Fireworks Begin for Tigers Tournament

By Associated PressJuly 4, 2007, 4:00 pm
AT&T NationalBETHESDA, Md. -- At 6:30 a.m. on a pristine Fourth of July, tournament host Tiger Woods teed off with a soldier and an airman to open the pro-am. The gallery that followed them was bigger than any that trailed the leaders in the early rounds of last year's Washington-area PGA TOUR stop, the Booz Allen Classic.
At No. 7, Woods asked Sgt. Michael Woods, the special guest caddie for the hole, to read a 12-foot birdie putt. Woods then handed the sergeant the club and said: 'Here you go.' The surprised and nervous sergeant sank the putt, Woods thrust his arms in the air, and the crowd went wild.
Master Sergeant Andy Amor and Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods receives congratulations from Master Sergeant Andy Amor. (WireImage)
At 11:28 a.m., former President George H. W. Bush, who arrived on a golf cart driven by Woods, provided the highlight of a star-spangled opening ceremony by hitting a drive at the first tee of the famed Blue Course, whose holes were marked by pins with miniature American flags instead of the usual hole numbers.
'If anybody laughs when I hit it, they're dead -- we've got Secret Service here,' Bush said with a chuckle before hitting the shot that landed just short of a 60-foot American flag held by local veterans.
It was all so perfect, especially for a tournament didn't exist as of five months ago -- and in an area that thought it had lost its spot on the tour for many years to come.
The inaugural AT&T National -- more commonly known as Tiger's Tournament -- begins Thursday, and the stars have aligned quickly to make it the biggest sporting event for the nation's capital since major league baseball's return in 2005. It features the sport's top name, one of its best courses, a military tie-in surrounding the most patriotic of holidays and an impressive field of golfers who rearranged their schedules to be here.
'To actually have it on July 4th weekend, the nation's capital and all of the things together, and throw in Tiger as the host, that's pretty big,' eight-time tour winner Fred Funk said. 'It did come back with a bang.'
Funk, a former golf coach at the University of Maryland, did his best for years to wave the banner for the PGA TOUR's annual trip to Washington. He was upset last year when news came that the Booz Allen Classic was being taken off the calendar, a casualty of inconsistent scheduling, a much-derided TPC at Avenel course and general apathy among the top players.
It took a remarkable sequence of events to turn things around. Woods began showing interest two years ago in hosting a tournament -- similar to Jack Nicklaus' Memorial and the Arnold Palmer Invitational -- but the PGA Tour had a full roster set through 2012.
'I was very interested,' commissioner Tim Finchem said. 'But I didn't see it happening for a period of time.'
Then the Booz Allen Classic lost its sponsor, which wasn't happy about plans to move the tournament to the fall. The tour then took Washington off its calendar altogether for 2007.
In February, the International in Denver was canceled because it couldn't find a sponsor. That left a hole in the schedule during the Fourth of July week.
Enter Woods, whose charitable foundation and the tour worked furiously to line up a sponsor and began courting the membership at Congressional. Finchem initially wasn't sure the plan would work, so he had Portland, Ore., and the Twin Cities as backup alternatives that would not have involved Woods as host.
In a matter of days, the deals were struck. Congressional later agreed to be the venue, if only for the first two years. Woods became hands-on with some of the planning details, juggling his newest venture with his golf game and the impending birth of his first child, who was born 2 1/2 weeks ago.
'What we've done here in such a short span of time,' Woods said, 'has been absolutely remarkable.'
Washington was a logical choice because it provided a chance to mend bad feelings over the loss of the Booz Allen. Also, Woods wanted to use the tournament to pay tribute to the armed forces and honor his father, who was a Green Beret in Vietnam. Woods said this week that he would have followed his father's career path if golf had not worked out.
'I told dad, 'If I didn't make it in the first two years, it's probably where I would go,'' Woods said. 'I don't know what branch, but I certainly would want to get into the special operations community.'
'But somehow I ended up here,' he said with a smile. 'Made a couple of putts in those years.'
So the story culminates with Woods, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk and Adam Scott -- five of the top six golfers in the world -- headlining a D.C. tournament no one would dare call second tier.
'You only have a few players -- maybe one per generation -- that carry with them the import and impact of a Palmer or Nicklaus,' Finchem said. 'And we think that's the situation here, given what Tiger has achieved.'
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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.