Fight resumes for No 1 spot at World Match Play

By Associated PressMay 18, 2011, 5:05 pm

European TourCASARES, Spain – England’s Luke Donald has another chance to take the No. 1 spot from Lee Westwood at the World Match Play Championship, where he is bidding to complete a unique double in the one-on-one format.

The 24-man field will play at Spain’s Costa del Sol, where the European Tour returns after a one-year absence. The tournament, which starts Thursday, features five of the top six players.

Donald won the Accenture World Match Play title at Arizona in February, never falling behind in any of his six matches. He is looking to become the first player to win both match-play tournaments.

Given his success in the match play format at recent Ryder Cups, the No. 2-ranked Donald is the man to beat this week. However, Westwood has won his last two tournaments – in Indonesia and South Korea.

“My confidence is very high right now,” said Donald, who has finished in the top 10 in 13 of his last 14 events. “I’ve been playing very consistently now for a good six months, and I think the win at the Match Play really elevated that confidence level.

“Obviously, I enjoy match play, my record is very good. My record in Ryder Cups, Walker Cups, the Match Play event this year, they speak for themselves. I enjoy the challenge of that one-against-one over 18 holes.”

Westwood knows all about the caliber of Donald’s match play – the two paired for the 2010 Ryder Cup to devastating effect, thrashing Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker 6 and 5 in the second day’s opening foursomes.

He’s not surprised to see Donald move up the rankings this year.

“He hits the ball straight off the tee, his iron play is nice, he’s got a great short game and he’s a nice putter,” Westwood said Wednesday. “He’s very reliable.”

No. 3-ranked Martin Kaymer, who split with his Scottish caddie Craig Connelly on Sunday, joins the Englishmen in the strong field and there are enough points to allow the German to move back to the top of the rankings, too.

Kaymer lost to Donald in the final at Arizona and acknowledged the talent of the world’s top two.

“I think the perfect player at the moment would be the long game from Lee Westwood and the short game from Luke Donald,” Kaymer said.

Fourth-ranked Phil Mickelson is the only player in the top six not featured at the Finca Cortesin course near Marbella, where there is a total prize purse of $4.8 million. The winner will receive $1.14 million, the highest amount on the European Tour outside of the majors, World Golf Championship events and the Dubai World Golf Championship.

The four current major champions will compete – Louis Oosthuizen (British Open), Graeme McDowell (U.S. Open), Kaymer (U.S. PGA) and Charl Schwartzwel (The Masters).

The field has been divided into eight groups of three, with the top two in each going through to the knockout stages on Saturday and Sunday. Fierce winds and heavy rain swept across the course on Wednesday and the inclement weather is expected in the south of Spain all four days.

Donald has defending champion Ross Fisher, who defeated Anthony Kim of the United States 4 and 3 in the 36-hole final in 2009, in his group along with American Ryan Moore.

“To be the World Match Play champion for almost two years has quite a nice ring to it,” said Fisher, who will not start the defense of his title until Friday. “I’ve got good memories of this place, so hopefully they’ll come flooding back. I’ll just try to do the same things I did two years ago.”

Westwood is joined by Denmark’s Anders Hansen and Australia’s Aaron Baddeley, while Oosthuizen and McDowell are in the same group with Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela. Kaymer was drawn with Korean pair Y.E. Yang and Noh Seung-yul.

Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn flew to Spain as first reserve, but returned home Monday following the death of his father after a long illness.

The event moved to Spain for the first time in 2009, having previously been played since 1964 at Wentworth, England.

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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.