Woods Practices with Old Stanford Friend

By Associated PressJune 13, 2005, 4:00 pm
Four days ago, Conrad Ray was getting ready for the summer golf camp at Stanford University, where he just finished his first year as the golf coach. Monday morning, he was on the first tee with Tiger Woods, getting ready for the U.S. Open.
 
'What a crazy week it's been,' Ray said on the practice range at Pinehurst No. 2, where he got into the 156-man field as the first alternate when Darren Clarke withdrew last week.
 
The week is just getting started at the major championship known as the toughest test in golf, famous for its narrow fairways and brick-hard greens that require as much patience as shotmaking and putting.
 
Ray was just thrilled to be part of the show.
 
A former teammate of Woods at Stanford who never made it past the Nationwide Tour, this was his 12th time to try to qualify for the U.S. Open, and he figured he had missed again when he made par in a playoff and was eliminated at the 36-hole sectional qualifying last week at Tarzana, Calif.
 
But when Clarke withdrew to be with his ailing wife, Ray became the first alternate.
 
'I thought it was one of my kids on the team playing a joke on me,' he said.
 
The first people Ray called were his parents. Then he called Woods.
 
They were teammates for two years at Stanford and tried to keep in touch over the years. Ray last saw him at the Stanford-Cal basketball game in February. He said Woods put in a good word for him when Ray applied to replace longtime Cardinal golf coach Wally Goodwin.
 
'I said, 'Hey, the broke-down coach is in. Can we play?'' Ray said. 'He called last night and said to meet him on the first tee at 7 a.m.'
 
Euan Walters of Australia filled out the threesome, the first group off in three days of practice.
 
Most players already know what to expect from the 1999 U.S. Open.
 
Pinehurst No. 2 is renowned for the domed greens that Donald Ross designed, the strength of the golf course. John Daly was among those who practiced Monday and had a large crowd following, perhaps remembering when Daly got so frustrated that he swatted a moving ball with his putter on the eighth hole and made an 11.
 
The condition of the course was a concern on two fronts.
 
The grass suffered at Pinehurst because of a cool spring, and USGA officials had to put sod around the slopes of some of the greens. Most of it has blended in, although Scott Verplank noticed some brown patches, and said it could be a factor depending on the shot.
 
'If you have a burnout, or a dead spot between you and the hole, you might have to decide whether to go over it or through it, and that could definitely affect what you're going to do,' Verplank said. 'And if you get on that spot and get a dirt lie, you've got to deal with it.'
 
David Toms noticed some of the tees that had been moved back, making it more difficult to find the correct line off the tee. As for the greens? Tough as ever.
 
'The misses are going to be the key,' Toms said. 'Where are you going to be if you miss? You have to consider that when you're hitting your second shot.'
 
Ray soaked it all in.
 
The 30-year-old played with Woods and Walter in the morning, then spent the afternoon squeezed between Bob Tway and Ted Purdy on the practice range, getting full service from a Nike Golf rep who was helping him with a new driver and shaft.
 
Ray isn't sure how the rest of the week will unfold. He has spent more time recruiting than practicing over the last two months. Stanford went from last in the Pac-10 to 18th at the NCAA championship two weeks ago.
 
His day job as Stanford's coach presented one dilemma during qualifying. Ray was in an eight-man playoff for three spots in local qualifying, joined by one of the players he had been recruiting for his 2006 class.
 
'There's all these NCAA rules, I'm a young coach, and I didn't know if I could talk to him,' Ray said. 'I gave him a quick handshake on the first tee and walked to the other side of the fairway. We both birdied and got through. I found out later I could talk to him, just not about Stanford.'
 
He planned to play a practice round Tuesday with J.J. Henry and Matt Kuchar, two other guys he played against in college, and will be grouped the first two days with Graeme McDowell and Steve Allan.
 
'I've made it to sectionals a few times, but to get to the big dance is pretty cool,' he said.
 
After calling his parents to celebrate and calling Woods to arrange a practice round, Ray had one last call to make.
 
'It was to the women's golf coach at Stanford,' he said, 'to thank her for handling those golf camps for me.'
 
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - 105th U.S. Open

  • Tee Times - U.S. Open

  • Photo Gallery from Pinehurst

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    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.”

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