Monday, September 29

'DRAW IN THE DUNES' Featured at RyderCup.com by PGA of America

1969 Ryder Cup materials: official program (left), a daily draw sheet (right) and more. (Paul Trevillion)
THANK YOU TO BOB DENNEY and the PGA of America for publishing an article about my new book, DRAW IN THE DUNES: The 1969 Ryder Cup and the Finish That Shocked the World. The story published on Sunday at RyderCup.com, the official Ryder Cup site of the PGA of America. Denney is a senior writer and historian for the PGA of America. He and colleague Kelly Elbin (Director of Communications) were especially helpful as I worked on this project over the last few years.

In "'Draw in the Dunes' reflects on 1969 Ryder Cup drama," Denney writes:
Neil Sagebiel is someone who inspects golf events like a buyer strolling a used car lot. Kicking the tires is not enough. Lift the hood and you will likely find more than you anticipated. For Sagebiel, "Draw in the Dunes" was a "shopping" expedition as he inspected a fascinating Ryder Cup. 
Author of "The Longest Shot" (2012, Thomas Dunne Books), the account of the historic 1955 U.S. Open victory by PGA Professional Jack Fleck, Sagebiel has found his stride again. The 1969 Ryder Cup at Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England, was more than an enduring symbol of sportsmanship between Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin. There was more to it than that.
OTHER COVERAGE

The A Position (Tom Harack):
"You don't have to read Draw in the Dunes while this year's Ryder Cup is in progress, but the contrast between the rough-and-tumble 1969 version and this year's elaborately produced extravaganza is gob-smacking. The unsanitized approach makes the book, at 320 pages, an engaging combination of golf and sociology you won't get watching every minute of this weekend’s wire-to-wire television coverage." Read entire review

The Irish Golf Blog (Kevin Markham):
"[Draw in the Dunes sets] an intriguing backdrop to the 1969 Ryder Cup at Royal Birkdale. We also get the story of Nicklaus and Jacklin and their rise to prominence. Each was about to embark on their first Ryder Cup quest, and each left an indelible mark on the event, both in 1969 and long after that....It really was a different age but that ferocious competitiveness comes through loud and clear, and Sagebiel captures every minute of it, through his story telling and through interviews with many of the event's players." Read entire review

Back9Network (Adam Fonseca):
"In his new book 'Draw in the Dunes,' author and golf blogger Neil Sagebiel provides a stunning recollection of the 1969 matches between the heavily-favored U.S. squad and the under-appreciated Great Britain and Ireland squad. With names of Nicklaus, Palmer, and even Back9 Ambassador Tony Jacklin taking part, that year’s Ryder Cup was primed to be memorable right from the start....Sagebiel’s attention to detail and extensive research not only rounds out a superb recollection of the 1969 Ryder Cup, but the reader is also given an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at some of history’s greatest players. Read entire review

For more reviews and coverage, please see the sidebar at right.

If you haven't picked up a copy of DRAW IN THE DUNES for yourself or someone else, I hope you will.

European Dominance and Culture of Blame

EUROPE HAS WON YET ANOTHER RYDER CUP. The final score was Europe 16 1/2, United States 11 1/2. The Europeans have now won three in a row, six of seven and eight of 10.

"No team embodies togetherness quite like Europe," wrote Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press.

So very true.

Judging from the press conference afterward, Ferguson could also have written no team embodies blame and bitterness quite like the United States. It was personified by none other than Phil Mickelson.

I will not defend the captaincy of Tom Watson. He may be out of date. He may not have been very communicative in this modern sports era of collaborative coaching. He did it his autocratic way, and he and his team came away from Gleneagles with a loss. The blame is now raining down on Watson like a Scottish storm.

But this U.S. team, with Watson at the helm, has something in common with 10 other American squads since 1985. A defeat. One could say that it hasn't made much difference who the captain is for the Americans. The result has been the same.

The one fairly recent exception was 2008, when U.S. captain Paul Azinger introduced the pod system and the United States won at Valhalla. Mickelson would have us believe that Azinger was the difference, that the pod system was a stroke of genius. Maybe so. But also this: maybe the Europeans didn't play quite as well that year. And, of course, the Ryder Cup was in Louisville, Kentucky.

Which matters more: the players or the captains?

Maybe the answer is not clear cut, but I go back to the Ferguson quote: "No team embodies togetherness quite like Europe."

Whether for Captain McGinley or Captain Montgomerie or [insert name], the Europeans are great players who play for each other and overcome adversity. They fight back in matches to get a half point when all seems lost. They love to win for their countries and their continent. Perhaps more than anything, they absolutely love to beat America.

By and large, in recent years, I have not seen that same resolve and fire from the American players. Is that entirely Watson's and the other U.S. captains' fault?

American skipper Davis Love III was absolutely brilliant heading into Sunday at Medinah in 2012. Ahead 10-6, the Americans were on their way to victory. And then they lost, an epic collapse.

Was that Love's fault, as Mickelson inferred yesterday? Is it all about pods?

No team embodies togetherness quite like Europe. No team embodies blame quite like the United States. This is one takeaway from the 2014 Ryder Cup.

This also could be why Team USA will continue to lose until there's a change of attitude. Regardless of the captain, it seems abundantly clear that the U.S. team needs to perform better under Ryder Cup pressure if it's going to beat the Europeans.

I suggest this to American players: You don't like your captain's philosophy or management style? Understood. Go out and win your point anyway. You are playing for pride. You are playing for your teammates. You are playing for your country.

And when it's over, whether you win or lose, don't gloat and don't blame.

Saturday, September 27

2014 Ryder Cup: Europe Builds Commanding Lead

IT'S ALL OVER BUT THE SINGLES, and it's probably all over. The United States trails Europe 10-6 after a dismal Saturday afternoon foursomes session.

The Americans were only able to win a half point in four matches. Europe, winner of five of the last six Ryder Cups, has a nearly insurmountable lead going into the final day on their home soil at Gleneagles, Scotland.

"I have to give credit to the Europeans in the afternoons," U.S. captain Tom Watson said. "They performed the best."

Then Watson tried to sound a positive note.

"You might think that it's a given that the Europeans are going to win, but I sure as hell don't."

The European team only needs 4 of 12 points in Sunday's singles matches to retain the Ryder Cup.

Sunday Singles

Match 1: Graeme McDowell (EUR) vs. Jordan Spieth (USA)

Match 2: Henrik Stenson (EUR) vs. Patrick Reed (USA)

Match 3: Rory McIlroy (EUR) vs. Rickie Fowler (USA)

Match 4: Justin Rose (EUR) vs. Hunter Mahan (USA)

Match 5: Stephen Gallacher (EUR) vs. Phil Mickelson (USA)

Match 6: Martin Kaymer (EUR) vs. Bubba Watson (USA)

Match 7: Thomas Bjorn (EUR) vs Matt Kuchar (USA)

Match 8: Sergio Garcia (EUR) vs. Jim Furyk (USA)

Match 9: Ian Poulter (EUR) vs. Webb Simpson (USA)

Match 10: Jamie Donaldson (EUR) vs. Keegan Bradley (USA)

Match 11: Lee Westwood (EUR) vs. Jimmy Walker (USA)

Match 12: Victor Dubuisson (EUR) vs. Zach Johnson (USA)

My Author Interview on NPR's Only A Game



I HAD A GREAT OPPORTUNITY to talk to Bill Littlefield, host of NPR's Only A Game. The show aired today (Saturday).

The appearance included a web page that has a Q&A and excerpt from my book, DRAW IN THE DUNES: The 1969 Ryder Cup and the Finish That Shocked The World.

Here's the introduction by Only A Game:
The 2014 Ryder Cup is under way at Gleneagles in Scotland. The biennial competition pits golfers from the U.S. against their European counterparts. The Ryder Cup is one of golf’s signature events and has provided fans with various unlikely shots and improbable comebacks.

Neil Sagebiel would argue that no edition of the competition has been more dramatic than the 1969 Ryder Cup, the first to end in a tie. His new book is titled DRAW IN THE DUNES: The 1969 Ryder Cup and the Finish that Shocked the World.
Read more at Only A Game:
Interview highlights
DRAW IN THE DUNES excerpt (from Chapter 9)

WSJ: Ryder Cup Formats Explained in 90 Seconds



WE'RE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE 2014 Ryder Cup and I expect you probably know this stuff inside and out. But I wanted to post this Wall Street Journal video with Joshua Robinson nonetheless because it's a clever and concise explanation of the Ryder Cup match-play formats.

2014 Ryder Cup: USA Creeps Closer

IN A STIRRING SATURDAY MORNING FOURBALL session at Gleneagles, the United States won 2 1/2 of 4 points to cut into the European lead established on Day 1 of the 2014 Ryder Cup.

The Americans had no answer for the European buzz saw known as Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson. Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar played boldly but were unable to keep up with the Euro birdie machine.

"When you get into that mindset," Rose said, "and you just see the ball going in the hole and you sort of get those positive vibes. Today was a day it all happened for me. We knew we were up against it today with two great players. Matt and Bubba played really well."

U.S. rookies Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed continued their winning ways, and Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan disposed of their European opponents.

The final fourball game pitting Yanks Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler against Euros Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter went to the final hole and ended as a halved match.

Saturday afternoon foursomes are under way. Below are the matchups.

Saturday Afternoon Foursomes

Match 1: Johnson/Kuchar (USA) vs. Donaldson/Westwood (EUR)

Match 2: Furyk/Mahan (USA) vs. Garcia/McIlroy (EUR)

Match 3: Spieth/Reed (USA) vs. Rose/Kaymer (EUR)

Match 4: Walker/Fowler (USA) vs. Dubuisson/McDowell (EUR)

Friday, September 26

2014 Ryder Cup: Europe Takes Lead

AFTER A MORNING FOURBALL SESSION during which the United States slipped ahead thanks to some late heroics, Europe came back with a vengeance in the afternoon to take the overall lead at the end of Day 1 of the Ryder Cup.

It's Europe 5, United States 3. The Americans have their work cut out for them, needing 11 1/2 points to win the Cup. Europe needs 9 points to retain a Ryder Cup trophy they've held for most of the last two decades.

Led by Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson who won both their Friday matches, Europe nearly shut out the United States in foursomes, taking 3 1/2 of the 4 points.

European captain Paul McGinley said: "We've seen in the Ryder Cups over the years how important momentum switches are and how it can really have a domino effect. So when the surge came from America at the end of the session this morning, for our guys to react as well as they did in all four matches, shows real strength of character."

U.S. captain Tom Watson said his team was disappointed about the afternoon matches but went on to express faith in his twelve men.

"These guys are all great players," Watson said. "They can get it done."

That effort will begin early Saturday morning at Gleneagles.

Saturday Morning Fourballs

2:35 AM ET, Match 1: Watson/Kuchar (USA) vs. Rose/Stenson (EUR)

2:50 AM ET, Match 2: Furyk/Mahan (USA) vs. Donaldson/Westwood (EUR)

3:05 AM ET, Match 3: Reed/Spieth (USA) vs. Bjorn/Kaymer (EUR)

3:20 AM ET, Match 4: Walker/Fowler (USA) vs. McIlroy/Poulter (EUR)

2014 Ryder Cup: USA Has Early Edge

I WOKE UP AT 4 A.M. and clicked on the television to watch the opening fourball session at Gleneagles. The weather was cool and windy, and the play wasn't too spectacular, but I guess that was to be expected with difficult conditions and Ryder Cup pressure.

It didn't look good early for the Americans, down in three of the four matches. The one exception was the Jordan Spieth-Patrick Reed dismantling of Stephen Gallacher and Ian Poulter.

Some late rallies lifted the United States to a one-point advantage after morning fourballs, 2 1/2 to 1 1/2.

Jimmy Walker made a clutch putt on the 18th green to secure a half point from what had looked like a losing effort. And Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson stole a point from Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia in the final game of the morning.

U.S. captain Tom Watson was obviously pleased.

Friday Afternoon Foursomes

Here are the afternoon foursomes matches in progress:

Jamie Donaldson & Lee Westwood (Europe) vs. Jim Furyk & Matt Kuchar (USA)
Justin Rose & Henrik Stenson (Europe) vs. Hunter Mahan & Zach Johnson (USA)
Rory McIlroy & Sergio Garcia (Europe) vs. Rickie Fowler & Jimmy Walker (USA)
Victor Dubuisson & Graeme McDowell (Europe) vs. Phil Mickelson & Keegan Bradley (USA)

Europe is currently up in two matches. The other two matches are all square.