Collapsed Bridge Strong Hearts
In town for the Champions Tours 3M Championship, I found myself, like so many other people, just plain lucky. My timing was lucky, plain and simple. Sadly, very sadly, other people were not so lucky. At the time I write this column, the known death toll from the Minneapolis bridge collapse is at least seven.
In the days that followed, I had a chance to talk to some people about the disaster.
John Harris is a life long Minnesotan. He was born in Minneapolis, went to the University of Minnesota and resides in Edina, Minnesota. I asked John for his thoughts.
It was a real sober and somber moment for Minnesota, said John Harris. But tragedies like that happen. I think the people of Minnesota will rally together and bond together and theyll make it through this. Its a tough group here. Weve got a lot of quality people here and I hope that we learn from this and that it doesnt happen again.
I asked John if he was proud of the way the city of Minneapolis and the state of Minnesota were coming together and working together during this disaster.
John replied, The people are tough here and they have a lot of local pride and it doesnt surprise me at all that they come together like they do.
Asked how big of a distraction the bridge collapse was for him in terms of being prepared to compete in the 3M Championship, John said, Well, I dont think its going to be a distraction. I think that everyone will take a step back and reflect and realize that golf really isnt that important when it comes to life overall and these are the kinds of things that remind us that we play a game and we entertain and we still try and do the best we can. But in the big scheme its not very important.
Curtis Strange has been at the epicenter of professional golf since 1979 when he won his first PGA TOUR event, the Pensacola Open. Back to back U.S. Opens in 1988 and 1989 solidified him in the upper strata of professional golf. In Curtis mind, charity is the real star.
I think it goes without saying that one of the main reasons, if not the main reason that we have all of these events on the regular TOUR and on the Champions Tour is to help out the communities and support some of the charitable organizations that are involved with the events, Curtis said. And certainly, this was a terrible tragedy. We were all concerned for volunteers going over that bridge two and three and four times a day and players going over that bridge twice a day and thank goodness nobody directly involved with the tournament was involved. But, unfortunately there were people on that bridge. We as a group are responsible to help those people and victims. So were doing that. I hope we raise a ton of money and the people affected by the bridge collapse are certainly in our thoughts and prayers.
Tom Watson teed it up in the 3M Championship coming off his victory in the Senior British Open the week prior. Like Curtis Strange, Watson was optimistic about the funds the Champions Tour will raise for charities that can directly impact the Interstate 35W bridge collapse.
One of the things that we can do is we can ply our trade and raise funds for charity very easily, Tom Watson said. And thats been the history of the professional golf tours. You can probably take everybody who plays professional golf in one way or another ' they have their own charity benefit or some players have several charity benefits ' and they raise money through their playing of the game and the notoriety to raise funds for the things that are needed to help out.
One of the really neat things about the 3M Championship played at the TPC Twin Cities golf course is that the tournament attracts the Post-It Greats of Golf. It is a team exhibition event within the event itself that features some of the greatest players the game has ever known. Arnold Palmer was front and center. His army of fans cheering him on with every shot. I asked Mr. Palmer for his thoughts on the bridge collapse.
Thats a pretty tough thing right now, Mr. Palmer said. I think everybody feels very badly about what happened and certainly those things dont normally happen to us but every once in a while it unfortunately does happen. We just hope that the people who were involved who survived it are doing well and are able to meet the crisis.
Arnold Palmer is often credited with starting, or at the very least being the main catalyst, that successfully launched the Champions Tour. I asked him if was pleased with the way the Champions Tour responds to tragedies like the Minneapolis bridge collapse.
The whole thing, this Champions Tour, is about raising money for charities and also allowing these players to play some golf beyond their regular PGA TOUR careers, Mr. Palmer said. And this tour has worked quite well. I think the charities are doing very well and as you know I am particularly interested in Prostate Cancer and of course just about any type of cancer we can help with were doing everything we can to help. And when golf is the thing that makes it move along were very happy for that, too.
I asked Mr. Palmer if he had a few words of encouragement for the people involved in the disaster. He said, Well, I just want to wish all the people that were so unfortunate to experience what they have here this week my best and I hope they can survive it.
It was a dream like week for Mitch Adams. The 50-year old from Cary, North Carolina was a Monday qualifier and he made the best of his opportunity by finishing in a tie for third place. Mitch fought through tears as I asked him for his thoughts.
Absolutely. Absolutely, Mitch said. The whole week has been just an incredible week. With that tragedy and then the way the fans showed up for this eventits just been incredible.
3M is headquartered in neighboring St. Paul, Minnesota. They have been involved with the Minneapolis area Champions Tour event for many years. Recognized as one of the Champions Tours most successful tournaments from the standpoint of charitable endeavors, the tournament has donated over $12 million to charity since 1993. For 2007, 3M had earmarked $1.3 million to go to Allina's United Hospital and Mercy & Unity Hospitals. This was prior to the Minneapolis Interstate 35W bridge collapse. In consideration of the tragedy, 3M pledged even more money would be raised.
I suggested to Bob MacDonald, Sr. Vice President, Sales and Marketing for 3M that the week had two distinct sides: the nightmare side and the silver lining in the cloud side. He agreed.
It turned out to be a good week for us out here on the course but our hearts go out to those people that were touched by the disaster, said Mr. MacDonald. And this is a very philanthropic tournament. Its our fifteenth year and this year we had decided to give money to three hospitals and two of them had chosen to use the money for emergency services. So, that was fantastic. The disaster was a horrible tragedy but we hope the money we have been able to raise along with this great Champions Tour and these great players will in some small way ease some of the pain.
Fate dealt a mind numbing hand last Wednesday night in Minneapolis. As for me, it could have been a very close call. I finished my work at the tournament site at about 5:30 pm on Wednesday. Minneapolis is home to one of my favorite steak houses. I remember driving out of the parking lot and trying to decide if I should drive directly in to Minneapolis for dinner or if I should go back to my hotel first and shower up. A right turn would take me towards downtown and across the Interstate 35W bridge. A left would take me towards the suburbs and my hotel. I took the left and went back to my hotel. When I got in my room I turned on the television and I saw the horror of the bridge collapse. Needless to say I didnt go in to town for a steak that night.
My thoughts and prayers are with the families of lost and missing persons and also with the fine people of the city of Minneapolis.
Email your thoughts to Casey Bierer
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
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
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
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.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
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.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
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.