From Iowa to Ireland Ecclectic Major Field

By Associated PressOctober 16, 2007, 4:00 pm
PGA of AmericaTUCKER'S TOWN, Bermuda -- They come from three countries on three continents, vastly different backgrounds, brought to together in Bermuda only by the major golf championships they won this year.
 
Getting to the PGA Grand Slam of Golf wasn't easy for any of them, and it had nothing to do with flight plans.
 
Masters champion Zach Johnson, the self-described 'normal guy from Cedar Rapids, Iowa,' toiled for six years in the minor leagues before he made it to the PGA Tour, and he surprised even himself by holding off Tiger Woods, Retief Goosen and a host of others to slip into the green jacket.
 
Angel Cabrera was a caddie at Cordoba Golf Club, blessed with immense talent and power but needing some financial backing from fellow Argentine Eduardo Romero to get started. Even then, it took him four tries to get his card through European Q-school.
 
Padraig Harrington finished his degree in accounting before turning pro, and while he won in his second year in Europe, he was known as much for piling up the runner-up finishes and constantly tinkering with his swing until he felt it was good enough to win a major. And he didn't feel that way until about 18 months ago.
 
The fourth player in the most exclusive field in golf is Jim Furyk, the first alternate from a points-based system of former major champions, gladly accepting when PGA champion Tiger Woods decided to skip this week. Furyk, too, is a classic grinder.
 
'There are similarities,' Harrington said as he rapped 6-foot putts on the 17th green in twilight Monday, gearing up for the $1.35 million exhibition where everyone feels like a winner because of how they qualified.
 
'Angel is the most natural player of us all here,' the Irishman said. 'Myself, Zach and Jim have all been more of the working kind. Angel always has been trying to get the best out of his talent. We've always been trying to improve. Angel always had it, but it was just a question of making the most of it, letting it come out.'
 
They are connected by hard work, but even then Harrington noticed some differences.
 
'Jim work hard, but he stuck with what he's got,' he said. 'I'm the opposite. I've worked hard, but I've changed everything I've got.'
 
The biggest change might be the event itself.
 
For starters, the Grand Slam has moved from Poipu Bay in Hawaii to the Mid-Ocean Club in Bermuda, a 20-square mile speck of land in the middle of the Atlantic with turquoise water, pink sand and a soft surf. There is a change in venue, but not necessarily the views.
 
'It seems like a very great place to take some vacations,' Cabrera said.
 
Woods decided to take his holiday away from the golf course, and that might be the biggest change of all. A winner at the PGA Championship for his 13th career major, this is the first time Woods has skipped the event when eligible.
 
'I haven't spent as much time at home as I would have liked,' Woods said at the TOUR Championship, which he won for his fourth victory in five starts that made him the first FedExCup champion.
 
It was a huge blow to Bermuda, which had been anticipating a visit from the world's No. 1 player, and for the PGA of America, which lost a premier player for the second straight year. Phil Mickelson did not play in 2006 after winning the Masters.
 
'We're disappointed Tiger won't be with us,' PGA president Brian Whitcomb said. 'But we're proud of our champions we have here. Tiger has always supported golf and the PGA of America. I got a classy letter from him stating that he's mentally exhausted and just needs a break. I respect that.'
 
There was plenty of star power in the pro-am, although not necessarily from a major champion.
 
Two of the most famous residents of Bermuda, actor Michael Douglas and his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, drew the largest gallery, about 200 people who soaked in the sun and an endless horizon of ocean. They played the final six holes with Harrington, who got so much attention that his orange pen was running dry late in the afternoon from signing so many autographs.
 
All of them were thrilled to be in Bermuda, if not for the hospitality than the reminder of what it took to get here.
 
Perhaps none were as wide-eyed as Johnson, and it didn't take long for him to realize he wasn't in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and this was not a normal golf outing. Each player receives a personal escort to his room, and Johnson was shocked when the door was opened.
 
'We don't have a room here. We have a house,' Johnson said. 'It's perks on steroids.'
 
One perk has gone up this year, with the prize money increased to $1.35 million. The winner gets $600,000, with $200,000 for last.
 
Harrington won the award for earliest arrival, but only because he was beaten in the first round of the World Match Play and decided to come over Saturday night. He went to an English pub that might have felt like being close to home except that it didn't show rugby or soccer on the television, which he found odd.
 
But while Bermuda feels like a holiday, Harrington said he doesn't bring his golf clubs when he goes on vacation.
 
'You want to win, and you don't want to tell the other guys you're trying,' Harrington said. 'It's relaxed, but you don't ever want to lose. Obviously, it's an exhibition. You've got your major champions here and it's kind of a showcase for TV. I like this idea where it's not quite as serious as normal golf. I like the idea we can somewhat enjoy it. But you're still trying to prepare properly.'
 
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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.