Notes Cheeseheads Choose Scotland Over Home

By Associated PressJuly 17, 2007, 4:00 pm
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly were among the first to arrive at the British Open, playing a practice round at Carnoustie over the weekend that included a spirited bet and took them back to their junior days in Wisconsin.
 
This is the place to be this week, even if a part of them would rather be somewhere else.
 
Under the reconfigured PGA TOUR schedule, the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee is now held the same week as the British Open. That's not a big deal for most players, except those who grew up and still live in the state.
 
'It's Jerry's major,' Stricker said with a laugh, noting that Kelly has twice been runner-up at Milwaukee.
 
Some thought Milwaukee would be relegated to the fall when the PGA TOUR shortened its regular season under the new FedExCup competition, so it could have been worse. Although the U.S. Bank Championship rarely attracted the biggest names, it stings to lose two of the state's most popular players.
 
'It's a tough deal,' said Stricker, noting he also skipped the John Deere Classic last week, another longtime favorite. 'I've got to be here, because it's a major. It's a little more important than U.S. Bank, but it hurts us both not to be there.'
 
Stricker knew in May he would be at Carnoustie, qualifying through the top 50 in the world ranking. Kelly chose to go through the U.S. qualifier at Oakland Hills, and he never gave it another thought.
 
'I could not take a chance at missing a major,' Kelly said. 'The U.S. Bank, if we won that, would be the closest tournament to our hearts. The emotion we get from all the people is incredible. Everybody from Wisconsin is so behind is. But winning a major would change our lives. Winning the U.S. Bank would feel great, but it wouldn't change our lives.'
 
THE FULL MONTY:
Colin Montgomerie has only seriously challenged to win the claret jug once, but the combination of his victory two weeks ago in Ireland and the British Open being played in his native Scotland has bookmakers nervous.
 
William Hill has lowered his odds to 25-to-1, but the number of bets placed on Montgomerie to win has been so large that bookmakers say the betting turnover would be more than $50 million.
 
'Despite his failure to make the cut in the Scottish Open last week, Monty is the man the punters want to back for the Open,' Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe said. 'Every other bet seems to have his name on at the moment, and we will certainly be handing over a hefty, seven-figure sum to punters should Monty manage to win.'
 
The second worst-case-scenario for the bookmakers would be Luke Donald winning.
 
The bookmakers say Phil Mickelson, who lost the Scottish Open in a playoff, was not getting much action at 14-to-1.
 
Woods remained the favorite at 3-to-1, followed by Ernie Els at 12-to-1.
 
BEST COACHES:
Butch Harmon has what some of his clients want -- a No. 1 ranking.
 
Harmon was voted the top teacher in golf for the fourth straight year in Golf Digest magazine's biennial ranking of America's 50 greatest teachers. More than 1,000 teachers from the 50 states were asked to rate instructors in their region and nominate the best teachers in the nation. Golf Digest combined the results from the local and national survey.
 
Harmon is the swing coach for Adam Scott (No. 4 in the world ranking) and recently was hired by Phil Mickelson, who slipped one spot to No. 3 in the ranking this week. Harmon previously worked with Greg Norman and Tiger Woods when they rose to No. 1.
 
Harmon narrowly beat out David Leadbetter. Hank Haney, who coaches Woods, checked in at No. 3, followed by Jim McLean and Jim Flick. The highest-rated female coach was Pia Nilsson, who works with Annika Sorenstam, at No. 21.
 
LOVE OF CLUBS:
Golfers can get downright emotional about their clubs. Just listen to Zach Johnson, who was clearly rattled when his bag didn't accompany him on the flight to Scotland.
 
The Masters champ was practicing Tuesday with a backup set when he got a call from his trainer on the fourth hole.
 
'He goes, 'Where are you?'' Johnson recounted. 'I'm like, 'Are my clubs here?' He said, 'Where are you?' And I said, 'Are my clubs here?' And he said, 'Yes.''
 
And what was Johnson's reaction?
 
'I nearly cried, put it that way,' he said. 'Not that the clubs I was using were bad, they just weren't mine. I don't like to mess around. I'm very particular about my grips. They don't have my grips here.'
 
Of course, it's easy to understand why Johnson is so attached to these clubs. He used them to pull off his upset win at Augusta National in April.
 
'I was very concerned,' he said. 'And now I'm very, very, very, very happy that my clubs are here.'
 
DIVOTS:
Annika Sorenstam has launched her own Web site (www.annikasorenstam.com). She tried to get 'Annika' as her site, but it already was taken by an unknown Swedish outfit. Along with offering details of her career, academy, golf course design and fitness advice, Sorenstam also shares some of her favorite recipes. ... Former U.S. Open and British Open champion Tony Jacklin has been named the 2007 Ambassador of Golf, an award presented each year at Firestone to the person who has fostered ideals of the game on an international level.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK:
Europe has had 18 players finish in the top five at a major since Paul Lawrie became the last European to win a major championship at Carnoustie in 1999.
 
FINAL WORD:
'You enjoy a major afterward. From Thursday to Sunday, it's hard work.' -- Ernie Els.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - 136th Open Championship
  • 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.