Notes Players Make Pitch for New Orleans Maui Green

By Associated PressJanuary 3, 2006, 5:00 pm
04 Mercedes ChampionshipsKAPALUA, Maui -- John Subers is one of the most visible tournament directors on the PGA Tour, usually seen with a gentle smile and a handshake as he makes a pitch for players to come to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
 
This year, the reception has been more enthusiastic than ever.

The Zurich Classic had to switch venues when the TPC at Louisiana was battered by wind and flooding, moving to English Turn for the April 27-30 event. Even so, it is expected to be the first major sporting event in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in September.
 
Subers couldn't help but notice how interested players were about coming back to New Orleans.
 
'They've shown compassion and a desire to be part of the regrowth, the rebirth,' he said. 'The compassion they've shown has been overwhelming.'
 
He has been busy getting early commitments, and some players have offered brief interviews that the tournament wants to package in a six-week television campaign to build support in Louisiana.
 
'The theme is, 'We're the PGA Tour, we're supporting New Orleans, we look forward to seeing you, we look forward to coming back and we believe in you,'' Subers said. 'We're not trying to script it, but picture six weeks of commercials, with 15 to 20 players saying they're coming to New Orleans. We think it will make an impact.'
 
Among the early commitments are David Toms, Kenny Perry and Davis Love III. Toms is a natural, because he grew up in Louisiana and considers the Zurich Classic his hometown event.
 
Beyond a soundbite for TV, however, Toms also has turned into a recruiter.
 
'I'll talk to some of the players along the way,' Toms said. 'It's something I felt an obligation to do. I think it's important to the future of that event. It's important to showcase it on television, the rebuilding effort. The more quality players in the event, the bigger the television audience will be.'
 
Subers said the tournament, meanwhile, is offering reduced rates to companies for corporate hospitality, although it still hopes to continue its level of charitable giving. The Zurich Classic raised a little more than $1 million last year, and was ready to distribute it to 25 local charities when Katrina arrived.
 
Only recently did the tournament distribute the money, with all of it going to agencies helping Katrina victims.
 
PLANTATION GREEN
Tiger Woods has long complained about the severe grain in the greens on the Plantation course at Kapalua. By not showing up this year, he doesn't know what he's missing.
 
Kapalua made a huge investment this year by renovating all 18 greens with a new strain of grass that is tighter and stands more vertical, allowing them to be cut lower to have greater consistency. During the last few days of practice, players have been astonished at how true they roll.
 
'The best I've seen them,' Mark Calcavecchia said.
 
It was no small cost.
 
Kapalua vice president Gary Planos said the resort considered redoing the greens after the first tournament on the Plantation course in 1992, at the old Lincoln-Mercury Invitational. Instead, the staff tried to maintain them and noticed some improvement, but not as great as they wanted.
 
The Plantation course had to be closed four months to redo the greens.
 
'Financially, it was a very hard decision because you displace some 18,000 rounds of golf,' Planos said. 'Closing the Plantation from April to July is not inexpensive. But the results are coming in overwhelmingly, and it's a big home run.'
 
SONY PRACTICE
Ernie Els is not playing in the Sony Open this year, meaning Michelle Wie had to get a new practice partner. She found one in someone old enough to be her big brother -- 23-year-old Sean O'Hair.
 
O'Hair, the PGA Tour's rookie of the year, was talking to David Leadbetter when the swing coach mentioned he would be at the Sony Open to work with Wie. O'Hair mentioned he'd like to play a practice round with her.
 
'I guess I still have to ask her,' he said. 'I'm going to have stand real tall.'
 
That shouldn't be a problem because O'Hair is a lean 6-foot-2.
 
'She hasn't grown any, has she?' he asked.
 
GWAA AWARDS
Jack Nicklaus, Bart Bryant and former USGA president Sandy Tatum have won awards voted on by members of the Golf Writers Association of America.
 
Nicklaus, who has been dealing with the press for nearly 50 years, won the ASAP Sports/Jim Murray Award for his cooperation, quotability and accommodation to the media.
 
Bryant won the Ben Hogan Award, given to the individual who continues to be active in golf despite a physical handicap or serious illness. Bryant, whose three victories in the last two years include a wire-to-wire win at the Tour Championship, has had three significant surgeries since 1992 that almost knocked him out of the game.
 
The William D. Richardson Award went to Tatum, 85, whose involvement in golf spans his leadership at the USGA to the way he cut through the red tape of San Francisco politics to get Harding Park transformed into a public gem good enough to host a World Golf Championship. The Richardson Award is for those making outstanding contributions to golf.
 
They will be honored April 5 at the GWAA's annual awards dinner in Augusta, Ga.
 
DIVOTS
John Francis Mallon, the father of two-time U.S. Women's Open champion Meg Mallon, died of a heart attack on New Year's Eve. He was 82. Services will be held Wednesday in Bluffton, S.C. ... Tiger Woods and Retief Goosen not playing at Kapalua this year means that Vijay Singh has the longest active streak of consecutive starts in the Mercedes Championships at four. ... Jim Furyk has signed a contract deal with Srixon, and will start the season playing its ball and wedges, while he works with the company on a set of irons.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Eight players from last year's winners-only Mercedes Championships are at Kapalua for the start of the 2006 season.
 
FINAL WORD
'You make a putt to win on the last hole, walk off the green and there's Jack Nicklaus standing there waiting to shake your hand. That's golfer utopia.' -- Bart Bryant on winning the Memorial.
 
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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.