Notes Els is Frequent Flier
He already has made at least a dozen transoceanic flights this year while competing in five of the six continents where golf is played.
But the Big Easy feels like the PGA Tour is making him wear a ball and chain.
'I am a world player, and they have to accept that,' Els said last month when his frustrations began to surface.
Even though Els was a European tour regular before coming to America in 1994, the PGA Tour requires what amounts to a permission slip for Els to play overseas.
PGA Tour members ordinarily are eligible for three releases to play overseas if they play a 15-event schedule. For every additional release, they are required to play five extra tour events.
'That's impossible for me,' said Els, who already has played in Thailand, Australia, Dubai, Germany and England this year, and returns to golf this week in Switzerland. 'It's the same old stuff. You give me this, I'll give you that. I've been playing that game for 10 years now, so I guess we'll keep playing it.'
Els could get unlimited releases by declaring the European tour -- and not the South African tour -- as his home tour, but then he would have to play 20 times a year on the PGA Tour, and that's too much golf for him to stay fresh.
Henry Hughes, chief of operations for the PGA Tour, says the tour tries to be flexible with the release, especially when a player wins a major and has financial opportunities (appearance money) overseas.
In fact, Els got nine releases last year for the 18 tour events he played. This year, he is expected to get 10 releases in exchange for 17 tour events.
'We don't put pressure on players,' Hughes said. 'It's just a matter of agreeing what we want them to play in exchange for what they want. Ernie being an international player, he needs a few more releases.'
Still, it seems odd that an international player has to make so many concessions just to be on the PGA Tour.
Els isn't happy with the situation, although he understands his role as someone who brings star power to an event. But while Els has hinted the last few years about playing more often on the PGA Tour, that probably won't happen now.
The Grand Slam of Golf was supposed to be played Dec. 3-4 at Poipu Bay on Kauai until a small problem came up -- two of the major champions had other plans.
PGA champion Vijay Singh decided to play in the Father-Son Challenge with son Qass in Orlando, Fla., on that same weekend. U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen already was committed to play an event in his native South Africa.
The easiest solution was to move the 36-hole tournament to Nov. 23-24, and make sure it wasn't a problem for Masters champion Phil Mickelson and British Open champion Todd Hamilton.
Moving the Grand Slam of Golf up a week now makes for a full week of golf in a never-ending season. It will be played the Tuesday-Wednesday before Thanksgiving, followed by the Skins Game that weekend.
OFF TO Q-SCHOOL
Paula Creamer is not waiting for a high school diploma before she goes after her LPGA Tour card. Golfweek magazine reports this week that Creamer has entered LPGA Q-school this fall.
Creamer, who tied for 13th at the U.S. Women's Open, will remain an amateur so she can compete in the Women's World Amateur Team Championship in Puerto Rico. She graduates high school in December.
If she gets her card, the magazine said Creamer will turn professional and play a full schedule next year. If she fails to earn status, she could either try to earn her card through six sponsor exemptions or go to college.
Even though Nick Price is a two-time PGA champion, the fourth major has long had a habit of getting in the way of his family priorities.
Price withdrew in 1991 when his wife gave birth to their first child. Now that his children are older, Price has skipped the last two PGAs because of a family vacation. And he offers no apologies.
'That's just the worst time the tournament could be for me,' Price said last week in Hartford. 'It's the only time we could really take a three-week break and be together. It's not asking much to take a week out of your year's schedule to spend an extra week on holiday with your kids. I wouldn't trade it for anything.'
Price said he missed not playing Oak Hill and Whistling Straits, 'but life is too short and it's too important.'
He has a lifetime exemption to the PGA, and Price said he won't always be on vacation in August. He figures his children (13, 11, 7) soon will reach an age when they would rather spend time with their friends.
'Until that day comes, and my kids want to go somewhere else on summer vacation, I'll continue doing it,' he said.
The Ladies European Tour changed its rules Tuesday to eliminate the 'female at birth' policy for its members, opening the way for Mianne Bagger to try to earn her card. Bagger, a 37-year-old from Denmark, had a sex reassignment surgery and played in the Women's Australian Open this year. The policy change allows Bagger to play in European events and go to Q-school. ... Ryan Moore hopes his next conquest will be the Men's World Amateur Championship. Moore, who already has won the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Amateur Public Links, NCAA Championship and Western Amateur, will join Spencer Levin and NCAA runner-up Lee Williams on the U.S. team that will play Oct. 28-31 in Puerto Rico. ... Jane Rah, a 13-year-old from Torrance, Calif., shot 76 to win the Safeway Classic Amateur Open and earn a spot in the field Sept. 17-19 at the LPGA's Safeway Classic in Portland.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Esteban Toledo has played in 27 of the 28 tournaments for which he has been eligible this year, missing only the Chrysler Classic of Tucson. He is 212th on the PGA Tour money list with $92,733.
'As long as I don't make doubles or triples, I can get the ball around and fool myself into thinking I'm doing better than I'm really doing.' -- Fred Couples.
Copyright 2004 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.