Firestone offers big money big points

By Associated PressJuly 29, 2008, 4:00 pm
WGC-Bridgestone - 125wAKRON, Ohio -- The World Golf Championships usually include a couple of players that make people wonder how on earth they qualified for such an elite event that distributes $8 million in prize money.
 
The Bridgestone Invitational is no exception.
 
James Kingston of South Africa was playing alone up the ninth fairway when a couple of Americans stopped to watch. Only when the caddie set his bag down were they able to figure out who he was. Kingston won twice this year in South African and was runner-up at the Scottish Open, which is why he is No. 71 in the world.
 
The bigger surprise is what some of the Americans are doing here.
 
J.J. Henry has not had a top-five finish since winning in Hartford two years ago. He is having a tough year at No. 185 in the FedExCup standings, and his world ranking has plummeted to No. 272, the worst of anyone in the 80-man field.
 
Not much better off is Chris DiMarco, who has made only eight cuts in 19 starts on the PGA TOUR, has yet to qualify for a major this year and is now No. 207 in the world. Then theres Vaughn Taylor, who also has fallen on hard times after coping with allergies and vertigo last year that caused him to sink to No. 178.
 
All of them have the Ryder Cup to thank for their tee time this week. Six players from the 2006 team that got clobbered at The K Club in Ireland are no longer in the top 50 in the world, but they are eligible for this World Golf Championship.
 
Im on a free pass this week, Taylor said. But I still need some good results.
 
Firestone always has been a freebie.
 
When it was converted into a WGC in 1999, the field was limited to players from the most recent Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup team. Remember, it was 1999 when Americans criticized the PGA of America for making millions of dollars off them at the Ryder Cup, and some saw this tournament as payment for playing in the cup.
 
It has since expanded to include the top 50 in the world and winners of selected tournaments around the globe. But there are still a few surprises brought on by the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup exemptions.
 
The most comical example was in 2004.
 
Tiger Woods was having lunch in the locker room at Firestone when he was asked about the 02 Ryder Cup at The Belfry, where unheralded Phillip Price beat Phil Mickelson to carry Europe to victory. Woods was asked a hypothetical question. If Mickelson had won his match, was it assuming too much that Davis Love III would have won the last hole to defeat Pierre Fulke?
 
Woods paused, as if contemplating the situation. Then his eyes lit up and he snapped his fingers.
 
Thats what Fulke is doing here this week, he said.
 
Fulke clinched a spot on Europes side in January 2001. Then the matches were postponed a year by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and Europe had not named its 2004 team. So even though Fulke had fallen off the map, he was eligible for a world championship.
 
Thats the kind of reaction DiMarco has received this week. Ditto for Lucas Glover, who was a captains pick for the Presidents Cup last year but has only two top 10s this year and is No. 138 in the world ranking.
 
Its a bonus for me, Glover said. If it wasnt for Mr. Nicklaus picking me, I wouldnt be here. I just havent played well. Im just going to be very relaxed this week and try to make some birdies.
 
Its not just the Americans.
 
Darren Clarke is playing in the United States for the first time since the PGA Championship last year. He won the BMW Asian Open in April, his first victory since his wife Heather died of cancer in 2006, and he has shown steady improvement. Even so, he is No. 105 in the world and a long way off from making his sixth Ryder Cup team.
 
One week could change everything. Clarke won at Firestone in 2003 by four shots and considers this one of his favorite U.S. courses. A victory this week could move him from No. 33 on the European points list to as high as No. 7.
 
Its always good to come back here because Ive always enjoyed it here, Clarke said. And we are lucky to be here. But that was always set out that way as part of the qualifying process. Its a big two weeks for me if I want a chance to get myself on the team.
 
Its also a big chance for some of the American players, who have two weeks left to qualify for the Ryder Cup team. The purse is $8 million this week, and points are double next week at the PGA Championship.
 
Thats a big advantage for someone like Chad Campbell, who is 21st in the Ryder Cup standings and playing at Firestone while four players ahead of him in the standings ' Jeff Quinney, Bart Bryant, Ben Curtis and Jerry Kelly ' did not qualify.
 
Campbell is coming off a seventh-place finish at the John Deere Classic and a tie for third in Milwaukee. If he finishes second this week, he could climb over a dozen players in the Ryder Cup standings.
 
So maybe this is something players should remember in September when theyre dressing up for a black-tie gala, posing for photos and getting ripped for losing again to Europe.
 
It really does pay to play in the Ryder Cup.
 
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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.