Victory Reminds Love to Enjoy the Trip
Until he ran off three straight birdies on the back nine that carried him to a two-shot victory in Greensboro, Love had every reason to want to purge 2006 from his memory. He had gone five of the last seven years without winning, but this was particularly ugly.
First came a wasted opportunity to capture his first World Golf Championship. Love missed a 3-foot par putt that cost him the lead and momentum, fanned a 6-iron from the fairway to fall further behind and wound up losing in the final match to Geoff Ogilvy.
He made history at The Players Championship for all the wrong reasons. After opening with a 65 to raise his hopes of joining Jack Nicklaus as the only three-time winners, Love followed with an 83 and became the first player in the 33-year history of golf's fifth major to go from first-to-worst, missing the cut by four shots with a quadruple-bogey 9 on his final hole.
The real majors didn't exactly bring redemption.
He never challenged at the Masters, then missed the cut in the U.S. Open and the British Open. His last hope was the PGA Championship, and Love was only one shot out of the lead going into the weekend until he closed with rounds of 73-76. Worse yet, he only needed to finish in a two-way tie for ninth to earn a spot on the Ryder Cup team, but instead tied for 34th and stayed home for the first time since 1991.
'One good round on the weekend and I would have made it,' he said.
It was a kick in the gut for Love to be at Firestone, listening to 12 players talk about boarding a charter flight for two days of practice in Ireland, knowing the closest he would get to the Ryder Cup was in front of his television.
The greater insult was hearing his name kicked around as a possible captain for 2008.
About the only thing he didn't lose was hope. Love took four weeks off to get strong for one final push in the last month of the season, and it paid off Sunday with his victory at the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro.
OK, so it wasn't the PGA or The Players Championship, nor was it the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. But it sure felt that way to Love, 42, who had gone 76 starts without a trophy.
At his age, in his health, the next win is no guarantee.
'I'll always remember this one, because it's like starting over again, like getting your first win all over again,' Love said.
It was his 19th career victory on the PGA TOUR, one win away from having lifetime membership. Among his peers, only Tiger Woods (54), Phil Mickelson (29) and Vijay Singh (29) and Greg Norman (20) have reached that level.
Love also climbed 24 spots to No. 15 on the money list, assuring his spot in the Tour Championship for the 12th straight year.
And he moved a fraction closer to the Hall of Fame, which is sure to feature a fierce debate. Love has been dealing with expectations his entire career, and even in victory he cannot dodge the question of whether he met his potential. As he was strolling up the 18th fairway at Greensboro, a TV analyst noted that Love was one short of 20 victories, then wondered if his talent should not have produced 30.
Even so, Love's credentials are strong. His victories include one major ('97 PGA Championship at Winged Foot) and two titles in The Players Championship. He was so solid for so long that Love played in every Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team since 1993, a streak that ended when he forgot the words his father once wrote on the inside of a book.
'Follow your dreams and enjoy the trip.'
Love has never had a problem chasing his dreams. It's the enjoyment part that got lost along the way.
For the 20 years that Love has played on the PGA TOUR, he has heard the same advice from sports psychologist Bob Rotella: Stop thinking about the results and just play.
'Either I don't get it or he doesn't get it,' Love said recently.
He should have learned his lesson at Winged Foot in 1997, when Love twice built a five-shot lead in the final round and started thinking about what it would mean to win the PGA Championship. Every time he looked ahead to the trophy presentation, Justin Leonard cut into the lead and made Love go back to work.
For those who think Love is too soft, he showed he has a hard head.
Even with two decades of experience, and more than his share of victory droughts, Love fell into the trap of being so results-oriented that he lost track of the game that got him there. All he cared about this year was making the Ryder Cup team, and the harder he tried, the worse he played.
Reality set in Monday morning after the PGA when captain Tom Lehman called to tell him he was not on the team.
'I told Tom Lehman about a month before the PGA that I was going to play good before the end of the year,' Love said. 'I just couldn't promise him when it was going to be. I certainly learned a big lesson this year because I wanted the Ryder Cup so bad that I let it get in the way of everything else I was doing.'
The Ryder Cup is behind him. The Tour Championship awaits, then a trip to Kapalua for the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship that kicks off a new season. Love can't wait to get started.
After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...
Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).
Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.
It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard
On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...
There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.
He sure looks like the real deal, though.
His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.
Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner
Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2
With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.
He picked up one more No. 2, too.
The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.
In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.
Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.
“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”
Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.
Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.
He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.
Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title
Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.
Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.
His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.
“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."
Tom Brady, postgame, on wearing the wrap on his hand: “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) January 22, 2018
Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.
Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.
Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:
Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)
What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.
Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.
Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.
Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.
Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.
Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:
Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry