The Heart of the Season

By Brian HewittJune 29, 2005, 4:00 pm
It's that time of year in the golf season when the PGA Tour can have an exciting finish--Padraig Harrington makes two Sunday eagles to edge Jim Furyk at the Barclays Classic--and Harrington's win can, arguably, be the fifth most compelling story of the weekend.

In fact that's exactly what happened Sunday.

And its exactly why this is the most fun time of the year to follow golf. There is so much going on every week. With all due respect to Harrington's second Tour victory of the year, there were better stories last week.

Birdie Kim
Birdie Kim reacts after holing out on the 72nd hole to win the U.S. Women's Open.
Lead among them was the startling emergence of Korea's Birdie Kim, with her shocking bunker hole-out at Cherry Hills on the 72nd hole that won the U.S. Women's Open just when it looked like 17-year-old Morgan Perssel was about to steal 15-year-old Michelle's Wie's thunder after it became apparent that Wie wasn't going to steal 34-year-old Annika Sorenstam's Grand Slam thunder despite the fact that Wie was tied for the lead after 54 holes.

Kim now gets the last spot in the HSBC World Match Play this week. And Wie gets to ponder exactly what it was that caused her to shoot a closing 82. And, oh-by-the-way, she's got the John Deere Classic waiting for her next week after the men get finished with the Cialis Western Open Sunday.

Speaking of which, one of the players in the field at Cog Hill will be Illinois golf coach Mike Small. Small won the PGA Club Professional Championship in brutal conditions at the Ocean Course at Kiawah where designer Pete Dye says the course plays different every single day of the year. 'It's a moving golf course,' Dye says, referring to all the wind and sand that blows about at Kiawah.

Not bad for Small, a guy required to spend more time recruiting and coaching than working on his game. 'I was a little bit rusty starting out,' said Small, a two-time winner on the Nationwide Tour. But he worked out the kinks against some very good players.

Then there was more French farce from Jean Van de Velde, who led the field late in the Open de France Sunday near Paris before reminding us all over again what a tragicomic figure he is in golf. Van de Velde, you will remember, is the guy who made a triple bogey on the 72nd hole of The Open Championship at Carnoustie in 1999 before losing in a playoff to Paul Lawrie.

Van de Velde started dunking balls in the water again this time while handing the keys to victory over to Jean Paul Remesy.

Meanwhile, Mark McNulty, one of the best putters never to have gotten credit for it, captured a playoff on the Champions Tour by, guess what, making a crucial putt.

Morgan Pressel
Morgan Pressel wore her emotions on her sleeve Sunday at Cherry Hills.
And there you have it, a good case for ranking Harrington's victory No. 5 in golf's box office. Speaking of which, the TV ratings for Kim's victory were the highest on the LPGA Tour since 1997.

Wie, Pressel, Sorenstam, Paula Creamer (who triple bogeyed the 71st hole) and Lorena Ochoa (who quadruple-bogeyed the 72nd) will all be spending private moments wondering what went wrong at Cherry Hills. But they will all be back.

Until then there will be a major championship on one tour or another, almost non-stop, through the end of August.

This is the heart of the season in golf. A time during which you can work a full day, come home for dinner and go out for nine holes before darkness falls.

Its that time of the year in golf--the best time of the year.
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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.