Goosen takes first-round lead at Firestone

By Associated PressJuly 31, 2008, 4:00 pm
WGC-Bridgestone - 125wAKRON, Ohio ' Retief Goosen, a late arrival and an early starter, took advantage of a Firestone South Course that played long and short on his way to a 4-under 66 that gave him a one-shot lead Thursday in the Bridgestone Invitational.
 
One year after Tiger Woods was the only player to break par, Goosen and 32 other players in the 80-man field met only minor resistance on a balmy afternoon at this World Golf Championship.
 
Vijay Singh and former Masters champion Zach Johnson were among those at 67, while Steve Stricker was headed for the outright lead until running into trouble off the tee late in his round, losing three shots in two holes and joining another large group at 68.
 
Retief Goosen
Retief Goosen is the man to catch after Rd. 1 of the WGC-Bridgestone. (Getty Images)
The length came from rain earlier in the week that softened Firestone and made it play every bit of its 7,400 yards. Tim Clark, a medium hitter who was at 67, hit his hybrid so often he was amazed it had any grooves left.
 
And the short? That would be the rough.
 
It was so deep last year that players often had trouble just getting it back to the fairway, and there were shots that squirted sideways leading to several big numbers. But the rough is only about 2 inches this year, at least giving players a chance.
 
Last year, the rough here was almost out of control. This year, the rough is very average and its part of an experiment theyre doing. Theyre trying to see if the rough height has any effect on scoring.
 
Based on Thursdays scoring, theres no need to send the data to MIT.
 
Goosen, who arrived Wednesday at the tournament in time for rain to wash out his scheduled practice round, was in the second group out and didnt find any trouble until he missed the par-3 15th green to the left and made his only bogey. It was another step in the right direction for the two-time U.S. Open champion, who has not had a top 10 on U.S. soil since he tied for second in the World Golf Championship at Doral in March.
 
The course is playing tough, Goosen said through a European Tour official after declining to speak to reporters. Im not saying its playing easy, but the rough is not nearly as thick as it was last year.
 
Phil Mickelson, cryptic in his criticism of the high rough at the Memorial two months ago, finished with a birdie on the 18th after scrambling out of the trees and shot 68. He said Firestone has become one of his favorite courses this year.
 
You fall in love with a golf course when you have a setup thats as wonderful as this, Mickelson said. The greens are fast, the pin placements are great, the rough is challenging but fair and it lets you hit some recovery shots. This year, Firestone is one of my favorite golf courses that we have on tour.
 
It allowed for one amazing recovery for Mickelson. He was left of the trees on the 18th, 169 yards away, contemplating whether to hit a 9-iron, wedge or a lob wedge over the trees. He settled on a 4-iron under the trees to 15 feet for an unlikely birdie.
 
It was risky, but it paid off, Mickelson said.
 
British Open champion Padraig Harrington was in the group at 69 that included Sergio Garcia.
 
Not everyone took advantage, the most noteworthy being Kenny Perry.
 
The hottest player on the PGA TOUR ' at least those still playing not recovering from knee surgery ' Perry came to this WGC event having won three times in his last six starts. But he struggled to hit fairways and make putts, and he wound up with a 74.
 
Masters champion Trevor Immelman opened with a 75, while Woody Austin didnt help his Ryder Cup cause with a 71. Austin is ninth in the U.S. standings with two tournaments left to earn one of eight automatic spots.
 
Goosen hasnt won since the Qatar Masters in January 2007, which moved him up to No. 6 in the world. He has fallen to No. 39 as he struggles to put together his swing, and he headed home to Florida from the Canadian Open to work with his coach.
 
He showed signs at the U.S. Open when he had two sub-70 rounds and tied for 14th, and at the British Open, where he was in contention going into the weekend. But he has never fared well at Firestone, recording only one top 10 in six appearances.
 
It helps not having to deal with Woods, a six-time winner on this track.
 
The guy thats won here every year is not here, and all the losers are still here, Goosen said. Its nice.
 
Woods absence was obvious in other ways.
 
The course was virtually empty, with most of the traffic following Mickelson and Ernie Els (69). Stricker hit a 5-iron over the bunker on No. 4 to 6 feet for birdie that put him at 5 under, and all of 17 fans followed him to the next hole. Some of the concession stands had no visitors, about like a Montreal Expos game before they moved to Washington.
 
Woods, who finished at 8-under 272 for an eight-shot victory, might not have recognized the place. Some felt the Bridgestone Invitational last year was even tougher than the PGA Championship the following week at Southern Hills.
 
That might not be the case this year, although it was still a stern test.
 
Its just a good course, Stricker said. Its got length, its got rough, its got tough greens. So you need to be on your game.
 
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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

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    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

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    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.

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    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

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    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.

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    “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.”

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