Lefty Scott Highlight Houston Open

By Associated PressApril 2, 2008, 4:00 pm
2007 Shell Houston OpenHOUSTON -- Phil Mickelson might make the Houston Open an annual stop as long as its the event leading up to the Masters.
 
He likes playing the week before a major and hes sold on the Tournament Course at Redstone, where organizers have tried to simulate the conditions players will find at Augusta National.
 
It is tremendous, Mickelson said after the pro-am Wednesday. The greens are fast. The fairways are perfect and tight. They even mowed the grain into you in the fairways, just like Augusta does. There is no rough. The first cut is like Augusta.
 
Its a great place to get ready for next week.
 
When the PGA TOUR reshuffled its schedule before the 2007 season, the Houston event was moved to the week before the Masters out of its moribund regular spot in late April, when many of the big names take time off.
 
The course, designed by Rees Jones, hosted the tournament for the first time in 2006, then drew raves in its debut as a Masters tuneup last year. Word of mouth spread and this years field is among the strongest in the tournaments 62-year history.
 
Six of the worlds top 12 ranked players are playing, including Mickelson, Steve Stricker and defending champion Adam Scott. Ernie Els (No. 3) also was going to come, but withdrew due to an illness.
 
The word got around after last years event of the quality of the golf course and the condition and the way they set it up, said Scott, who sank a 48-foot putt on the final hole to win last year. That certainly couldve changed some guys minds on playing here this week before Augusta.
 
Stuart Appleby finished 14 under in 2007 and finished tied for second. A week later, he led the Masters after 54 holes, shot a 75 in the final round and tied for seventh.
 
Appleby traced his Masters performance more to how he was playing at the time than the course providing the perfect preparation. After all, theres only one Augusta.
 
Theyre two very different golf courses, said Appleby, the 2006 Houston winner. They try to make it like Augusta. Its an attempt, thats all it is. Thank God, they make the attempt.
 
Like Appleby, Stricker questions how much the Redstone course will get anyone ready for the Masters. Stricker is here more for the competition and thinks most of the players feel the same way.
 
Just playing in general prepares you, Stricker said. You get to be under the gun for the four days leading up to the event and you get to work on your short game and your putting. They try to make it like Augusta but its guys that are here that just want to play and keep their games as sharp as they can leading up to Augusta.
 
The Tournament Course and the Houston Open will still always have special meaning for Stricker. He came here two years ago on a sponsor exemption, ranked 331st in the world, and searching for any hint that his playing career still had life.
 
He opened with an even-par 72, dropped two shots off his score each day and finished third, his best result since 2001. Two months later, he tied for sixth at the U.S. Open and earned five more top-10s before the end of the year.
 
In 2007, he finished in the top five six times, including a win at the Barclays, the first event of the FedEx Cup. He was the runner-up to Tiger Woods in the final playoff standings, nabbed a spot on the U.S. Presidents Cup team and earned more than $4 million, nearly four times more than he made in any previous year.
 
It all got started here and it kick-started my good play, said Stricker, who has four top-10s in eight starts in 2008. I gained a lot of confidence from this event a couple of years ago and have kind of rolled with it since. This place means a lot.
 
Davis Love III is looking for the same kind of spark. He needs a victory to qualify for the Masters and stretch the longest active streak of major championship appearances to 71.
 
Love tore ligaments in his left ankle when he stepped in a hole playing golf last September and hes struggled since returning to the tour this year. He hasnt played in Houston since 1992.
 
When I first started back, they (doctors) said, Dont even worry about the Masters. Youre not going to have enough time to be ready even to play in it, much less win a tournament before it. I feel like Ive got a leg up, Love said. Now, Ive played six times and I havent made any progress. At least Ive played, Ive gotten some rounds in and Im still playing, so Ive still got a shot.
 
The tournament is sponsored by Shell.
 

Related Links:
  • Full Coverage
  • GOLF CHANNEL Airtimes
  • Getty Images

    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

    Getty Images

    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.

    Getty Images

    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.

    Getty Images

    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.