Players Championship Dodges Major Bullet

By Associated PressMarch 30, 2005, 5:00 pm
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- The Players Championship dodged a major bullet.
 
The PGA Tour's showcase event was teetering on the edge of ridicule, although not for obvious reasons. It only would have looked bad if the fifth major had needed six days to find a winner.
 
Was it three rain delays that left players stranded in the clubhouse with nothing better to do than complain?
 
Not at all.
 
Weather happens. Golf should be thankful it doesn't happen more often. Besides, wholesale grumbling is heard the loudest at majors, so perhaps The Players Championship made big strides this year.
 
It wasn't the condition of the course or 'preferred lies' that tarnished its stature, either.
 
Rain turned the TPC at Sawgrass into a sloppy mess, leaving tournament officials no choice but to allow players to lift, clean and place the ball in the fairway. That doesn't happen at any other major, and purists will argue that the ball should be played where it lies.
 
That was one of the original 13 rules established in 1744 when golf primarily was played on seaside links courses. What would the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers have thought about the Stadium Course at Sawgrass? Or a course with a name closer to home, like Muirfield Village?
 
A popular phrase last week was playing golf 'the way it was meant to be played.'
 
Noble, indeed, but that carried an entirely different meaning depending on who was talking. For rules officials, that meant playing the ball down. For players, it meant playing shots without globs of mud on the side of the ball.
 
Peter Dawson, the square-jawed secretary of the Royal & Ancient, was hardly offended to see players handing golf balls to their caddies to be scrubbed clean and gently placed in the fairway.
 
'On this type of course, when it gets as wet as this, you've almost got no option,' he said. 'I think the ball should be played as it lies, as long as you can play proper golf. But with the conditions we've had, you couldn't have done that.'
 
Then there was that bizarre mulligan in the second round.
 
Thirty players began the round without being able to lift, clean and place. Once rain made preferred lies the only option, those scores were erased and the round started over. That cost players like Jesper Parnevik, Joe Ogilvie and Skip Kendall, and rescued Ernie Els.
 
But the most anyone had played was four holes.
 
That's like a bad call in the first quarter of a football game. No one remembers, and it rarely makes a difference.
 
What nearly cost The Players Championship major credibility was the fifth day.
 
It was the seventh time this tournament had to be finished on Monday, so that was nothing new. And there is a precedent on the major scene; the 1983 U.S. Open at Oakmont did not end until Monday because of rain.
 
But the wind that shooed away the storm nearly exposed the 17th hole as the gimmick it is, and showed why one hole might be the obstacle that keeps The Players Championship from being regarded as a major.
 
As it stands, the tournament has 17 holes of championship golf.
 
The other hole is a circus.
 
The island-green is the most notorious par 3 in golf, perhaps the most well-known among mainstream fans.
 
But it is not golf the way it is meant to be played.
 
Fred Funk chose to aim his 3-iron from 234 yards over the water and allow the wind to bring it back to land, setting up a two-putt birdie on the 16th for the outright lead. He stood over a 5-foot par putt on the 18 that gave him the biggest victory of his career.
 
What was the most nerve-racking moment on the final round? The 17th tee, of course.
 
'It can just ruin the whole week,' Funk said.
 
Tiger Woods called it a made-for-TV hole, easy for him to say since it usually eats his lunch. He would have no problem if it were the eighth hole of the round, but not one second from the end.
 
'I don't think a hole like that should decide a tournament,' he said.
 
It can decide fate long before that. Bob Tway was four shots out of the lead late in the third round Monday morning when he hit four balls into the water and made a 12, the highest score ever on that hole. Two shots hit the green and spun off into the water. He went from a tie for 10th to a tie for 72nd.
 
'You're playing great,' Tway said quietly. 'All of a sudden, in one hole, you might as well be finishing last.'
 
What spared The Players Championship from embarrassment was that the strongest wind in tournament history blew from left to right. Had the direction been downwind or into the players' faces, it would have become a guessing game which club to use and how far to hit it.
 
One of these days, that will happen.
 
Golf is not meant to be fair. One only has to look back nine months to the U.S. Open, where the USGA outlawed sprinklers. Tee shots would not stay on the bone-dry green at the par-3 seventh at Shinnecock Hills, turning a classic course into a farce. But at least players could aim for the bunker and try to save par.
 
You can't play the ball as it lies when it doesn't stay on the 17th green at Sawgrass.
 
It is an exciting hole, a dramatic hole. The Players Championship might not be the same without it.
 
Majors test skill, patience and nerves. At times, they require luck.
 
But they should never demand it.
 
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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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.