What Off Season

By Brian HewittDecember 10, 2007, 5:00 pm
Maybe Bubba and The Shark in a shootout in Florida would have sounded a little too much like a Bert Reynolds stock car movie out of the '70s with Sally Field as the obligatory eye candy.
 
Instead Woody Austin drained a 35-foot putt on the last hole Sunday to win $350,000 for himself and partner Mark Calcavecchia at Merrill Lynchs favorite golf tournament. Greg Norman and Bubba Watson, who entered the last hole of this team event tied with Austin and Calcavecchia, will have to wait for another day.
 
And so it went for another week deep into the 2007 calendar in the kingdom of golf. Once again there were more developments worthy of note and comment.
 
To be sure, Fred Couples and John Daly were a bit of an odd pairing at the event hosted by Norman. These two always attract huge galleries. But for different reasons.
 
Everybody who loves golf but somehow feels disenfranchised from the game because he or she isnt a golf blueblood, is a John Daly fan.
 
Couples falls more into the category of how Arnold Palmer used to woo crowds without even having to try. It was once said of Palmer that men wanted to be like him and women wanted to be with him. And it was true. The same can be said of Couples.
 
Sadly, for the fans of Daly and Couples, the probability that both will be able to play a full schedule in 2008 is small. Daly has a separated shoulder that is wont to pop in and out like a loose peg on a cribbage board. Couples has a dodgy back that has dogged him for years and shows no signs of ever healing permanently.
 
Daly and Couples showed flashes but wound up ninth in a 12-team field at Normans party. And depending upon how you view the world of famous golfers, there was perhaps another odd couple on display at Normans tournament.
 
That would be Norman himself and his Florida neighbor/icon Chris Evert. In case you havent been reading the tabs, Norman and Evert are an item. And its now official.
 
It wasnt that long ago that Norman and wife Laura and daughter Morgan Leigh and son Gregory were the model family. Now Normans divorce has gotten messy and public. These things happen. They are not always nice.
 
But there was Greg Norman submitting to a nationally televised interview late Saturday with Evert at his side. Norman made no secret of his affection for Evert. I love her to death, he said.
 
Turns out, Norman said unabashedly, they have been friends since the '70s. Now they are closer and Norman says he is in a very good place in his life. If you are a Greg Norman fan, you are happy for him.
 
For her part, Evert teased that she thinks Norman is too good of an athlete to be a golfer. Evert gushed about his legs. He can run, she said.
 
Everts remark was made in good spirit. But somewhere Sam Snead, one of the great athletes of all time, was spinning in his grave. And Ill put Tiger Woods workout regimen, as described to me by those inside his camp, up there with any tennis player who ever lived.
 
Meanwhile in South Africa, native son Ernie Els had everybody there scratching their heads when he made an 8 on the 72nd hole to hand the Alfred Dunhill Championship to little-known John Bickerton by a shot.
 
Els was looking for his 25th Euro win, his 55th victory worldwide and his fifth triumph in this event. And when he bombed his drive down the middle on the final hole, the drama appeared to be over.
 
Instead, Els fanned his iron second into the water right of the green. Then he overclubbed his fourth from the drop area into the water long. And when the 8-footer for 7 missed to the right, he had made a ghastly snowman and Bickerton had received an early Christmas present.
 
It was all downright frosty. Unless you were the startled Bickerton. Thats golf, Bickerton said. Thats what golf is. Im in shock.
 
Els was left wondering what this will mean for his preparations for 2008 which, until Sunday, were proceeding quite nicely for the worlds No. 5.
 
But that is golf. It is unpredictable. Like Freddie and J.D. together. Like Greg and Chrissie together.
 
Golf, like life, doesnt offer sure things. Unless, of course, your first name is Tiger and you are leading a major after 54 holes.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Merrill Lynch Shootout
  • Full Coverage - Els' Colossal Collapse
  • Getty Images

    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

    Getty Images

    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.

    Getty Images

    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.

    Getty Images

    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.