Els and Others Happy to be Here

By Associated PressNovember 1, 2006, 5:00 pm
2006 The TOUR Championship presented by Coca-ColaATLANTA -- For all the talk of a black cloud hanging over a TOUR Championship missing the PGA TOUR's two biggest stars, Ernie Els saw nothing but sunshine as he worked quietly on the practice green late Wednesday afternoon.
 
Not many were happier to be at East Lake for the season-ending event for the top 30 on the money list. Els squeaked in three days ago by saving par from 50 yards short of the 18th green, giving him one last chance to salvage his year with a victory.
 
Ernie Els
Ernie Els competes in Wednesday's pro-am at East Lake Country Club.
And that's when the light came on.
 
'At least I've got a chance,' he said. 'And it's a lot better when you only have to beat 26 guys.'
 
He doesn't have to beat Tiger Woods, the No. 1 player in the world who decided to end his PGA TOUR season a month ago by skipping the tour's version of the All-Star game for the first time. He doesn't have to worry about Phil Mickelson, who stuck to his strategy of calling it quits after the majors.
 
Also missing is Stephen Ames, winner of The Players Championship, who is nursing a sore back.
 
Reaction from the 27 players at East Lake competing for $6.5 million in prize money has been mixed. Some believe that Woods and Mickelson owe it to the PGA TOUR to show up at theTOUR Championship.
 
'I think the biggest players have a responsibility to the tour to play in these,' Arron Oberholser said. 'Tiger might not want to hear that, and Phil might not want to hear that, but they don't write my paycheck, so I don't care. I think it's about having a responsibility to your place in the game.'
 
On the other hand, Woods indirectly writes plenty of paychecks. It is his star power in the game that has caused exponential growth in prize money over the last three years. When Woods first played in the TOUR Championship, the purse was $3 million. This year, the winner gets $1.17 million.
 
'You could say Tiger and Phil are hurting the tour by not coming to the TOUR Championship,' U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy said. 'But where would the TOUR be without Tiger and Phil? We'd be playing for $2.5 million this week. We'd have 20 tournaments. And no one would be watching on TV. We'd be back where we were 15 years ago.'
 
One way or the other, their absence has drawn more attention than the tournament. PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem said he was disappointed by they were not at East Lake, although his thoughts were geared more toward next year at the FedExCup competition, which will end in September when the leaves are still green.
 
'I think players have an obligation to support the TOUR,' Finchem said. 'But after this many years on the job, I think in the long term. I don't get hung up on one week.'
 
Woods cited fatigue for missing the TOUR Championship for the first time. Returning from a nine-week absence after his father died, then missing the cut for the first time in a major, he won six of eight tournaments he played, lost the Ryder Cup and made a two-day trip to Ireland beforehand for practice.
 
Mickelson pours so much into the majors that he is exhauted by August. He stopped playing after the American Express Championship last year. This time, he stopped after the Ryder Cup.
 
'Phil was not a surprise to me,' Finchem said. 'Now that I know the details of Tiger's thing from last week, I understand how he came to his conclusion. It doesn't make me less disappointed, but I understand how he got there.'
 
That leaves Jim Furyk as the No. 1 player at East Lake, even though he is No. 2 in the world and No. 2 on the money list. He can't catch Woods for the money title, although a solid week should be enough for Furyk to win the Vardon Trophy for the lowest scoring average.
 
Then again, he could have stayed home this week and still won the Vardon.
 
So what was he doing on the practice range, warming up with wedge shots over a pond to a green about 100 yards away?
 
'I like the golf course. I like the tournament,' he said between shots. 'And I kind of want to win the TOUR Championship.'
 
For others, there is plenty at stake.
 
Eight players have failed to win this year, and three are in the top 10 in the world ranking -- Els, Retief Goosen and Adam Scott.
 
Guys like Dean Wilson, who is No. 20 on the money list, also are grinding. If the Hawaii's best player can stay in the top 20, he will be exempt for the British Open next year and see some incentives kick in on endorsement deals.
 
Eleven players are at the TOUR Championship for the first time, such as Brett Quigley.
 
'It's like a Christmas present come early,' said Quigley, the only player in the 27-man field without a PGA TOUR victory. 'A win this week would be the ultimate.'
 
For Woods and Mickelson, it's a week off.
 
Davis Love III almost missed the TOUR Championship until winning in Greensboro, and he was looking forward to one more big tournament. Then again, maybe that's the problem with the TOUR Championship.
 
It used to be one of the big tournaments of the year, but now has lost some importance with so many other big events over the last 10 months. Including the majors, the PGA TOUR had 13 tournaments with total prize money of at least $6 million this year.
 
'What I tell Tim and the staff all the time is they're a victim of their own success,' Love said. 'The more big tournaments you get with big money, the more opportunities there are for guys to skip.'
 
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    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

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    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.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    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.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    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.