way it’s done, and that makes the relationship closer.”
Aside from his impressive playing CV Palmer was responsible for the following:
-Designing the first golf course built in China, done during the 1980’s
-His handshake agreement with Mark McCormack virtually founded leading agency IMG
-Helped establish the Golf Channel which is linked to major USA broadcaster NBC
-and he even had his own licensed iced tea!
In this week of the Ryder Cup it is somewhat sadly ironic that the game has lost the USA’s most successful player in the format with Palmer having won 22 matches which is the USA record, won 23 points (which is second in that ranking) among six Ryder Cup triumphs as a player. He is tied first for points won in singles and foursomes – two of the three formats.
Finally, what struck me in the first few hours after hearing of the legend’s passing was how many golfers acknowledged him as ‘Mr Palmer’ McIlroy and England’s Luke Donald noted it in their tributes (others may have also but they were the first two I noticed) I can’t recall a recent death of an athlete acknowledged in such a respectable manner. Perhaps it is the propensity to use a nickname depending upon the culture one is from or maybe it’s the direct correlation between the ‘gentlemanly’ aspects of the game of golf. Either way it is a wonderful nod to the groundwork which Palmer, and those of his era, laid down so golfers can play for the prizemoney they do now.