Herman leads Honda by 1; McIlroy 8 back

By Doug FergusonFebruary 26, 2015, 11:31 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Playing in America for the first time this year, Rory McIlroy's first shot was a 2-iron out of play.

A relentless wind with gusts that approached 35 mph provided a rude welcome to just about everyone Thursday at the Honda Classic except for Jim Herman, who somehow made it around PGA National without a bogey for a 5-under 65 and a one-shot lead.

McIlroy managed to salvage a tough day with by holing a 30-foot birdie putt and two-putting for birdie on the 18th hole for a 3-over 73. It was his highest score to par since he opened with a 3-over 74 at The Barclays seven months ago. And he didn't seem too bothered.

The world's No. 1 player was competing for the first time since he won in Dubai a month ago. And he wasn't alone. He played with Dustin Johnson, who birdied his last two holes for a 77, and Phoenix Open winner Brooks Koepka, who shot a 78.


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''The conditions were obviously very tricky from the start,'' McIlroy said. ''From the first hole, it was always going to be a day like that. I feel like I salvaged something out of the round the last couple holes, but it was just a day to keep trying, not to give up and know that anything around level, 1-, 2-over par still isn't out of it.''

Only 19 players managed to break par. Only three holes - both par 5s and the downwind ninth - played under par. Seventeen players had a front-nine score of 40 or higher.

Herman didn't mind the wind, though he moved to South Florida more than a decade ago and was surprised earlier in the week when there was hardly any wind at all. Even with a 65, it still wasn't easy. He twice saved par from the fairway and rolled in a 35-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole.

''I don't mind it blowing,'' Herman said. ''I feel like I can control the golf ball pretty well with my iron game. So yeah, it was OK that the wind was blowing.''

Brendan Steele pitched in from about 35 yards to save bogey on the 14th hole, a key moment in his round of 66. Martin Flores, Kapalua winner Patrick Reed and Padraig Harrington were at 67. U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer was among those at 68.

Harrington would seem to feel at home in these conditions. On a day when the gusts were relentless, they still would be considered a wee breeze in Ireland. Except that the Irishman has spent the last four weeks in gorgeous, calm weather on the West Coast.

''If I had come from Ireland, I probably would be thinking it was a nice day,'' Harrington said. ''But having played the last four weeks over here, even I was struggling and questioning and doubting myself out there. I found it very difficult.''

McIlroy found that out immediately.

Even starting on the easier first hole, the wind fooled him and took his 2-iron far to the right and toward the driving range. Just like that, he was 2 over.

He found the water left of the green on the par-3 fifth hole for another double bogey, and came within a foot of big trouble on the 14th. His tee shot went left toward some houses and stopped about 18 inches from the out-of-bounds stakes. He made bogey to fall to 5 over with four holes remaining.

Walking to the 15th tee, the power group of the day had put up some shocking numbers.

Johnson, who contended at Riviera and Pebble Beach, was 9 over for his round. Koepka was 5 over. Collectively, that made the group 19 over.

''Walking from 14 green to 15 tee, I said to Brooks, 'Let's just make a couple birdies on the way in, try and get something out of it,''' McIlroy said. ''Luckily, I was sort of able to do that. But it was tough. When nothing is going your way and you don't really have anything to feed off, you don't see many good shots and guys ... we're all struggling. It was a grind out there. We'll all go home and put our feet up and get ready for tomorrow.''

No one could remember the last time they faced such wind, which wasn't that strong for South Florida. There was virtually no wind in Hawaii this year, or even at Pebble Beach. It was a stiff start to the Florida swing.

Reed had the best score of the afternoon wave, when the wind was at its strongest.

''When I hit 6-iron normally 200 yards and I'm pulling 6-iron from 170, it's tough,'' Reed said. ''The main thing was just to stay in my golf swing and just be comfortable and try to be confident that's the club to hit from those distances. I feel like I did a good job.''

Phil Mickelson opened with a 71 and was relatively pleased, though that was hard work. He hit into water hazards three times on the front nine.

''I really enjoyed the challenge of the day,'' Mickelson said. ''It's fun to be back out competing, and I had a good day with the putter.''

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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.