Notes Is Love in the air Sergio sets sites for No 1
The 16-man Players Advisory Council and four player-directors on the PGA Tour policy board have nominated Love, Rocco Mediate and Dudley Hart as candidates for comeback player of the year.
Limited by back injuries, Mediate lost a 19-hole playoff to Tiger Woods in the U.S. Open and had another top 10 at the Memorial to finish 74th on the money list, his best year since 2003.
Hart missed most of last year during his wifes illness tending to his triplets, played this year on a family crisis extension and made it to the Tour Championship for the first time since 1999. He had six top-10s, including a runner-up finish at the BMW Championship which enabled him to finish 12th in the FedEx Cup.
Love is the only winner among the candidates, going 64-64 on the weekend at Disney for his 20th career victory. He was recovering from ankle surgery that kept him out of golf for four months and out of contention until the final month of the season. All three of his top 10s came during the Fall Series.
A more compelling vote might be for rookie of the year.
The five candidates are Dustin Johnson, Chez Reavie, Andres Romero, Kevin Streelman and Marc Turnesa, with all but Streelman winning a PGA Tour event. Reavie (Canada) and Romero (New Orleans) won events that awarded full FedEx Cup points.
No rookie had a better season than Romero, the Argentine who made the cut in all four majors (with top 10s in two of them) and finished 36th on the money list, the highest of the rookie nominees. He also was the only rookie at the Tour Championship.
It will be interesting to see whether players regard him as a pure rookie. Romero, 27, has played on the European Tour and nearly won the British Open last year at Carnoustie.
Sergio Garcia won a career-high four times in 2001 (twice each on the PGA and European tours), although this is considered his best season ever. The best evidence comes from the world ranking, and not just because the Spaniard is now No. 2.
Garcia earned 400.62 points this year, second only to Tiger Woods.
His only PGA Tour victory came at The Players Championship, but he also won the Castello Masters on his home course in Spain and the HSBC Champions against a strong field in China. He finished at No. 4 on the PGA Tour money list and No. 9 on the Order of Merit in Europe, and he won the Vardon Trophy for lowest adjusted scoring average.
But his best golf came in the last three months.
Starting with the PGA Championship, where he tied for second at Oakland Hills, Garcia played eight times and finished out of the top five only once, a tie for 20th at the BMW Championship in St. Louis. He lost in a playoff at The Barclays and at the Tour Championship.
The question now is whether he can resume his pace early next year, starting in Abu Dhabi, and catch the idle Woods at No. 1. Garcia currently has an 8.59 average and is 5.2 points behind'the same gap between Garcia and No. 24 in the ranking.
Woods probably wont return from his knee surgery before March 1, at which point he will be at 9.38.
Its possible, mainly because hes been injured, Garcia said after winning in China. But we know that as soon as he comes out, hes going to play well and hes going to become quite tough, and he seems to get away from us a little bit. But Ive never been this close to No. 1, and its exciting to be there.
DRIVE FOR SHOW
In another example that most players will take a good week of putting over hitting it prodigious lengths, PGA Tour information whiz Dave Lancer came up with the following statistic.
He compiled winners of tournaments on the PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour and found that they led the field in putting 16 times. The winner led the field in driving distance only twice.
Meanwhile, 13 players averaged more than 300 yards in driving distance this year, the lowest number since nine players averaged more than 300 yards in 2003. Three years ago, 26 players averaged more than 300 yards off the tee.
TOO GOOD TO MISS
Kevin Sutherland finished a career-best 18th on the PGA Tour money list, the first time he has been in the top 50 since his lone Tour victory in 2002 at the Accenture Match Play Championship.
That makes him eligible for another World Golf Championship, and a trip to a course he hasnt seen his rookie season.
What now is called the CA Championship was played in Ireland the last time Sutherland was eligible. It since has moved to the Blue Monster at Doral. Sutherland rarely plays in Florida, but hes not about to pass up an $8.5 million purse.
Sutherland missed the cut in 1996 after rounds of 71-74 on a Blue Monster that measured 6,939 yards. Since then, it has gone through a redesign to enhance the bunkers, another redesign after the changes were criticized, and it now is 7,266 yards.
I played it before the changes, Sutherland recalls. Then they did that first redesign, and I remember everyone didnt like it. I didnt like it before the changes, so I didnt see any reason to go back.
Bob Tway led the PGA Tour in putts per greens in regulation with a 1.718 average. At age 49, he became the oldest players to lead the tour in any statistical category. Oskar Henningsson won the final stage of European tour qualifying on Tuesday as 32 players earned their tour cards for 2009. Among those earning a card was former Ryder Cup player Andrew Coltart. Of the rookies who finished among the top 125 on the PGA Tour money list, four came from Q-school and four came from the Nationwide Tour.
STAT OF THE WEEK
The Masters was the only major that did not finish in the top 10 toughest courses on the PGA Tour this year.
The only person he has ever been unkind to is himself.' David Feherty, speaking about John Daly.
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.