Golf Sometimes Quirkiest Sport

By Associated PressJuly 17, 2004, 4:00 pm
TROON, Scotland -- Golf is not just the cruelest game. Sometimes it's also the quirkiest. Hoping to scrap his way onto the pro tour, Skip Kendall used to pound balls in a field in Orlando, Fla., between working the lunch and dinner shifts at the Olive Garden, still wearing his clip-on bow tie.
 
Not quite 15 years later, he's shaking hands with royalty behind the 11th green at Royal Troon and leading the British Open.
 
'Can you imagine those people driving by on the street looking at me?' Kendall recalled. 'Black pants, white button-down shirt with a bow tie, hitting balls.'
 
A year after Ben Curtis shocked the golf world by winning the game's oldest championship, another relatively unknown American is in position to steal the Open. Yet their stories are very different.
 
Curtis was 26 last year and playing his first season on the PGA Tour. Kendall turns 40 in two months, he has already played in 310 tour events and his next victory will be his first.
 
'I really feel like I've been very close. I've lost in a bunch of playoffs. I really feel like I can win out on the PGA Tour as well as anyplace else. I think it's just a matter of time.
 
'Hopefully,' he said, 'this is mine.'
 
Whether or not it turns out that way, Friday was definitely Kendall's day. He holed out from a bunker at No. 3 to kickstart his round, then offset his lone bogey at the 11th with three more birdies and an eagle at the 16th by rolling in a 50-foot putt from just off the green.
 
Moments after signing his scorecard for a 66 that left him at 7 under - one shot ahead of Frenchman Thomas Levet - Kendall took his seat behind a table on a stage in the interview room. According to one of the more informal traditions that have sprung up at the Open over the years, the winner autographs that same table at the end of his session Sunday.
 
'I know that there's a long way to go and that this is only halfway done. But hopefully,' Kendall said, exercising caution once more, 'I'll be signing my name right here in a couple of days.'
 
A pen might be as sharp an object as he should be entrusted with at the moment. At the Memorial Tournament last year, Kendall tried to cut a frozen bagel before dropping it into a toaster and nearly sliced off his left forefinger.
 
'I didn't cut it completely off, but I cut a big piece of it off,' he chuckled. 'They had to sew it back on and I didn't play for, I guess, about four weeks.'
 
Because Kendall is one of those guys who has to play every chance he gets to hold onto his tour card, he devised a new grip in time to play last year's Open. To get into this year's tournament, Kendall played in one of four special 36-hole tournaments staged by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club around the world to give tour players a chance to qualify without having to travel to Britain.
 
'It was a no-brainer for me. Anytime I can try to get into a major championship, I'm going to be there,' he said. 'These are important to me - not only to test yourself, but to try and win one. And the only way you can do that is to try to get in.'
 
Never mind that 52 of his fellow PGA Tour players didn't even bother to show up for the qualifier. This is only Kendall's third appearance at the Open, and chances are he would have come over in a row boat if that's what it took. Because this is a guy who just seven years ago glimpsed the end of his professional life.
 
It was summer 1997, and Kendall came to the Buick Classic having just missed the cut in four consecutive tournaments. His best finish in 12 previous starts was a tie for 49th. He'd already lost his exempt status on the PGA Tour twice and was in danger of missing yet another cut.
 
Then Kendall hit his drive on the second fairway at Westchester Country Club, walked to where he thought it landed, and hit his approach within an inch of the hole. The only problem was that he hit the wrong ball, turning a certain birdie into a double-bogey.
 
Instead of losing it, Kendall turned all that anger inward. He birdied the final four holes.
 
'It completely turned my career around,' Kendall mused a while ago.
 
He hasn't come close to losing his tour card since. That, combined with the memory of pounding balls between shifts waiting on tables, is why big-timing anyone is hardly Kendall's style.
 
En route to an opening-round 69 a day earlier, he spotted Prince Andrew chatting behind the 11th green and asked an official walking with his group for some tips on protocol before daring to introduce himself.
 
'I went over and shook his hand and talked to him briefly, and that was pretty exciting to me. Seemed like a great guy,' Kendall said. 'I don't know. Is he? You guys tell me.'
 
Assured by the assembled grins that the prince was a regular fellow, Kendall sat back in his chair, and an embarrassed grin creased his lips. He didn't say why, but the expression seemed to speak for itself:
 
Is this a great game, or what?
 
Related Links:
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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.