Notes A Trip Down Under Tigers Faithful Putter
American players wanted to be on this team, and it showed.
The next test for this 12-year-old event is how far Americans are willing to travel.
The Presidents Cup will be held at Royal Montreal in 2007, which is a shorter trip than going to the West Coast, and the prevailing sentiment is to return to the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in 2009.
After that, it could be headed Down Under.
Australian officials met with the PGA Tour brass during the Presidents Cup with hopes of getting the matches in 2011, the next available date on foreign soil. One group was from New South Wales, and the other was from Victoria.
``Both met with us, and they would very much like to sit down with us about having the Presidents Cup in 2011,'' said Mike Bodney, the tour's senior vice president of championship management.
Bodney said it was too early to decide where the Presidents Cup is headed. Tour officials would like to plan further out than two years, without getting too far into the future like the Ryder Cup (get your tickets now to the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits).
The Americans had their worst loss in team competition at Royal Melbourne in 1998, in part because the matches were staged on the other side of the world two weeks before Christmas. The fallout was felt for five years, and some U.S. players were far from enthused about going to South Africa in 2003 until they got there.
Bodney said if the Presidents Cup went back to Australia, it would be held not much later than Thanksgiving.
And there is no shortage of great courses, especially in Melbourne, which has perhaps the best collection of championship courses of any city in the world -- Royal Melbourne, Metropolitan, Kingston Heath, Yarra Yarra, Huntingdale and Victoria, to name a few.
New South Wales Golf Club also was mentioned, but Bodney said while it was one of the more spectacular courses in the world, its cramped space might not allow it to stage the Presidents Cup.
The Australian also was raised as a possibility.
Tour officials plan to meet this month to review the last Presidents Cup and figure out where it is headed -- not only golf courses, but the next captains.
LAST TO GO
In the last three years, Tiger Woods has changed to the Nike golf ball ('00 Memorial), the Nike driver ('02 Pebble Beach), the Nike irons ('02 American Express), the Nike wedges ('03 American Express) and the Nike 3-wood ('05 Doral). The last trace of Titleist in his bag is the putter.
Woods has had the same Scotty Cameron model in his bag for seven years, and it might not be going anywhere soon.
``I tested a bunch of putters,'' he said last week at a Nike news conference in Las Vegas. ``It's just go hard to get my gamer out of there. I won nine majors with it now, and it seems to be working. I have tried other putters, and some of the putters do feel better than mine. But coming down the stretch on Sunday, and I know I need to make a putt, I know the putter has done it. I'm just afraid to get it out of the bag.''
Some players have hundreds of putters in their garage. Some go through four in one week.
Woods is cut from the Bob Charles cloth.
He spoke to the '63 British Open champion at St. Andrews this year and asked how long Charles had used the same bulls-eye putter.
``He said, 'About 52 years,''' Woods said. ``He said, 'I tried other putters. They felt better. I have putted better with them. But if I knew I had to make a putt, this one has done it.'
``I kind of understand,'' Woods said.
Jay Haas has gone a dozen years without winning, but his trophy case is hardly suffering.
The latest honor for Haas is the Bob Jones Award, the highest honor by the USGA that recognizes distinguished sportsmanship. The USGA will present him the award Feb. 4 at its annual meeting in Atlanta.
The 51-year-old Haas has won nine times on the PGA Tour, and he has played well enough to be a captain's pick for the '03 Presidents Cup and '04 Ryder Cup, making him the oldest player in Ryder Cup history.
The Golf Writers Association of America honored him in April with the Jim Murray Award for his cooperation with the media, and the PGA Tour gave him the Payne Stewart Award last year for the way he upholds the traditions of golf.
YOUTH IS SERVED
The Tommy Bahama Challenge has a new lineup and a new format.
Zach Johnson is the only player returned in the silly-season event that features players 30 and under, joined on the U.S. team by Ben Crane, Ryan Moore and Arron Oberholser. They will play an International team of Tim Clark (South Africa), Geoff Ogilvy (Australia), Justin Rose (England) and South Korean-born Kevin Na.
Instead of a medal-match format, the one-day event will be match play. If there's a tie, the captains will align their teams for an alternate-shot, sudden-death playoff. Players on the winning team each get $100,000, while the losing players each get $70,000. Also, the winners of each match will play off for a Mercedes ML500 SUV and $20,000.
The tournament will be played Nov. 8 at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., and broadcast Jan. 2.
Steve Williams is back to work as Tiger Woods' caddie, having missed the Presidents Cup because his fiancee was expecting their first child. A son they named Jett Baillie was born Sept. 26. No pictures were immediately available. ... Ryan Moore tied for 34th in Greensboro and made $24,714. That gives him $545,716, equivalent to No. 126 on the money list. Moore's earnings at the end of the year have to be at least equal to No. 125 on the money list for him to earn his PGA Tour card. ... Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson will represent the United States in the World Cup, to be played Nov. 17-20 in Portugal.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Darren Clarke and Ernie Els are the only European tour members to have won a World Golf Championship event that counts toward official money.
``Now that they have the Presidents Cup, the Solheim Cup and the Walker Cup, it gives them an incentive to win the Ryder Cup, and we wish them well. It could be a competition. The last one wasn't, was it?'' -- Colin Montgomerie.
Rahm, with blinders on, within reach of No. 1 at Torrey
SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.
The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.
Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.
It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.
“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”
Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.
According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.
“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”
Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.
And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.
As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.
He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.
“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”
If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.
Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.
“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”
Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.
Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.
“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.
Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.
Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1
SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.
After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.
With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.
“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.
“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”
Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.
Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'
SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.
“I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.
“I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”
On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”
Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”
Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.
“We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.”
Tiger grouped with Reed, Hoffman at Torrey Pines
SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods will make his 2018 debut alongside Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman.
The threesome will go off Torrey Pines’ South Course at 1:40 p.m. ET Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open. They begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday on the North Course.
Woods is an eight-time winner at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open, but he hasn’t broken 70 in his last seven rounds on either course. Last year, he shot rounds of 76-72 to miss the cut.
Reed, who has grown close to Woods after being in his pod during the past two international team competitions, is coming off a missed cut last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Hoffman, a San Diego native, has only two top-10s in 20 career starts at Torrey.
Other featured groups for the first two rounds include:
• Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker: 1:30 p.m. Thursday off South 1, 12:20 p.m. Friday off North 10
• Rickie Fowler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele: 12:30 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:30 p.m. Friday off South 1
• Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama: 12:40 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:40 p.m. Friday off South 1