The Other 17 Rebels
And I wasnt sure how to answer. Its not every day in golf journalism that you get a call from the National Labor Relations Board.
Strangest organization application Ive ever received, the confused man said. Why would 17 golf holes want to unionize?
Let me have your name again, I said, and tell me about the application.
Bureaucrat. Byron T. Bureaucrat, my caller said. And it reads like this: We, the other 17 holes at TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, hereby petition the NLRB for an election to organize a labor union and to begin collective bargaining to secure equal rights to those enjoyed by the 17th hole, also known as the Island Green.
Oh, I understand, I said. Theyre just jealous of all the popularity enjoyed by the one par-3 everyone loves to hate and hates to love.
Mr. Bureaucrat was still a bit at sea, so I explained in detail.
Never has one golf course ' a very good golf course, as a whole ' been so entirely defined by one hole. No grass between tee and green, just acres of all-too-penetrable water. It reduces the best players in the world to hit-and-hope, gut-check fear, all strategy out the window. Most of the time theyre looking to damage a hole with birdies. On this one, theyre deliriously happy to leave with par, sometimes bogey.
And yet people cant get enough of this hole. Its photographed more than Britney Spears outside a liquor store. You can see it played live on the Internet. The spectator mounds and hospitality chalets all around it are jammed with fans. Golfers dream of playing the hole, knowing full well that if it drives the pros crazy, it will likely shred a recreational players ego like last months credit card bill.
Theres simply no mindshare left for the other 17 holes. And theyve had enough.
Take the 16th. What a par-5, huh? Ask Fred Funk, whose massive 3-iron helped him set up a popular win. Drive it left center, but not too far left, or youll be blocked out by a big tree. The green looks tiny from the fairway, and the same pond that defines 17 is to the right.
How about the opener? No. 1 is a simple enough par-4, but the cross bunker that covers most of the right side can give you some pause right out of the gate. No. 6 is a gorgeous short par-4 with an elevated green framed by tall palms. But the 3-wood tee shot has to get under an overhanging oak limb, and the landing area isnt all that wide.
No. 9? Freaky-tough par 5; hardly anyone gets there in two and the green is smaller than your checking account the day before payday. No. 7 is all the par-4 you can eat at 440-plus yards, and if you flare your approach right, theres a set of hungry bunkers waiting.
And then theres No. 18. One of the most testing finishing holes in golf, tempting you to go left center of the fairway to set up a long second ' but how about all that water down the left side? Huh? Ask Adam Scott, Vijay Singh and a dozen other pros whose death move is left. Go too far right to bail out, though, and the approach is too long to allow any sort of accuracy.
So its no surprise that all these holes want what No. 17 has. The respect. The love. The PR. The juice.
Mr. Bureaucrat considered, then told me he was going to grant the application. He had enjoyed our discussion, he said, but he had to move on to the next application. He read some of the particulars to me: It was from eastern Georgia. Seems the 17 applicants were annoyed with someone named No. 12.
I quickly pleaded another engagement and hung up.
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.