Notes Wilson a No Go at Colonial
Given a late exemption - provided he played in a Monday pro-am - Wilson was thrust into the spotlight when he and Aaron Barber were paired with Annika Sorenstam as she became the first woman in 58 years to compete on the PGA Tour.
The media frenzy following Sorenstam made it tough to play, but Wilson embraced the occasion. He was supportive of Sorenstam, even buying a Go Annika button to wear during the first two rounds. Wilson, a 34-year-old Hawaiian, shot 71-67 in that cauldron to make the cut, and he finished tied for 21st.
His graciousness apparently went unnoticed.
Wilson wrote a letter asking for an exemption from Colonial, and was disappointed to learn he had been passed over.
I was counting on that, Wilson said. It was sad not getting that.
Choosing who gets the exemptions is difficult every week. Some players have a local connection; others are past champions, or former PGA Tour winners no longer exempt. Colonial chairman Dee Finley said about 60 players asked for exemptions this year.
Im looking at the list ... and 18 on the current money list are higher than Dean, Finley said late Monday afternoon. We gave him very serious consideration because of the wonderful experience last year. Its a tough choice.
Still, Wilson deserved better.
Some players say its tough to play with Tiger Woods in a circus atmosphere, with photographers scrambling for the best angle and fans leaving after he putts out. It was a three-ring circus with Sorenstam, yet Wilson made the most of it. Having not won yet on the PGA Tour, he is best known as the guy who played with Annika.
Sorenstam wont be at Colonial. Sadly, it appears Wilson wont be, either.
Finley said it was possible another exemption could become available if someone qualifies for the Colonial, and the best he could say was that Wilson is on the short list.
Wilson has never had much luck with sponsor exemptions. He has had most of his success on the Japanese tour, winning six times over three seasons. But Wilson didnt get his first exemption until the Scottish Open in 2002. He even had to Monday qualify for the Sony Open, a hometown tournament.
Even if Jay Haas were not trying to make the Ryder Cup team, it would be difficult to fault the 50-year-old for continuing to compete on the PGA Tour.
Haas is among five guys who have played at least 10 times this year without missing the cut. He came close to winning the Bob Hope Classic, and was in Sunday contention at The Players Championship for the second straight year.
The best measure.
I won more than the leading money winner on the Champions Tour this year, Haas said. Would I be doing the same thing out there? I dont know.
Hes 22nd on the PGA Tour money list with $1,082,757. Gil Morgan is leading the Champions Tour at $871,291.
Haas also is 11th in the Ryder Cup standings. He is not trying to become the oldest player to make the team, he just wants to be part of the matches.
I just like doing this, Haas said. The goal of making the Ryder Cup team, staying in the top 30 (money list) and top 50 in the world ranking, that means more to me right now. Im not trying to prove anything to anyone. Im not trying to be stubborn about it. I feel like Im competitive out there.
Haas will make his Champions Tour debut in the Senior PGA Championship at Valhalla because he believes the majors on the Champions Tour are worth playing.
The interesting choice he faces is after August, when he finds out whether he made the Ryder Cup team.
It may change a little bit, Haas said. But I still want to finish in the top 30. If I play the Champions Tour, I just lose points and Ill drop like a stone.
British Open champion Ben Curtis will get his first look at the links where he will defend his title.
Curtis is leaving for Europe this week, with the first stop Royal Troon on Friday. He plans to play St. Andrews on Saturday (site of the 2005 British Open), followed by Carnoustie (07 Open) on Sunday.
He is playing the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open in Germany the following week, and will stay around for the Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth before returning to the PGA Tour at the Memorial.
Curtis won the claret jug last year at Royal St. Georges in England, the first player since Francis Ouimet in the 1919 U.S. Open to win a major in his first try.
He also would like to see Shinnecock Hills before the U.S. Open, but that might not work out. His only spare week is after the Memorial, and Curtis is closing on a new house in Jupiter, Fla.
Tom Weiskopf, who won the British Open at Royal Troon in 1973, plans to play for the first time since he missed the cut at the 1995 British Open at St. Andrews. Weiskopf also plans to compete in the Scottish Open the preceding week at Loch Lomond, a course he designed. The only other time he played there was 1996. ... Ticket sales have been so strong that Royal Troon is adding additional grandstands. ... Jay Haas is tied for third on the all-time list with 566 cuts on the PGA Tour. The leader is Tom Kite (586), followed by Ray Floyd (583). ... Even though the John Deere Classic was moved from early September to the week before the British Open, Vijay Singh said he would return to defend his title. ... The Bay Hill Invitational has offered an exemption to the winner of the Southern Amateur, to be played July 14-17 at the Honors Course in Tennessee.
STAT OF THE WEEK
The last time Joey Sindelar won on the PGA Tour, Greg Norman won the money title with $1,165,477. Sindelar won $1.08 million at the Wachovia Championship.
Im starting to think that Shinnecock is my Kryptonite. - U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk, whose wrist injury likely will keep him out of the U.S. Open. The only other time he has missed the U.S. Open was in 1995 at Shinnecock Hills, when he failed to qualify.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
With blinders on, Rahm 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