SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Johnny Miller’s first Ryder Cup overseas for NBC Sports was in 1993 at The Belfry, so long ago that Davis Love III was a Ryder Cup rookie who holed the cup-clinching putt for the Americans.
Could he have imagined that 25 years later it would remain the last time the Americans won on foreign soil?
“The only way it could have come is, Tiger and Phil’s Ryder Cup record didn’t help,” Miller said in an interview at East Lake. “They should have been dominant in the Ryder Cup. For them to have losing records didn’t help.”
Woods is 13-17-3 and has played on one winning Ryder Cup team. Mickelson is 18-20-7, setting a record for most losses by an American.
“I don’t have any idea. There’s no real reason for it,” Miller said. “It seems like the last 10 years they’ve gotten to really love the Ryder Cup. Before that, I wasn’t sure. That’s just an opinion. We’ll leave it at that. That’s my gut. Those guys now love the team room, Tiger and Phil. When you have great players like Tiger and Phil, they have a tendency to not want to chum it up with other golfers. Guys who chum it up are just OK. Guys who are great players are loners.”
Miller believes it’s one thing to be a major champion, and another to be regarded as a great Ryder Cup player.
There was a time when players were mostly known as great in the Ryder Cup only because they had never won a major.
“It’s like a whole category in itself,” Miller said. “You can be a guy who won 18 majors, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be a great Ryder Cupper. That’s the rarest golf there is. A lot of people don’t look at it that way. We see a guy like Ian Poulter, he makes these crazy putts. Even Colin Montgomerie. He couldn’t win in the U.S., but he could make putts in the Ryder Cup.”
Patrick Reed won the Masters this year for his first major, but at East Lake last week in the Tour Championship, he was referred to by the gallery with more chants of “Captain America” than “Masters champion.”
“If I was captain, I’d like about five of him,” Miller said. “He even thrives overseas. That’s really a rare person. He’s built for that.”
Miller can’t speak from his own experience. He played on only two Ryder Cup teams (1975 and 1981) and went 2-2-2.
That Tiger feeling
Former poker player Phil Gordon tweeted that when he saw Tiger Woods at the Hero World Challenge last December in the Bahamas, Woods told him that he wanted the younger generation to “feel the heat down the back nine with me in the lead one more time.”
Woods said Tuesday that most of the young generation was just getting going when he was on his way out because of back pain. Brooks Koepka had not joined the PGA Tour when Woods had his first back surgery. Justin Thomas was still in college when Woods was player of the year in 2013. That same year, Spieth was rookie of the year.
“So a lot of these guys just had not played against me yet,” Woods said. “I think that when my game is there, I feel like I’ve always been a tough person to beat. They have jokingly been saying that, ‘We want to go against you.’ All right. Here you go. And we had a run at it.”
Woods was paired with Rickie Fowler in the second round at East Lake and beat him by four shots. He was tied for the lead and paired with Justin Rose in the third round and beat him by three. He was paired with Rory McIlroy in the final round and beat him by three.
British Open champion Francesco Molinari never gets overly excited about anything, and he doesn’t expect his demeanor to change at the Ryder Cup.
“There’s no point in trying to be something that you’re not,” Molinari said. “I think we need to obviously embrace the support of the crowds, and we’ll try to do that. But then, yeah, I’ll be the same me that I’ve always been, and we’ll see. If I get paired with someone that has a bit more flair, probably there will be a balance, as well.”
Molinari said his style blends just fine with all the high-energy players on the European team.
To build unity, the European team watched a video from Irish impressionist Conor Moore, who had everyone laughing with his deadpan portrayal of Molinari.
When the Ryder Cup returns to Europe in 2022, it will be held in Italy for the first time at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club near Rome. Italy’s first major champion has no desire to be a playing captain, which hasn’t been done since Arnold Palmer in 1963.
“There’s enough stuff going on, you know, if you’re a player or a captain,” the 35-year-old Molinari said. “And in your home country … I would probably lose a few years of my life and I don’t want to do that, honestly.”
That almost sounded like a bit of personality coming through.
“Can’t you tell the difference?” Molinari deadpanned, breaking everyone up.
Before settling in for a team event in France, 23 of the 24 players at the Ryder Cup received a ballot to vote for PGA Tour player of the year. All but Thorbjorn Olesen were PGA Tour members this season.
The PGA Tour put six players on the ballot, even though Brooks Koepka is the heavy favorite, having won the U.S. Open and PGA Championship. The only double major winner not to win the award was Nick Faldo in 1990 because he wasn’t a PGA Tour member that year.
The other five players on the ballot were FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose (two victories), three-time winners Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau, and British Open champion Francesco Molinari, who also won the Quicken Loans National.
Johnson won the Vardon Trophy for having the lowest adjusted scoring average and has been No. 1 the longest this season. Thomas won the Arnold Palmer Trophy for winning the PGA Tour money title.
Also on the ballot were five candidates for rookie of the year, with Aaron Wise the likely winner because he was the only player to win a PGA Tour event (AT&T Byron Nelson) and reach the Tour Championship. The other winners were Austin Cook and Satoshi Kodaira. Joaquin Niemann and Keith Mitchell also were on the ballot.
The ballots are due by 5 p.m. Monday.
Dustin Johnson returned to No. 1 in the world, making it the fifth time an American has been No. 1 at the Ryder Cup. The other four times it was Tiger Woods in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2010. The Americans lost all those Ryder Cups. … When the Ryder Cup goes to Whistling Straits in two years, the Junior Ryder Cup will be held at Blue Mound Golf and Country Club in Milwaukee. That’s where Gene Sarazen won the 1933 PGA Championship. … Neither Ryder Cup captain says he has a policy on social media for his players this week. Ian Poulter says he is tweeting actively, with one exception. “We just need to respect the boundaries of the team room,” he said. “The team room is there for privacy.”
Stat of the week
Justin Thomas won the PGA Tour money title by $237,469 over Dustin Johnson. It was the smallest margin since Matt Kuchar won over Jim Furyk by $100,855 in 2010.
“Because I’ve played in these events for so long and have never won over here, it would be one of the moments I would cherish the most if we were able to come out on top.” – Phil Mickelson at the Ryder Cup.
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