Right Score Wrong Guy
Often, when I get a spare moment, I log on to thegolfchannel.com discussion boards to see what people are saying, or thinking, or just to steal a good line or two. About six months ago I saw a thread title that I thought was interesting. What I Like About The Game, was started by a poster with the screen name Holuta. I loved his first post. It was a list which included the sound of spikes on a cart path, and the smell of fresh cut grass. Holuta seemed like my kind of guy. His list went right to the heart of the game and made me think of all the things I loved about it.
After we exchanged a few posts I found out that Holuta was a freshman in High School named Brad Holuta. I liked his attitude so much I invited him to play at Shinnecock with me. I told him to bring his dad and a fourth and wed set a date in the spring, which turned out to be the Wednesday after Bethpage, when U.S. Open drama was fresh in our memories.
I met the Holutas at the airport when they arrived Tuesday night. Brad brought his dad and uncle Chris to play. His mom, Cindy and little brother, Brent were there just to have fun. They were all nice, gracious and happy. I saw immediately that the young man had inherited wonderful genes.
We got underway at 8:10 the next morning. Three balls in the first fairway, Brad and Frank were on the green in regulation. Three pars and a bogey had our group feeling good headed towards the second tee. I didnt have the heart to tell them that wed just played the easiest hole on the course.
The second hole is a long par-3. We made a couple of bogeys and some unmentionables and Brad turned to me and said, Wouldnt it be great if one of us made a hole-in-one and got on leaderboard report? I wanted the kid to get an ace at Shinnecock to cap off his trip.
The weather was perfect, we were cheering our pars, and ignoring the blemishes on the card. Brad was being introduced to the fescue grass and lightning greens from the U.S. Open tees (his idea, not mine). He was also introduced to a birdie at No. 5. That number will be sought after 100 weeks from now, for sure. The next hole is the most difficult on the course and Brad fully realized how nice that birdie was, after his travails at No. 6.
Legend has it that Ben Hogan called the 11th at Shinnecock the shortest par-5 in golf, though Trevino usually gets the credit. Its actually a par-3 with a wicked green surrounded by trouble. Hit it long left and youll pray for a five. The hole was 160 yards, uphill without any wind. The air was a bit muggy and heavy. The pin was cut back left near the drop-off to treachery.
I was first on the tee, and took a 5-iron, intending to find the fat part of the green (note, thats like looking for the fat part of Calista Flockhart). Id flushed a 4-iron on the last hole so I went back to the bag and pulled a six. I made good contact but pulled it just a hair. A big bounce and Im long left. Double. If it landed short on a narrow runway, Id have an uphill birdie putt, 20 feet or so. The green would feed naturally toward the hole, so I stood still. It took a bounce and began tracking. It was a good shot, but theres one heartbreaking spot on the green which gathers balls and hides them from the tee, making it look like youve holed out. My ball moved towards the pin and disappeared right at the bottom of the stick, near that hollow in the green.
My caddy, Anthony, said, I think its over. The other caddy, Arthur, has been at Shinnecock for six decades. He climbed on to a bench on the tee for a better vantage point. He was silent. My playing companions were excited, theyd never seen one and were having a lot of fun imagining that they just had. I assured them I was short and the ball was hidden.
They all hit their tee shots, quickly I might add. As we walked from the tee we were all silent. Halfway to the green I said, I feel like the guy whos throwing a perfect game and no one will talk to me! They laughed. I said it was short, in the hollow, but Frank got to the green and said he didnt see anything. I told them that it must have gone over. Anthony quickened his stride towards the hole and yelled, Its in when he got there. We let out hoots and hollers and hugged and high fived and took pictures and laughed. I repaired the ball mark which had made the green by six inches. I had wanted Brad to make one on that day, but was happy with my first.
I put the ball away and walked to the next hole thinking I would have that card for a while, I needed to post a score I could be proud of. I knew that if I made two pars, I could bogey in for a 79. Chris said, Who has the tee? and we all broke out laughing again.
When I birdied 18 to shoot 76 the Holuta family became my official good luck charm. High fives and hugs and back slaps continued all the way up to the veranda for lunch. Chris turned to me and said, Sometimes good deeds bear fruit quickly. I told him that without Frank and Cindy raising such a fine son, I would never have read the post, wouldnt have been playing that day, and still wouldnt have a hole-in-one. Again I was thankful for Brad and his take on golf.
Such is the serendipitous nature of our game. Sometimes, through a combination of errors, good intentions and destiny a person can experience wonderful moments and people can bond in the blink of an eye. I experienced one of those moments on June 19, 2002 on the 11th hole at Shinnecock with a family of people I now count among my friends.
Check out TGC's Discussion Boards for yourself
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.