Olesen fires 63 for two-shot lead at Scottish Open

By Associated PressJuly 9, 2015, 8:46 pm

GULLANE, Scotland – Thorbjorn Olesen returned to form with a 7-under 63 to take a one-shot lead after the first round of the Scottish Open on Thursday, with Jimmy Walker leading a trio of top Americans in the chasing pack.

Rebounding from missing the cut in five of his last six events, Olesen made seven birdies - including three in a row on Nos. 15-17 - and was bogey-free in benign conditions for the morning starters over the Gullane links.

In a week in which Rory McIlroy withdrew from next week's British Open because of an ankle injury sustained playing soccer, it's fitting that Olesen is playing a starring role here.

The 25-year-old Dane sustained one of the most bizarre injuries of recent years when he fell off a camel while on holiday with friends in Dubai last year, pulled a groin muscle and was ruled out for two months. A hand injury forced him out of action this season from February to May, contributing to his poor recent form.

''It's been a tough time,'' Olesen said, ''but I feel like I'm 100 percent with my body now.''

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Daniel Brooks of England, playing in the last group, birdied the final hole to take sole ownership of second place on 6-under ahead of a group of seven players a stroke further back.

The 12th-ranked Walker also avoided any trouble early in the first round, with only a light breeze coming off the Firth of Forth in the morning. Two birdies in his last three holes sealed a 5-under 65 for Walker and a share of third place with Matthew Nixon, Richard Finch and Seve Benson of England, Alejandro Canizares and Adrian Otaegui of Spain, and Sweden's Johan Carlsson.

Americans Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar were in a large group on 4-under 66, along with two former champions - Graeme McDowell and last year's winner Justin Rose.

Rose picked up where he left off from Royal Aberdeen 12 months ago in what he called a ''pretty stress-free round'', while McDowell produced one of his best displays of a miserable 2015 that has seen him register just one top-10 finish either side of the Atlantic.

The 2010 U.S. Open champion, who has plunged to No. 52 in the rankings, raced to 5-under after four straight birdies on Nos. 5-8 but ruined his round by three-putting the last two holes for bogeys. McDowell is looking to revive his game by watching videos of his 2010 swing.

''It's about trying to turn this train round back the right way,'' McDowell said. ''It's been a tough grind this year.''

Olesen was regarded as one of Europe's next big things around 2011-12 but hasn't really kicked on, with his two titles coming at the Sicilian Open in 2012 and the Perth International in 2014.

Down at No. 122 in the rankings, Olesen has previous form on the links - he was runner-up at the Dunhill Links Championship in 2012, after finishing tied for ninth at the British Open at Royal Lytham.

''I grew up in Denmark and am used to playing in a lot of wind, so I think that helps me,'' Olesen said.

Olesen found 11 of 14 fairways, which he said was the key to his round and allowed him to attack a course that wasn't protected by wind. A 40-foot putt on No. 12 took him to 4 under before his three successive birdies pushed him clear on his own.

Three qualifying places for next week's British Open are up for grabs for top-10 finishes, and Olesen is among the players still to book his place at St. Andrews.

Phil Mickelson, the 2013 winner at the Scottish Open, struggled with his putting in shooting a 1-under 69.

''I haven't played the last couple of weeks and I was a little rusty,'' Mickelson said.

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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.