Notes Micheel Victim of New Policy
Micheel had been skiing the week before the Bay Hill Invitational, and he had planned to spend Monday paying bills, working on taxes and playing with his son.
One problem: Bay Hill's pro-am is Tuesday.
Tour officials offered Micheel the latest tee-time for the pro-am, but that would have meant flying Tuesday morning, arranging his transportation, getting registered and rushing to the tee.
Instead, Micheel called tournament officials and told him he was pulling out.
'It's a policy I don't necessarily agree with,' Micheel said. 'To say you can't play in the golf tournament because you don't play in one pro-am, that's absurd to me.'
The policy received unanimous approval by the board, and took effect Jan. 1.
'We had a concern that a number of missed pro-ams by players was growing,' said Henry Hughes, chief of operations for the PGA Tour. 'Our goal is to reinforce to the players that the pro-am is a part of the tournament. It's important to sponsor interaction and promotion of the event.'
What further irritated Micheel is that John Daly pulled out of the pro-am that morning and was allowed to play, eventually finishing in a tie for 10th. However, Daly didn't know he was in the pro-am. He was selected by tournament sponsors to play, and Bay Hill officials never told him, so he was allowed to skip.
Worse yet for Micheel -- the pro-am was rained out after two hours.
Hughes said PGA Tour officials can excuse players from the pro-ams under special circumstances -- sudden illness, family emergency, or working through an injury. But players must have traveled to the tournament, and they can't practice on the course the same day.
Bay Hill is one of only three tournaments that have pro-ams Tuesday instead of Wednesday. The others are the Memorial and the Tour Championship.
The good news for Micheel: There is no pro-am at The Players Championship.
The leaders won't be the only players with something on the line Sunday at Sawgrass.
The Players Championship is the final tournament for players not already eligible for the Masters. The top 50 in the world ranking and the top 10 on the PGA Tour money list next week qualify for the first major of the year.
Most of the attention is on John Daly.
His triple bogey on the 18th hole at Bay Hill cost him a chance to secure his spot at Augusta National. Daly is No. 9 on the money list and No. 53 in the world ranking. If he gets passed on the money list, Daly would need to finish no worse than 19th at The Players Championship to move into the top 50.
No one is on the bubble quite like Loren Roberts, who could be this year's poster boy for Augusta heartache.
He was No. 47 in the world at the end of last year, but the final world ranking in December -- another cutoff for the Masters _ dropped him to No. 51.
Roberts is No. 48 this week, but he will drop to No. 51 if he misses the cut. Roberts needs to finish about 23rd this week to get into Augusta.
John Huston (No. 56) needs to finish about 14th at The Players Championship. Those farther down the list -- Scott Hoch, Scott McCarron, Tom Lehman and Mark Calcavecchia -- would have to finish as the runner-up.
The easiest way to qualify for the Masters? A victory this week comes with a three-year exemption.
WATSON'S LAST HURRAH
Arnold Palmer will be playing in his 50th and final Masters at age 74.
Tom Watson might not be far behind.
Watson, who won the Masters in 1977, said he has 'really toyed with the idea' of not returning to play, especially after the changes that strengthened Augusta National.
'With the golf course getting so long, if I'm not in good shape where I'm ... not competing against these kids from a reasonable standpoint, I'm not going to play,' the 54-year-old Watson said.
The trick is figuring out when that time has arrived.
'You'll know when I don't show up for Augusta,' he said with a smile.
LONG DAY AT THE OFFICE
Brad Faxon used to make his Florida home in Orlando, not far from Bay Hill. There must be plenty of guys who were sorry to see him move away.
'A bunch of friends of mine were members here,' Faxon said last week at the Bay Hill Invitational. 'For some reason, we'd be out there all day, and their wives thought a round of golf took nine hours. They didn't know. They just thought, 'Brad, he's a tour player, it takes longer.'
'We'd be out there playing 36 holes,' he said. 'They loved it when I called.'
Annika Sorenstam has played several casual rounds with Tiger Woods in Orlando. She might get a shot at him on national television. While plans have not been finalized, Sorenstam is expected to get a return invitation to the Skins Game, along with Woods and defending champion Fred Couples. The Swedish star finished second last year. ... Juli Inkster is now the official tour pro of Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, Calif. Inkster, one of five women to have captured the career Grand Slam, was introduced to golf at age 14 as a cart attendant and snack shop assistant at Pasatiempo. She also met her husband there. The club is celebrating its 75th anniversary. ... Sorenstam has signed a deal to represent Upper Deck, the first female athlete to be a spokesman for the trading card and collectibles company. ... Former U.S. Amateur champion Bubba Dickerson won his first professional event last week on the Hooters Tour.
STAT OF THE WEEK
John Daly has finished ahead of Tiger Woods in all three tournaments they have played in this year. Going into the season, Daly had not done that in his previous 16 events, dating to the 2002 Buick Invitational. He tied for fourth, while Woods finished a stroke behind.
'Close your eyes and hit it quick.' -- Darren Clarke, on his strategy for playing the island-green 17th at The Players Championship.
Copyright 2003 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.