Villegas in the lead Ryder Cup duo in the hunt

By Associated PressSeptember 5, 2008, 4:00 pm
BMW ChampionshipST. LOUIS ' Camilo Villegas and Steve Stricker were excited to be playing golf Friday for different reasons, and it showed during a soggy start to the BMW Championship.
 
Villegas, coming off a tie for third last week that allowed him to advance in the PGA TOUR Playoffs, continued his good form with eight birdies on long, soft Bellerive Country Club for a 5-under 65 that gave him a one-shot lead.
 
The 26-year-old Colombian believes winning is a process, and it appears to be accelerating with each round.
 
Sometimes you really want to be on the golf course and its going great, and sometimes its a grind, Villegas said. Youve got to be ready for both. Im excited right now. I feel really good about by golf.
 
Stricker made a 35-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole for a 4-under 66, tied with Kenny Perry, Tim Herron, Stuart Appleby and Andres Romero.
 
The smile on his face had more to do with the putt.
 
His stomach has been churning the last month during what felt like an audition for the Ryder Cup. Stricker, who was bumped out of automatic qualifying at the PGA Championship, began sweating over every poor shot, every missed putt, and he only exhaled Monday night when U.S. captain Paul Azinger told him he was being selected.
 
The burden lifted, he played some of his most relaxed golf of the year.
 
It was a lot different than the last two weeks, Stricker said. I did feel a little more at easy. I didnt feel as much pressure on every shot. I felt a lot more relaxed.
 
PGA TOUR officials breathed easy, too.
 
The first round Thursday was postponed because of 3 inches of rain that about turned Bellerive into a water park. The forecast called for the storm to pass in the afternoon, but it stubbornly stayed through Friday morning, with a light rain as players warmed up on the range.
 
Even so, Bellerive was in decent shape. Some tees were moved forward, and hole locations were on high ground. Players were able to lift, clean and place their golf balls through the fairway. And while the course played every bit of its 7,324 yards, firing at the flags was merely target practice.
 
Thirty-six players in the 69-man field man field broke par, a group that did not include Vijay Singh, winner of the first two events in the finale for the FedExCup.
 
Singh remains virtually a lock unless someone close in the standings wins the last two events. But he hardly looked like the guy who won a playoff at Barclays and closed with a 63 to win the Deutsche Bank Championship.
 
He missed putts that had been going in from everywhere. Trying to putt with the blade of his sand wedge through the first cut of rough on the par-3 sixth, he stubbed the shot and took bogey. With a wedge in his hand, he came up 20 yards short of his mark and flipped his club to the ground.
 
Singh still wound up with a 70.
 
Its not an easy golf course, he said. The greens were slower than what we practiced on.
 
Sergio Garcia, No. 2 behind Singh by more than 12,000 points, was trying to move to the top of the leaderboard until he hooked his tee shot on the 610-yard eighth, where it hit a spectator and kept from going well off the fairway. He hooked his second shot into the rough and wound up with bogey, sending him to a 68.
 
Garcia and Mike Weir, who is No. 3 and shot 69, played in the same group as Singh. Garcia also played with him in the final round at the TPC Boston, only it wasnt the same Singh.
 
He hit more bad shots then he has the last two weeks, Garcia said. But Ive got to focus on one thing. Even if he doesnt do great, I still have to do very well.
 
The public parking lot was wiped out by the rain, the tournament started a day late under gray conditions, and the gallery still turned out in strong numbers, a tribute to a golf-mad city that hasnt seen this caliber of play since the 1992 PGA Championship, won by Nick Price.
 
Villegas delivered most of the moments, including a string of four birdies that began with a 40-footer at No. 5 and ended with a pair of tap-ins inside a foot.
 
Asked what he learned about last week that carried forward to St. Louis, Villegas said, That I can play out here, I guess. Still to be determined is whether he can hoist a trophy.
 
Villegas advanced to the third round of the playoffs by making the cut at TPC Boston, and his tie for third enabled him to move up 33 spots to No. 25. One more solid week will get him into the TOUR Championship.
 
Herron, however, was on his way home until closing with a 65 to tie for fifth and advance to St. Louis. He kept right on going, playing with confidence from his first top 10 of the year, finishing his round with a birdie. His only concern was the 36 holes that awaited Saturday to make up for the washout Thursday.
 
Tomorrow will be a test, because Im not in great shape, said the Minnesotan known as Lumpy for a reason.
 
How would be prepare?
 
Im going to hit a few bunker shots and then go to bed, he said.
 
Perry was among those that had his mind on the cup ' not the FedExCup, but the Ryder Cup in two weeks. Ditto for British Open and PGA champion Padraig Harrington, who had a respectable 69.
 
Harrington said his plan was to peak for the Ryder Cup.
 
I just didnt envision so much drama in the summer, he said of his two majors.
 
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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.