Notebook: Gentlemanly move prevents a record defeat
Paul McGinley's match-halving concession to J.J. Henry exemplifies the Ryder Cup spirit. Plus, former President Clinton drops by to catch some of the action, Phil Mickelson wants to work on his putting, and more.
September 24, 2006
STRAFFAN, Ireland -- Paul McGinley was trying to do the right thing. His European teammates probably will never let him live it down.
Of course, they can all laugh about it, because the Euros have the Ryder Cup again. But had McGinley not conceded a 25-foot putt to J.J. Henry on the 18th hole, they might have had a record, too.
Europe matched its record-setting blowout of 2004 with an identical 18 1/2 to 9 1/2 score Sunday. Another half point, which would have been earned had Henry not made -- or been given -- that putt, and this would have been the most historic blowout of all time.
"I'll have a talk with Paul McGinley later," Captain Ian Woosnam said jokingly.
In his defense, Europe had long secured the match when McGinley conceded the putt, and there were other matches on the course, so the Irishman couldn't have known the half point he gave away would cost his team the record.
Also, there was a streaker running across the green. "And it wasn't even a woman," McGinley lamented.
And this is the Ryder Cup, where sportsmanship is supposed to reign supreme.
McGinley said he asked Assistant Captain Des Smyth what he should do as the players approached the green.
"He wouldn't help," McGinley said.
Henry said he appreciated the gesture.
"I think it shows really what the spirit of this competition is all about," Henry said. "What a gentleman, obviously."
McGinley said he'd rather not make too big a deal over the whole episode. Surely, his European teammates will. But what a great "problem" to have.
"It has crossed my mind on several occasions, and I'm sure it's not finished yet," McGinley said. "But it was a gesture done in the right spirit."
ALL WET: After hitting an approach shot to the seventh green, Tiger Woods asked his caddie, Steve Williams, to rinse the mud off his 9-iron.
Williams went above and beyond. Dipping the club into the River Liffey, Williams lost his balance on a slick rock. Something had to give.
"It was him or the 9-iron" going into the drink, Woods said. "He chose the 9-iron."
Woods and Williams laughed about the gaffe -- easier to do because Woods won his match pretty easily. He played the next seven holes with only 13 clubs.
It was only an issue once -- on 11 -- when Woods was 127 yards for his approach, "the perfect number" for his 9-iron. He hit a choked-down 8-iron instead and made birdie.
Later, a diver retrieved the club, and Woods got it back on No. 15.
"Stevie dried the grip, and it was fine," Woods said.
GOLFER-IN-CHIEF: The Ryder Cup players weren't the only Americans with sad tales to tell from The K Club.
Former President Bill Clinton, on hand to watch the final round of the exhibition, played here in the past and said it was a struggle.
"I know I didn't break 90," he said. "I think I shot a 91. I know I didn't get close to my handicap."
The former President's handicap is reported by many to be around 12. Many theories abound, of course, about what that number really should be. He has a reputation as an unabashed mulligan taker, a guy who keeps hitting shots until he likes the result.
But he wasn't telling any tall tales about his trip around the Irish course, "from the blue tees" -- the championship tees -- which play at 7,337 yards.
"I spent half the time trying to stay out of the water," he said. "Very difficult, pretty much at every turn."
Clinton said he appreciates the Ryder Cup for the same reason most people do.
"It's because it's team, not an individual sport," Clinton said. "It's got variations that make it endlessly interesting -- the mix of personalities and mix of forms of play."
"And," Clinton added, "this is a very hard course."
BIG BUST: There's no other way to put it, except to say Phil Mickelson had an awful Ryder Cup. He lost, 2 & 1, to Jose Maria Olazabal on Sunday to finish 0-4-1 for the week and drop to 1-9-1 over his last 11 matches.
"Obviously, I expected to get more points than a half," Mickelson said. "But I felt like we were in every match."
Mickelson did nothing to quiet those who say he's too burned out come September to be effective in this event, or those who advanced the theory that he might never be the same after his 18th-hole meltdown at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot.
Like Woods, Captain Tom Lehman and pretty much everyone on the U.S. team, Mickelson agreed the lack of clutch putting did in the whole team.
"It comes back down to the greens," he said. "It's just going to make me work harder in putting in the offseason because I just didn't make anything, and that was certainly frustrating."
VERPLANK'S ACE: Scott Verplank already was having a good day. He was 3-up in his singles match with Padraig Harrington and on his way to winning his second Ryder Cup point when he stepped up to the tee on the 14th hole.
Verplank had the honors and hit an iron at the flag 213 yards away. His aim was true, and the ball hopped into the hole for the second ace of this Ryder Cup.
"I just turned around and then told Padraig, 'Well, it's your shot now,"' Verplank said.
Harrington had to make an ace himself to avoid going four down with four to go. He hit a good shot, but it ended up eight feet short.
Verplank halved the next hole with Harrington to win the match, 4 & 3. It was a rare bright spot in a frustrating day for the U.S. team.
"Just a lucky shot," Verplank said. "I hit a nice-looking shot. It never left the flag. But to go in is pretty lucky."
Paul Casey made a hole-in-one on the same hole Saturday. His was even more dramatic, though, winning the match for he and David Howell against Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson.
EXPENSIVE LOSS: One unidentified bettor suffered even more than the Americans on Sunday, as his $660,000 pre-event bet on the USA to win failed to pan out in a big way.
"He is a regular customer in his mid-to-late thirties who used to be a Phil Mickelson fan, although he may now be re-considering that opinion," Graham Sharpe, a spokesman for London-based bookmaker William Hill, said.
Another client staked $150,000 on the USA to win and yet another customer lost $225,000 on one of the Saturday matches, Sharpe told PA Sport, making this the bookmakers most profitable Ryder Cup ever. In all, PA reported, this Ryder Cup was the biggest betting golf event of all time with approximately $45 million gambled on the outcome.
DIVOTS: William Hill called the 2008 Ryder Cup a toss-up, offering even-money on either team. Spokesman Graham Sharpe said it's the first time the Europeans aren't being tabbed as an underdog for a Ryder Cup on U.S. turf. Odds on the Europeans fielding the same 12 players as this year were 33-1. The odds on the Americans fielding the same team two years hence? "About a million to 1, I'd guess," Sharpe said. ... Lee Westwood played his match against Chris DiMarco with flu symptoms. He gingerly drank from a bottle of champagne during Europe's otherwise raucous celebration. ... Colin Montgomerie improved 6-0-2 in Ryder Cup singles matches.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press and PA Sport. All rights reserved.
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