MacKenzie Takes Charge in Greensboro

By Associated PressAugust 16, 2007, 4:00 pm
Wydham ChampionshipGREENSBORO, North Carolina -- Will MacKenzie would be a natural for the X Games. Now he's out to prove there's room for a kayaking, snowboarding surfer in the sometimes stuffy world of golf.
 
MacKenzie shot an 8-under 64 on Thursday to take a one-shot lead over Lucas Glover, Steve Marino, Brian Davis and Jeff Overton after the first round of the Wyndham Championship.
 
MacKenzie, who spent a more than a decade away from the sport, nearly made a hole-in-one and had nine birdies to offset one bogey in taking an encouraging first step toward the second victory of his career.
 
'People might think that since I quit golf for a while and lived the life of an outdoor enthusiast that, you know, I break the mold, and I'm sure I do,' Mackenzie said. 'I want my peers to respect me as a golfer, and I think most of them do, but (I) also like to cheer them up a little bit and do silly things like stand on my head from time to time because that's what I like to do.'
 
Seven players -- Carl Pettersson, John Merrick, Todd Hamilton, Todd Fischer, Greg Kraft, John Huston and 2003 winner Shigeki Maruyama -- were two strokes back on a steamy day at the 7,333-yard Forest Oaks Country Club course where temperatures were high and scores were consistently low. After the opening round, 79 players -- or, more than half of the field of 156 -- were 3 under or better.
 
'You've just got to do the same things we did today -- put the ball in the fairway and take advantage when you get the short clubs,' Glover said.
 
Both Pettersson and Glover started quickly and threatened Mackenzie's early lead by moving to 7 under early in their back nines, and had their sights on the course record of 62 before fading.
 
Pettersson bogeyed No. 16 after missing a 6-foot par putt, and had pars on four of his last five holes. Glover, starting on the back nine, birdied seven of his first 11 holes but closed his bogey-free round with seven consecutive pars.
 
'I don't think (Bill) Parcells coaches in the fourth without knowing what the score is,' Glover said. 'I knew what was going on. I just kept trying to make birdies. (Watching the leaderboard) didn't change anything.'
 
Overton hit 17 greens, had three straight birdies on Nos. 14-16 and seemed poised to tie MacKenzie, but he lipped out a 4-foot birdie putt on No. 18 when he said his shot was knocked offline by a divot.
 
'You're going to miss some. Whenever the greens are getting beat up late in the day, you're going to do that occasionally,' Overton said.
 
But the story of the day clearly was MacKenzie's. The one-time golf prodigy from Greenville, N.C., became burned out at the age of 14 and walked away from the sport for 11 years.
 
For a while he lived in a van in Montana, spending his summers kayaking and his winters snowboarding, and once in the mid-1990s even considered kicking field goals for coach Steve Logan at his hometown school, East Carolina.
 
At 25, he was lured back to the links after watching his hero's final professional victory: Payne Stewart's fist-pumping triumph at the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, one of MacKenzie's favorite courses, and the accomplishment prompted him to pick up the clubs again and work his way up the sport's ladder. He joined the PGA TOUR in 2005.
 
'I saw the competitive ... flare involved,' MacKenzie said. 'Tired of beating myself up. I was in a little mini mid-life crisis. I didn't know if I wanted to go back to Montana or Alaska or go to France ... I hit some balls and I was like, 'Wow, this is fantastic. Maybe I want to play again.''
 
Among the highlights of MacKenzie's round Thursday were a near-miss on the 226-yard, par-3 eighth. He used a 4-iron to drill the flagstick, then tapped in a 3-inch putt for birdie. MacKenzie then opened the back nine with birdies on five of seven holes, rolling in a 21-foot birdie putt on No. 16 during his march up the leaderboard.
 
MacKenzie also led after the first round of his only PGA TOUR victory, a one-stroke win last August in the Reno-Tahoe Open.
 
'I love sleeping on a lead,' he said. 'It's not going to bother me. Well, maybe on Saturday night.'
 
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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.