U.S. COMES UNDONE AT 17
During the Ryder Cup's final practice round, on Sept. 25,
European captain Seve Ballesteros ordered his superstar foursome
of Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie and Lee
Westwood back to the 17th tee after their first try at the hole
failed to impress him. SEVE? HE CRAZY! scolded the headline in
the following day's London Daily Mail, but the newspaper had it
only half right. What it should have added to the headline was
LIKE A FOX because Ballesteros apparently has known for some
time what both teams eventually found out: The 17th would be the
Ryder Cup's pivotal hole.
It was on this awkward 511-yard par-5 that Langer closed out
Brad Faxon for the point that kept the Cup in Europe. That
two-putt par, however, barely rates mention given all the other
drama that went down on 17. "That hole has been the difference,"
said Scott Hoch after Saturday's play.
Because the par-4 18th was relatively benign and generally
halved, winning 17 was crucial. Four times during pairs, the
Europeans won 17, then closed out the Americans on 18; a U.S.
pair won the hole once. During a high-testosterone second day of
four-ball, Faldo, Westwood, Mark O'Meara and Tiger Woods all
reached the green in two. Westwood's two-iron from 235 yards to
six feet was one of the brassiest shots of the Cup, and Woods
and O'Meara were eventually forced to concede the eagle putt,
ending their match 2 and 1.
Earlier that day Montgomerie and Darren Clarke took the lead for
good in their four-ball match against Fred Couples and Davis
Love III at 17 when Montgomerie made an eight-foot birdie putt.
Ever the curmudgeon, Montgomerie could be seen brushing off
Ballesteros as Seve tried to dispense advice before the decisive
putt. "Sometimes Seve would be better off staying in his buggy
and watching, especially on the 17th,'' said Montgomerie.
The first Sunday singles match to reach the 17th was between
Justin Leonard and Thomas Bjorn. Both laid up and wedged to
within seven feet. On their ensuing putts, only Bjorn found the
bottom of the cup, for a birdie that gave him his first lead.
Leonard, who had won the first four holes, came back to win 18,
but halving the match instead of winning it went a long way
toward aborting the furious U.S. comeback. Although both Hoch
and Lee Janzen later won the 17th, it didn't matter. The damage
had already been done.
A RECORD BREAKTHROUGH BY WARD IN CHARLOTTE
Before last week's Fieldcrest Cannon Classic in Charlotte, Wendy
Ward had failed to break 68 during any of her 22 starts this
year on the LPGA tour. By Sunday evening, though, she had broken
it three times and set the tour's 72-hole scoring record by five
strokes with a 23-under-par 265. The mark had previously been
held by Nancy Lopez and Beth Daniel, who have combined for 80
wins in their careers. "That's pretty nice company," said Ward,
who shot rounds of 66-65-64-70 on the 6,318-yard, par-72
Peninsula Club course.
Ward appeared destined for stardom when she turned pro in
October 1995. A three-time All-America, Ward had won the 1994
U.S. Amateur and in March 1995 tied for third at the Standard
Register Ping, nearly becoming the first amateur to win an LPGA
event since JoAnne Carner won the Burdine's Invitational in
1969. Three months later, Ward led Arizona State to a third
straight NCAA title and that fall finished third at the LPGA Q
school. In her two years on tour, though, Ward, a long hitter
with a deft touch, has struggled with her accuracy. Last year
she was 75th on the money list, and her best finishes were two
ninths. This year, her best showing before Charlotte had been a
14th at the Giant Eagle Classic in Warren, Ohio, in July.
Ward wasn't alone in her assault on the Peninsula Club, which
was softened early last week by heavy rain. Rosie Jones and Jane
Geddes also broke the old scoring mark of 270, finishing second
at 267, 21 under par. Neither golfer, however, seriously
challenged Ward on Sunday. "She was just playing really good,"
Jones said. "Too good."
SOUTH KOREA: THE LATEST WOMEN'S GOLF PIPELINE
Perhaps the world should have seen this coming three years ago,
when North Korean president Kim Jong Il revealed that he had
aced five holes in a single round at the Pyongyang Golf Club en
route to a 38-under-par 34, which broke the world record by 25
While some might, uh, contest Kim's claim, there's no disputing
that the Korean peninsula has become a pipeline for first-rate
golfers, especially women. The best of them are Se Ri Pak and
Grace Park. Last month the 20-year-old Pak advanced to the final
stage of LPGA Q school, which is scheduled for Oct. 20-24 in
Daytona Beach, by winning the first stage in Venice, Fla., with
a 12-under 276, nine strokes better than her more heralded peer,
Kelli Kuehne. "Physically, she's really strong," says Kim
Williams, who was paired with Pak for a round at this year's
U.S. Women's Open, in which Pak finished an impressive 21st.
"Plus, she's very focused. It doesn't seem like she has too many
Park, 18, is also turning heads. A freshman at Arizona State,
Park was medalist in her first college tournament, last month's
Rolex Fall Preview in Madison, Wis. Few expect Park to stay in
college for four years. "She could be a pro right now, and a
good one," says Wake Forest coach Dianne Dailey. "She
consistently hits the ball farther than anyone in college golf.
Her swing is awesome."
Pak and Park have similar backgrounds. Both have been athletes
since they were very young (Pak was a runner and shot-putter,
Park a national roller skating champion), and both were pushed
into golf by hard-driving parents. For most of her career, Pak
has been coached by her father, Jun Chun, an avid golfer. Last
year, after she had won three tournaments in South Korea, the
business conglomerate Samsung signed Pak to a 10-year contract
and arranged for her to receive instruction in the U.S. from
swing guru David Leadbetter.
Park started taking golf lessons in the second grade. "We
decided to make Grace a big golf star," says her mother, Lee Jin
Ae. After some initial resistance, Park slowly warmed to the
sport. When she finished elementary school, her parents, eager
that she get better training, sent her to live in the U.S.,
first in Hawaii, then in Arizona. "I say this with great
respect," says Dailey, "but the young Korean golfers aren't your
typical American teens. They work amazingly hard, and they're
very single-minded. I wouldn't be surprised to see more on the
GILBERT TO BEGIN CHEMO FOR INOPERABLE CANCER
There was more bad news last week for Senior tour golfer Larry
Gilbert, who learned he had lung cancer on Sept. 2. Further
tests taken in Nashville revealed inoperable tumors in his left
shoulder and on a rib. This week the 54-year-old Gilbert, who
won his first major, the Senior Players Championship, earlier
this year and is currently ranked seventh on the Senior money
list, is scheduled to begin chemotherapy in Lexington, Ky., his
hometown. "Sometimes life deals hard blows," he says. "This is
just another hurdle."
THE SHAG BAG
The biggest beneficiaries of Ryder Cup week are players at the
bottom of the PGA Tour money list, guys like Gabriel Hjertstedt,
who jumped from 226th to 84th with his one-shot victory over
Andrew Magee, Chris Perry and Lee Rinker at the B.C. Open in
Endicott, N.Y. Hjertstedt became the first Swede to win on Tour.
Forty of the top 50 players on the money list skipped the
tournament.... Mac O'Grady, making his first cut since 1995,
finished 50th in Endicott. His take-home pay of $3,078 was only
$866 less than his combined earnings during the previous three
seasons.... With his playoff victory over Gil Morgan in the
Emerald Coast Classic at the Moors Golf Club in Milton, Fla.,
Isao Aoki has won more than $1 million for the third straight
year. It was the first win of the year for Aoki, who also has
five second-place and three third-place finishes. "I'm very
happy today, but it would make me happier to have Larry Gilbert
back," Aoki said.
THE FULL MONTY
When a spectator cheered one of his missed putts at the U.S.
Open in June, Colin Montgomerie barked back, "Save it for the
Ryder Cup." Montgomerie certainly saved his trash talking for
the Cup. A few days before the competition began, he offered his
candid analysis of many of the U.S. players. Although Seve
Ballesteros probably wished that Monty had kept his opinions to
himself until after the match, some of them were right on the
U.S. PLAYER MONTY'S ASSESSMENT THE FACTS
Tiger Woods "I've finished ahead of Failed to win his last
him in three majors. four matches, finishing
He can't win five points 1-3-1.
out of five."
Phil Mickelson "Sorry, he might have a Missed crucial six-foot
great touch on the greens, putt that would have
but you can't rely on him clinched a win in
at every hole." Saturday four-balls.
Brad Faxon "He's going through a Didn't make a birdie
divorce. Mentally, I in first 36 holes;
don't think he'll be lost Cup-clinching
with it." match to Langer.
Davis Love III "If one of them has a Went 0-4; worst
putt for the match, I individual performance
wouldn't want it to be since John O'Leary
him." went 0-5 in 1975.
Jeff Maggert "I don't think anyone Won two of three
is going to be too matches; was one of
intimidated by him." the best U.S. players.
What do these players have in common?
They have earned more than $1 million in a year without a Tour
Winner Isao Aoki's score in the second round of last week's
Emerald Coast Classic in Milton, Fla., breaking the Senior tour
record of 61 held by five others.
Golf Plus will next appear in the Oct. 27 issue of SI.