Haas Opts to Focus on PGA Tour
'My major goal this year is to continue to play well enough to have a chance to do that,' he said of making the Ryder Cup team for the first time since 1995.
Haas would be the oldest player to qualify for the Ryder Cup if he keeps this up. Raymond Floyd was 51 in the '93 matches, although he was a captain's pick.
As for the Champions Tour?
'I'm almost afraid to go there (and) feel like I won't come back,' he said. 'I still want to do this. It's so much fun for me. This has probably been one of the more gratifying stretches of my career.'
Haas finished third at the Bob Hope Classic, sixth at The Players Championship and tied for seventh last week at Harbour Town. He also tied for 17th at the Masters, narrowly missing an automatic return to Augusta National.
The only thing he hasn't done is win. In fact, his last victory was in 1993. That's why Haas refuses to say he has never played better.
'I'm playing very consistently,' said Haas, who has made the cut in all nine events he has played. 'But I've played consistently in the '80s and '90s in certain times in my career. So I can't say this is the best.'
A LITTLE HELP FROM THE FRONT
The greatest charges in PGA Tour history would not mean as much without the leader doing some serious backpedaling.
Stewart Cink had the largest comeback at a regular PGA Tour event Sunday when he erased a nine-shot deficit against Ted Purdy, then beat him on the fifth playoff hole. Cink had a 64, the best round of the week. Still, the victory was made possible by Purdy shooting a 2-over 73.
'Stewart won it, but just as equally, I think I lost the tournament,' Purdy said.
The greatest comeback of all belongs to Paul Lawrie, who started the final round at the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie 10 shots behind. Lawrie shot a 67 and won in a three-man playoff after Jean Van de Velde took a triple bogey on the final hole for a 77.
Jack Burke Jr. shot 1-under 71 and still made up an eight-shot deficit in the final round to win the '56 Masters, but only because Ken Venturi shot an 80.
Venturi recovered three years later with back-to-back eagles at Rancho Park, shooting a 63 in the final round of the Los Angeles Open to made up an eight-shot deficit against Art Wall and beat him by two.
That leads to this trivia question: Of all the PGA Tour comebacks from eight strokes or worse, only one involved a leader who did not shoot over par in the final round.
The answer - Steve Lowery.
Lowery had an even-par 72 last year in the B.C. Open and finished one shot behind Craig Stadler, who closed with 63.
If good friend Mark O'Meara has any influence on Tiger Woods' swing, it isn't big.
Woods' swing has come under severe scrutiny in recent weeks, especially after he nearly missed the cut at The Players Championship and tied for 22nd at the Masters, his worst result as a professional at Augusta National.
Woods said Tuesday in his monthly newsletter that he has routinely listened to coaches like Rick Smith, Hank Haney and David Leadbetter.
'Ninety percent of the information, I throw out immediately,' he said. 'Five percent, I try and discard, and 5 percent I retain. I just take little bits and pieces, and sometimes it works.'
Where does O'Meara fit in?
'He's not my swing coach,' Woods said. 'He's one of my best friends and is like a big brother to me. And as anyone who has a big brother will attest, you don't always agree on things.'
Ernie Els is home in London for three weeks, resting for a brutal stretch that awaits.
The Big Easy, who finished one shot behind Phil Mickelson at the Masters, resumes his schedule at the Byron Nelson Classic the second week of May, then returns to Europe to play Deutsche Bank in Germany and the Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth, where he lives.
Then, he returns to the United States for the Memorial and the Buick Classic, where he has won twice. His sixth straight tournament will be the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.
The PGA Tour won't have the NFL to blame if galleries are smaller on Sunday this fall.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are on the road Sept. 26 during the 84 Lumber Classic at nearby Nemacolin. The Carolina Panthers also are on the road when the Greater Greensboro Classic is played Oct. 17. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have an open date when the Chrysler Championship of Tampa comes to town on Oct. 31, and the Atlanta Falcons also are off Nov. 7 during the final round of the Tour Championship at East Lake.
The PGA of America wasn't so lucky.
The final day of the Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills is Sept. 19, which coincides with a home game for the Detroit Lions.
Jim 'Bones' MacKay, the caddie for Phil Mickelson, became a father five days after his boss won the Masters. MacKay's wife, Jennifer, gave birth to a boy (Oliver) last Thursday. ... Make that two teenagers to record top-10 finishes on the LPGA Tour this year. In-Bee Park, 15, finished at 2-under 214 and tied for eighth at the Takefuji Classic last week in Las Vegas. Park is the two-time defending U.S. Junior Girls champion. Last month, 14-year-old Michelle Wie finished fourth at the Nabisco Championship. ... Indian Wells, the shortest (6,478 yards) and easiest (68.07 scoring average) course on the PGA Tour, is being replaced in the rotation at the Bob Hope Classic by Tamarisk next year. It will be the first time since the tournament began in 1960 that Indian Wells was not used.
STAT OF THE WEEKThe Masters is the only tournament this year where the winner (Phil Mickelson) led the field in ball-striking - a combination of driving distance, driving accuracy and greens hit in regulation.
FINAL WORD'That split-second moment when you know it's over is a horrible feeling. It mentally knocks the stuffing out of you a bit, to be honest.' - Ernie Els, on hearing the roar from the 18th green at the Masters indicating that Phil Mickelson made his birdie putt to win.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
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
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
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.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
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.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
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.