MELBOURNE, Australia -- With a warm, blustery north wind buffeting Royal Melbourne, International Captain Greg Norman rated Friday's difficulty as an 11 on a scale of 1-10.
"It depends on where you put the ball on the green," Norman told NBC's Jimmy Roberts as the matches were getting under way. "There are going to be some putts you don't believe. You're going to see Royal Melbourne really expose itself today."
Norman said he felt Thursday was a "bit of an anomaly." As the Americans clawed back to halve the last two matches and take a 4-2 lead the Shark said he felt the "energy go flat" -- both with his team and the partisan Aussie crowd.
Norman said he told his players not to feel like they had to make up the deficit "all back at one time. There are four sessions left." Not to mention, Mother Nature and Royal Melbourne will surely impact the competition on Friday.
"When (my team) woke up and got on the bus and saw this wind, they felt pretty good about it," Norman said with a smile.
Like Norman, U.S. Captain Fred Couples knows his squad will be challenged on Friday. “Royal Melbourne is going to be very difficult in a 20 mile-an-hour wind," Couples told NBC's Dottie Pepper.
At the same time, he couldn't have been happier with Thursday's performance.
"That was a great finish for our side," Couples said. "We all know Aaron Baddeley is a quality player. He just hit a couple of bad shots at the wrong time. We feel like we got a little bit lucky. But I’ll take lots of luck in this game."
MELBOURNE, Australia – The highly-anticipated Presidents Cup is under way.
The Americans had the honor on the first tee and Bubba Watson took out his trusty driver and found the fairway. Ryo Ishikawa hit first for the International team, lacing an iron into the short grass as well.
As the two teams walked to their second shots, NBC’s Jimmy Roberts spoke with International Captain Greg Norman, without question the most popular Australian golfer of all time. Norman said he was pointing to this day when he accepted the captaincy four years ago.
“I’ve got to be honest with you, I wish I was playing today,” Norman, smiling broadly, told Roberts.
After the second match began, the veteran NBC announcer also caught up with U.S. Captain Fred Couples, asking what he learned as the U.S. skipper two years ago.
“The main thing I learned is that we were in San Francisco and we had everyone behind us,” Couples said with a smile.
The U.S. Captain also said he wasn’t that concerned with the local knowledge the Australians have for Royal Melbourne, an Alister MacKenzie masterpiece regarded as one of the best courses in the world.
“Personally, i think it's a ball-striker’s course and I think we have some guys who can really hit it,” Couples said.
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
MELBOURNE, Australia -- The buzz in the media center could be felt as soon as the respective captains announced the pairings for Match 5.
With 20 players on the pairings board, just four players were left -- including Tiger Woods and Adam Scott.
As you might imagine, the post-pairings conversation Wednesday at Royal Melbourne was dominated by the Match 6 pairing of Woods-Steve Stricker vs. Scott-K.J. Choi. This will be the first time Woods and Scott will be in the same group since Scott's caddie Steve Williams made his controversial remarks about his former employee.
Although Williams has apologized for his remarks and has shaken hands with Woods in hopes of putting the issue to rest, interest about the final match will certainly be high on Thursday when The Presidents Cup begins with six foursomes matches.
"I think it's great for the tournament," International captain Greg Norman said. "It needed to be done. It played out the way it played out. There wasn't any premeditation by it.
"I think at the end of the day, the guys in that last group will be the consummate professionals and go out and play the game of golf representing their International Team and the U.S. Team the way they should do."
Couples made similar sentiments, saying there was no planning by both sides to make the match happen.
"I think it worked out awesome for everybody involved to have Adam and Tiger play," Couples said. "As we said all along, they are still very good friends, and I think it's an exciting match."
Australia’s Jason Day was in the team room with the rest of the Internationals when the pairings were announced. He said the players were all clapping when the pairings for the final match took shape.
“I think everyone is kind of pumped for it,” Day said.
American veteran Jim Furyk, when asked about Match 6, used the word “interesting.” Twice.
“I think it's probably a pairing that y'all have been talking about for two weeks now since we were in China,” Furyk said, “and it was probably a matter of time before it happened. So just want to get it out of the way right off the first.”
Couples did have the opportunity to avoid the pairing when he made his Match 5 announcement. Norman had already selected K.T. Kim-Y.E. Yang, and Couples could have countered with putting Woods-Stricker against the Korean duo.
Instead, he opted for Hunter Mahan-David Toms in Match 5, setting the stage for the final match of the day.
"There's more to this thing than where you slot the players," Couples explained. "Like Greg said, and we were right here, we were writing down cards and it's just the way it fell, and I think it would be worse if we hid this deal."
Most of the questions posed to the two captains centered around Match 6. Norman was even asked if he had a sense whether Williams wanted the pairing.
"I have not even had a conversation with Steve Williams," Norman said. "His job is to carry Adam Scott's bag and doesn't matter whether they are playing Tiger Woods or not."
Both Norman and Couples said they are hopeful that by getting the Woods-Scott pairing done early, the conversation will turn elsewhere.
"It's a dead issue as far as we are concerned," Norman said. "There's no animosity between any of the players or any of the issues have taken place.
"I know it's good fodder. People like to talk about it in the media. But from our perspective, it's dead and gone, and we would like to keep it that way going forward."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
MELBOURNE, Australia -- At 8:30 on Tuesday morning the 12 members of the U.S. Team assembled on the driving range at Royal Melbourne to have their official photos taken.
With the exception of a small American flag on the left sleeve of their shirts, though, the traditional red, white and blue was no where to be found. Instead, the U.S. team was clad in green shirts with gold trim -- colors more closely associated with their hosts in Australia.
There was a method to Fred Couples' madness, though, and a very good reason, at that.
When the U.S. Captain came to Melbourne last year to meet with his International counterpart, Greg Norman, he was touched by the tales he heard about the flooding that swept through Victoria in March, 2010. So he hatched an idea to help raise money for local charities, as well as possibly curry favor with the partisan crowd.
Hence, the day’s deviation in colors. The Americans will autograph their shirts, which in turn will be auctioned off for charity beginning Thursday. The auction will run until Saturday, Nov. 26, and you can click here to make your bids.
The money raised will go to Australian football charities Ladder and Reclink. Ladder specifically tackles youth homelessness while Reclink provides sports and arts opportunities for disadvantages Australians.
Couples is pleased with the way the promotion has turned out. He’s hoping the shirts raise around 25,000-30,000 Australian dollars.
"I just had this idea of coming here, and hopefully to be quite honest, getting a few Aussies behind us and thinking we are pretty nice to come here and raise some money," Couples said. "So I got this idea to wear their colors today. Obviously it's Tuesday. I would never do it during the tournament.
“... We teed off early and a few people have noticed and made comments. We took team photos today, and a few players were a little bit mystified on why we are not wearing red, white and blue. So they know why, and it was my idea and it was just done to make a little extra money here."
CLICK HERE to place your bid.
SAN FRANCISCO – Jay Don Blake, winless on the Champions Tour coming into this season, now has a chance for a second win in less than two months at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
Blake, who won in a playoff at the Songdo IBD Championship, leads by two shots (8 under) at TPC Harding Park after a 5-under 66 in the third round. Michael Allen, David Frost and Jay Haas are two shots back at 6 under, and Loren Roberts is 5 under after the week’s low round (65).
Fred Couples, who co-led with Allen and Frost after two rounds, had two double bogeys on the back nine and shot 74, falling into a tie for 12th at 1 under. Playing partner Mark Calcavecchia shot 70 and is 4 under, needing to finish first or second to have a shot at the Schwab Cup.
Tom Lehman, the Schwab Cup points leader, shot 72 and is tied for 16th. He still projects to win the Cup based on the leaderboard through three rounds.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Say Hey Kid dropped in on the Champions Tour Saturday.
Baseball Hall of Famer and San Francisco icon Willie Mays spent some time around TPC Harding Park at the start of Round 3 of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, greeting the final two groups on the first tee.
“Wish I’d have played with you, you could have showed me how to hit it long,” the 80-year-old legend said to Fred Couples and Mark Calcavecchia.
“You don’t need any help,” Couples said.
Indeed, Mays was a pretty good golfer back in the day, a mid-70s shooter who traveled with the PGA TOUR for a short time after his playing days, in association with a sponsor.
“They were so good, I’d shoot 75 or 78, they’d shoot 65 or 68,” Mays said. “When I was out there, it was a fun thing. I learned how to hit the ball, how to fade it, how to chip, how to read the greens. I played a lot with Raymond (Floyd), Trevino, Chi Chi.
Today golf is a popular pastime and topic of conversation in baseball clubhouses. Mays said that wasn’t the case in his time, though many ballplayers were good golfers.
“We talked baseball, why talk golf when you’ve got to go on the field and play baseball?” said Mays, who hit 660 home runs in 22 seasons, including 14 in San Francisco with the Giants. “We did have some golfers on the club. Most of the pitchers would play. But not me, they said ‘you couldn’t play.’ (Managers) Leo (Durocher) and (Alvin) Dark, they said ‘we don’t want you playing because it might mess up your swing.’
“Wouldn’t have messed mine up, but they didn’t see it that way.”
Mays, who was also at TPC Harding Park two years ago for the Presidents Cup, has history with several players in the field this week. Couples is a favorite, and Tom Watson goes back decades with Mays.
Watson remembers a priceless moment with his son and Mays from 1992 at Giants spring training.
“I remember it like it was this morning,” Watson said. “I went up to introduce Michael to him and myself to him, he had that big smile on his face and he looked at my son and started talking to him … ‘How would you like to play some catch?’ And for 15 minutes they threw the ball around. 15 minutes!”
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO – Tom Lehman is still projected to win the Schwab Cup, but Round 2 of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship showed it won’t be a walkover.
Mark Calcavecchia shot 68 at TPC Harding Park, tied for the low round of the day, to climb into a tie for fourth at 3 under behind Michael Allen, Fred Couples, David Frost.
Calcavecchia is second in Schwab Cup points and needs a combination of a win and a Lehman T2 or worse, or a runner-up with Lehman at T12 or worse.
Lehman is tied for 11th after a second-round 72. Calcavecchia said he’s not noticing – yet.
“He’s hanging around. He’ll be there at the end,” Calcavecchia said. “I’m not going to pay attention to him or David Frost or anybody else. There’s two rounds left. We’ll see what happens with the weather.”
Calcavecchia’s first two rounds have been an adventure. Thursday he shot a 71 that he said could have been a 75 or 76, were it not for a good putter. Friday’s 68, which included a holeout eagle, he said could have been a 65 had that same putter returned.
Friday he put a new Ping G20 driver in his bag, overnighted from the company after the first round. On the 10th tee Thursday he hit a bizarre drive that was heading deep into the parking lot before hitting a tree.
“I thought the head was loose, but it’s probably my head that’s loose,” Calcavecchia said to laughter in the media center. “Threw a new one in the bag and drove it great.”
The other three players who came into the week mathematically eligible to take the Schwab Cup with a win don’t appear likely to pull it off. Peter Senior (third in points) is tied for 24th at 5 over, John Cook (fourth) is tied for 21st at 4 over and Russ Cochran (fifth) is tied for 14th at 1 over.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO – The Presidents Cup isn’t here yet, but U.S. Team captain Fred Couples and assistant captain Jay Haas unintentionally got into the team spirit Friday at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
When they arrived on the first tee, fans got a chuckle out of the outfits: black pants, blue golf shirts, gray v-neck sweaters and white hats for both players. Only the sponsor logos were different.
“Everyone noticed we were dressed exactly alike. We heard (remarks) a lot,” Couples said. “In two weeks we’ll have the same thing on every day.”
Couples then gave one clue to the U.S. Team’s President Cup outfits – they won’t look like this.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO – Fred Couples got off to an inauspicious start for a leader in Round 2 of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, promptly making double bogey on his first hole at TPC Harding Park.
But he hung around with a string pars until the 10th hole, where he made birdie, then added two more later on the back nine for a 1-under 70, enough to claim a share of the lead with Michael Allen and David Frost.
Friday was a nicer day that perhaps should have seen more low scores (Thursday and Friday’s low rounds were 68s, the first rounds in three years on the Champions Tour where the low round was that high), but Couples noted that Harding Park is no pushover.
“They moved a couple tees up, but still kept most of them back,” Couples said. “Everyone knows it’s cold. But it’s just a tough, tough course. I’m not dissatisfied shooting 1 under today at all.”
On the first hole he pushed a drive into the right rough, leaving tree limbs to contend with for his approach. He left that short in a bunker, blasted out 30 feet past the hole and three-putted. But on the back side he birdied the par-5 10th, hit a wedge to eight feet and made the putt on 15 and drove the ball pin-high on the par-4 16th, which had its tees moved up.
Two weeks ago on the Champions Tour, Couples posted 23 under at the AT&T Championship, winning by seven shots. With two rounds to go here, three are tied for the lead and and 10 are within four shots.
“It’s logjammed up there. Even if you don’t shoot a bad round tomorrow, someone shoots 68, you shoot well, you have a shot,” Couples said. “There are rounds out there where you can shoot 65 or 66 on this course. No one has done it yet because the first two days were pretty tough.”
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO – Remember Bernhard Langer?
OK, that’s a little overdramatic considering he’s the defending Schwab Cup champion. But this season hasn’t been anything like his usual on the Champions Tour, due to a run of injuries.
Langer’s hoping to end it on an upswing, however, sitting at 3 under in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship after a round of 68 Friday. He’s one shot behind co-leaders Michael Allen, Fred Couples and David Frost.
A win in the season finale would actually be his second of the year, but his February win at the ACE Group Classic may as well be many years ago.
“Sure seems that way,” Langer said. “Last three years, I was winning a regular basis, every four, five, six events. It’s been a tough year health-wise.”
Not long after that win he had surgery on his left thumb, injured in a freak bicycle accident. He missed four months, more than what he was led to believe.
“The surgeon made it sound pretty simple: ‘We can take care of that, you’ll be back on Tour in eight weeks,’” Langer said. “It was healed after eight weeks, but then I developed arthritis in those two joints. It’s been an uphill battle ever since.”
He also had fluid drained from his left knee after the British Open and has battled left ankle problems.
Langer had two top-10s in Champions Tour majors over the summer, but hasn’t had a top-5 since the February win. He came to TPC Harding Park 22nd in points, far from being able to defend his Schwab Cup.
But his game is returning, evidenced by Friday’s 68. He missed just two fairways and took 25 putts for the round, the best in the 30-man field
“I feel like I’m now not scared,” Langer said. “I know (the thumb’s) going to hurt on certain shots, but I’m going after the ball. I just take the pain, it goes away after 10 seconds. Not like a toothache that’s constant.”