Doral redesign has Stricker, others starting fresh

By Doug FergusonMarch 4, 2014, 11:37 pm

DORAL, Fla. – Steve Stricker usually doesn't show up at a tournament on Sunday. He made an exception for the Cadillac Championship, and it made perfect sense.

And not just because snow is in the forecast at home in Wisconsin.

This is the 20-year anniversary of the first time Stricker played the Blue Monster at Doral.

Now it seems as if he's on a blind date.

''You know you're at Doral, but it doesn't feel anything like it,'' Stricker said Tuesday. ''A few holes, they haven't changed. But then you step up there, and 80 percent of them look different from the tee.''

And that was before he saw the Trump helicopter in all its glory to the left of the 10th tee.

''Isn't that something?'' Stricker said. ''That was probably the first thing they built, that helipad.''

Donald Trump bought Doral and is putting a golden touch on the resort, which includes the Blue Monster (now officially known as Trump National Doral). He brought in Gil Hanse, the architect who is designing the Olympic golf course in Rio, for a makeover the likes of which the PGA Tour has never seen.


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Some things haven't changed – the tropical warmth, and jetliners soaring over the golf course every minute as they descend on Miami International Airport. Trump didn't get the flight patterns changed. Not yet, anyway.

But with few exceptions, it's a brand new course.

Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano of Spain is in his first year on the PGA Tour. He only moved to Miami in December. He has played Doral four times, making this the one course he knows better than the other 68 players in the field, who are getting to know it for the first time.

''That's the feeling I have everywhere I go,'' he said. ''Now they know how I feel.''

The opening hole used to be one of the easiest par 5s on tour. A big tee shot in the fairway would leave a short iron into the green for the second shot. Making par felt like losing a shot to the field.

Stricker played a practice round with Jim Furyk, a past champion at Doral. Furyk hit a tee shot down the middle and had his head down as he walked toward the ball. Finally, he looked at his next shot – just under 260 yards to go, down and to the right with water wrapping around the right side of the green and bunkers dotting the landscape.

''Wow,'' Furyk said.

''You're going to be saying that a lot today,'' Stricker told him.

Whether the changes are for the better won't be known until Thursday when the scores count, and even then the opinions will vary. Odds are the player with a 68 might have a different answer from the guy who shot 75.

It's longer and stronger. Perhaps the biggest change on any section of the golf course is the 15th and 16th holes.

The par-3 15th is only about 150 yards, but water wraps around all but the far right side of the green. Jordan Spieth hit an 8-iron to the far back of the green. It landed about six paces from the back and wound up down the bank and into the water.

The short par-4 16th is a driver over the water, unless a player chooses to lay up with an iron to the right.

Spieth was stunned to learn the lake wasn't there before.

This is one time the 20-year-old Texan has an advantage. He knows the course about as well as anyone, which is not very well at all.

''Everyone's experience is gone,'' Stricker said.

As for Tiger Woods?

He is a four-time champion at Doral. He often talks about putting from memory, which will do him little good on a course where the greens have been redone. The shape of some holes is entirely different. There are slopes on the greens that weren't there before.

Woods was not at Doral on Tuesday, and the tournament was still awaiting word on whether the lower back injury that led him to withdraw from the Honda Classic on Sunday will be healed enough to play. If he does, he'll get one practice round on the Blue Monster before he defends his title.

''It's going to be a bit of a shock to him, I think because it's just such a different look,'' Jason Day said.

Justin Rose, who won at Doral two years ago, would rather a course go through a massive overhaul than just a few tweaks.

This was an overhaul. Trees are gone. Others have been planted. There are bunkers where there had been grass (left of No. 3). There is water where there wasn't water.

''So you don't get the sense of being on the same golf course,'' Rose said. ''I think if they had just reworked the greens and everything else looked identical, that might mess with your instincts more. But I think you really just view this as a new golf course. I didn't bring my yardage book from the past number of years. So it's a clean sheet.''

The busiest guys all week have been the caddies.

Jimmy Johnson, who works for Stricker, went back to the course Monday evening after a practice round to study. He normally would have been out there by himself. But when he arrived at the par-5 eighth hole – a completely different look with carry-over water for the second shot – he found three other caddies and joined them in stepping off the yardage for the best place to lay up.

''It took us 40 minutes,'' he said.

 

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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.