Stadler Lefty Set for Weekend Duel

By Associated PressNovember 9, 2007, 5:00 pm
2006 HSBC ChampionsSHANGHAI -- Kevin Stadler came to the HSBC Champions tournament with few expectations. He was even prepared to have a bad week in China.
What mattered was being free of the pressure of the U.S. tour, where he has struggled to find his niche.
Instead, Stadler led two-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson by one shot, carding a 3-under 69 on Friday for an 11-under 133 total to top a field that includes 10 of the world's top 20.
Drawing the largest galleries in the absence of Tiger Woods, No. 2-ranked Mickelson shot a 66 with four birdies on the last five holes to go with Thursday's 68. Englishman Ross Fisher (68) and Simon Yates (66) of Scotland were three behind at the Sheshan Golf Club.
Vijay Singh trailed by four after a 70 with other high-profile players far off the pace in the $5 million event, the biggest purse in Asian golf.
'I just kind of came here to have fun,' said Stadler, who saved his U.S. Tour card on Sunday -- the final day of the season.
He needed to finish in the top 125 on the money list, and ended up at No. 124.
'I came here to enjoy the whole experience, not really, not really taking it all that seriously,' he said, pausing to rephrase his reply. 'That doesn't sound right. I don't know how to word this properly. More relaxed.'
So far, Stadler seems comfortable everywhere except the U.S. tour. He's had two strong seasons on the Nationwide Tour -- the level just below the U.S. tour -- and his biggest win came in 2006 in Australia.
'I'm definitely more comfortable now that I am over there (U.S. tour),' he said. 'I don't know why that is. I do enjoy myself when I'm out of the country. I don't know what the reason is for that, but I definitely feel more at ease when I'm playing over here.'
The son of 1982 Masters champion Craig Stadler, the younger Stadler said the famous name did not bring extra pressure. However, it might raise the expectations of others. And that, in turn, my cause him to press.
'I think I have expected too much out of myself on tour and I think I probably put a little more pressure on myself than I should,' he said. Though the pressure is off Stadler in China, he said the field in the HSBC Champions -- the first event of the 2008 European Tour season -- was as good as any in the United States.
'The competition over here is phenomenal,' Stadler said. 'This field here is every bit as good as it is every week in the States. It's definitely got nothing to do with that. I don't know how to pinpoint it.'
Mickelson finally produced on his first Asia swing. Last week he finished 16 behind in the Singapore Open. On Friday, he birdied four of the last five holes, negotiating a difficult wind and thick Bermuda rough that made the 7,199-yard course more testing than it was in a light breeze and sunshine on Thursday.
Mickelson ran in a 3-foot birdie putt on No. 14, dropped another from 10 feet at 16. On a roll, he birdied from 25 feet on 17 and had a 4-footer on 18.
'I played solid throughout and didn't make a bogey,' Mickelson said. 'I was able to play a good round in some tough conditions starting out, although the wind died down in the end.
'I like the golf course a lot,' Mickelson added. 'It's very similar to what we see on tour in the U.S. The greens are putting beautifully. ... If you read them well you are going to make a lot of putts.'
Unlike Mickelson, many of the world's other top-ranked players struggled on Friday.
British Open champion Padraig Harrington and U.S. Open winner Angel Cabrera each shot 72. So did Sergio Garcia.
Two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen shot 74, Ernie Els had a 75, and Colin Montgomerie slipped to 78. Also, Niclas Fasth, who shared the first-round lead with Stadler, shot a 75 and was tied to drop into a tie for seventh at 5 under.
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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.