Notes Golf not a big mans game at Sony

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2009, 5:00 pm
2007 Sony OpenHONOLULU ' Golf has been trending toward a big mans game, and one need only look at the biggest stars for evidence.
 
Of the top 10 players in the world who have won majors, Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington are the shortest at 6-foot-1. Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson are all over 6-foot-3 and could suit up as linebackers. Geoff Ogilvy is a little more slender, but still a presence at 6-foot-2.
 
Thats what made the leaderboard at the Sony Open going into final round Sunday so unusual.
 
Only one of the top nine players was a 6-footer ' George McNeill, barely. The leader was Zach Johnson, known for laying up at all the par 5s when he won the Masters. He is listed at a generous 5-foot-11, proving golfs media guides arent much different from other sports.
 
One shot behind was 5-foot-10 David Toms, who laid up on the par-4 18th when he won the 2001 PGA at Atlanta Athletic Club. He was joined by Nathan Green, Brian Gay and Shigeki Maruyama, all of whom are a few inches short of 6 feet.
 
And chasing them is Tadd Fujikawa, the 5-foot-1 senior in high school. Fujikawa played Saturday with 6-foot-2 rookie Matthew Borchert, and nearly had to leave his feet for a high-five when Borchert made birdie on the 16th.
 
It wasnt many years ago where short wasnt that bad of a thing in golf, Toms said. It seems like everybody is getting bigger and taller and stronger, and the game has kind of gone that way.
 
Even now, height is not a prerequisite for winning, for the list of major champions this decade include Trevor Immelman and Mike Weir at the Masters, Toms and Rich Beem at the PGA Championship.
 
Power always helps (Jack Nicklaus, the pioneer of the power era, was 5-foot-10 with legs as big as tree trunks), but not necessarily at the Sony Open. Recent winners have ranged from Singh to Paul Goydos, from Els to Jeff Sluman.
 
I hit three or four long irons to par 4s, and I hit a couple of wedges to par 4s, and same with the par 3s ' a couple of long shots and short shots, Toms said. It has a flow to it. Its the type of course I wish we played more.
 

 
THE BIG W: Turning the corner of the dogleg left on the 16th hole of Waialae is one of the best views on the course, as players walk straight toward the Pacific Ocean and can see gentle waves breaking through the palm trees.
 
There is an added feature this year.
 
Waialae spent $10,000 last year bending the shape of four palm trees to form a large W behind the green. And while Waialae isnt among the most famous courses on the PGA Tour because it is so far away from everything else, the W creates a course signature like the clubhouse at Riviera, the lighthouse at Hilton Head, the water tower at Firestone in the shape of a golf ball on a tee.
 
The palms, with the ocean as a backdrop, look similar to the scene from Its a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. There is no suitcase buried beneath the big W filled with $350,000 cash from a tuna factory robbery.
 
But a birdie might go a long way toward a $972,000 check for winning the Sony Open.
 
Paul Goydos, meanwhile, had his own W story to share when he arrived at Waialae.
 
He flew into Honolulu last Sunday in the middle of the afternoon and was hungry when he checked into the W Honolulu-Diamond Head hotel. Goydos decided to order a pizza, and he was asked where it should be delivered.
 
I told her I was staying at the W, he said. And she said, How do you spell it?
 
Goydos should have picked up a newspaper the next day. In the business section there was a brief story about how the W was under new management and had changed its name to The Lotus.
 

 
ROOKIE DEBUTS: Three rookies were in the top 20 going into the final round of the first full-field tournament of the year ' Jeff Klauk, Webb Simpson and Wil Collins.
 
Klauk is the son of Fred Klauk, the longtime and recently retired superintendent of the TPC Sawgrass.
 
Simpson, a 23-year-old from North Carolina, might be the most polished. He was a four-time All-Amercan at Wake Forest, played on the Walker Cup team two years ago in Ireland and won the Southern Amateur at Pinehurst.
 
He majored in religion at Wake Forest, in part because of his faith, but mainly because it was a pretty easy major. Then he was asked which was the toughest course he took.
 
Introduction to the Bible, Simpson replied.
 

 
MARUYAMA AND MAJORS: Shigeki Maruyama of Japan uses a translator when speaking to the media, but he emphatically answered in English ' with plenty of gestures ' when the topic of major championships came up.
 
Maruyama says he is struggles on long courses, and thats what he finds at the majors.
 
Big rough, he said, holding his hands a foot apart vertically.
 
Narrow fairways, he said, holding his hands the same distance apart horizontally.
 
No chance, he concluded.
 
Then he was told Hazeltine could be 7,700 yards this year for the PGA Championship, and Maruyama went back to Japanese.
 
Sayonara, he said.
 
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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.