007 Shaken AND Stirred

By Brian HewittDecember 26, 2007, 5:00 pm
This column, much like the recently-concluded 2007 golf season that is its subject matter, will be all over the map. So hold on for the ride. And dont look for any particular order.
 
My mind keeps coming back to that Tiger Woods putt that didnt go in the hole on Friday at the PGA Championship in the stultifying heat of Tulsa.
 
If it had, it would have been 62 and the lowest round in the history of all four major championships. The ball was almost three quarters of the way down before it squirmed out. And it was a metaphor for the unholy grail all of us chase every time we tee it up.
 
It proved once again that golf is bigger and better even than Tiger. And it proved, even as it stayed out of the cup, how much bigger and better Woods is than anybody else in the game today.
 
Woody Austin, a born mascot, showed the U.S. Presidents Cup team what the Americans have been missing in all those recent Ryder Cup humiliations. Chemistry in golf is an imprecise science. But great play plus the ability to laugh at yourself while others are doing the same are elements U.S. captain Paul Azinger will do well to weigh when making his Captains selections for the 2008 team.
 
Sergio Garcia needs a genie that will grant him three wishes. Those wishes would be in the form of three mulligan cards, to be applied any time he wants, for three missed putts of less than 10 feet. If the genie had been out of the bottle for Garcia in 2007, he would have won the Open Championship at Carnoustie. He also would have been able to relax over countless other short putts, secure in the knowledge that a do-over was waiting if he missed.
 
Padraig Harrington, the Irishman who beat Garcia in a playoff at Carnoustie, combined with his young son to give us the snapshot of the year in golf. Harrington had just made a nervous putt to save a double bogey to force the overtime. Now came young Patrick Harrington running onto the green and up into his Padraigs arms. There was still work left for the elder Harrington but his smile for his son was winningly unforced.
 
It reminded me of the time I cornered Harrington at the 1998 U.S. Open in San Francisco, alone on the range late in the day, and asked him about Irish golf legend Christy OConnor Sr. Harringtons expression grew distant as he recalled watching OConnor, years earlier, practicing knockdown 6-irons into the wind in weather I wouldnt put me cat out in at Royal Dublin hard by North Bull Island in the capitol of the Republic of Ireland.
 
Speaking of driving range interviews, I gingerly approached Indias Jeev Milkha Singh at the WGC-Accenture Match Play thinking I might need help from an interpreter. His English turned out to be better than most Americans I know and he had more time for me than I had for him.
 
And speaking of Singhs, I just looked at the end-of-the-year world rankings. If you had told me before the start of the season that Steve Stricker (5), Justin Rose (6) and K.J. Choi (9) would finish ahead of Vijay Singh (10), I would have suggested that you postpone your next drug test.
 
Stricker, by virtue of winning the TOURs Comeback Player of the Year award for the second straight season, now owns a record no one will ever break. Think about it: How is it possible to win Comeback Player of the Year two straight years. Its logically impossible.
 
Meanwhile, the straightest shooter in golf, for my money, is Butch Harmon. Harmon is at that age and stage of his life where he still loves to shoot the bull but has paid enough dues so that he doesnt feel the need to sling it.
 
Early in the year, I asked 2006 U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy if there was anything he could tell me about himself that nobody else knew. I have to take a shower every night before I go to sleep, he said. If I dont, I feel dirty.
 
Oakmont is the first golf course at which Ive covered an event that I did not want to play. Great conditioning. Great atmosphere. But just too damn hard for my high single digit handicap. If I had played my best, I would have been lucky to break 100. Tiger was right about Oakmont.
 
Lorena Ochoa is perhaps the most unaffected and naturally charming athlete I have ever covered in 35 years of golf, baseball, basketball, tennis, football and the Olympics. We know her Mexican countrymen and women are proud. But her parents should be the proudest of all.
 
Finally, I wont soon forget the geography lesson I got at the U.S. Womens Open at Pine Needles in North Carolina. I was talking to Maria Kostina, the first Russian ever to play in the event. Also in on the conversation was Maria sister and caddie, Anastasia.
 
Somehow the subject of Solheim Cup boundaries and qualifications came up along with the fact that parts of Russia were considered to be in Europe and other regions of the same country were considered to be in Asia.
 
We come from the part of Russia thats in Europe, Anastasia said firmly.

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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

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    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.