Kirk, Horschel share Rd. 1 Tour Championship lead

By Doug FergusonSeptember 11, 2014, 10:50 pm

ATLANTA - Chris Kirk and Billy Horschel have little in common except a clean card of 4-under 66 at the Tour Championship and their chances at the biggest payoff in golf.

Kirk and Horschel, the top two seeds going into the FedEx Cup finale at East Lake, played in the final group and traded birdies - neither of them made a bogey - over four hours in steamy weather to share the lead.

They need only to win the Tour Championship to claim the FedEx Cup and its $10 million bonus.

''Billy has obviously been playing some pretty incredible golf with winning last week and finishing second the week before,'' Kirk said. ''And I've been doing all right myself.''

Kirk is a 29-year-old who went to Georgia and plays golf without a pulse. Even when he chipped in from 80 feet on the 17th hole, he simply smiled and bowed his head before slapping hands with his caddie.


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Horschel is a 27-year-old who went to Florida, brash enough to wear octopus prints on his pants in the final round at a U.S. Open, to flip his cap around backward and to pump his fist for routine pars.

They grew up playing amateur golf against each other. They were teammates in the Walker Cup.

And they are leading the race to the FedEx Cup.

''We're probably two completely opposite people in the sense that he just looks like he's moving very slow and nothing affects him,'' Horschel said. ''I look like I'm running around the golf course - literally last Sunday. But Chris and I get along very well. We seem to always play well when we're paired together.''

Horschel won the BMW Championship last week and was seen sprinting off the fairway toward a portable toilet because he couldn't hold it anymore. Kirk won the Deutsche Bank Championship the previous week, and he surprised even himself when twice - a career high - he pumped his fist after making a putt.

They didn't have the course to themselves.

Masters champion Bubba Watson made seven birdies to offset a few mistakes, such as trying to hit a shot through a gap in the trees. It worked at Augusta National two years ago. His ball clipped a branch Thursday, leading to double bogey.

A bogey from the bunker on the par-3 18th hole gave him a 67, leaving him in reasonable shape. Watson was tied with Patrick Reed, Jim Furyk and Jason Day.

The top five seeds need only to win the Tour Championship to claim the FedEx Cup. Watson is third.

Rory McIlroy is at No. 4, and he didn't hurt himself. McIlroy wasn't at his best, though he made enough birdies and key par saves for a 69 that kept him very much in the hunt.

''You can really shoot yourself out of it,'' McIlroy said. ''Even though I didn't play great, I kept it together.''

Hunter Mahan might have shot himself out of it. Mahan is seeded fifth and opened with a 74. Only one other player in the 29-man field - Geoff Ogilvy, who is just happy to have made it to the Tour Championship - had a worse score.

Mahan, one of three captain's picks for the Ryder Cup, has broken par once in his last nine rounds since winning The Barclays.

Kirk was left off the Ryder Cup team, even though he has two wins this season and had just won a FedEx Cup playoff event the day before U.S. captain Tom Watson announced his three picks. Horschel might be the hottest in golf at the moment. He is prone to go on big streaks like this.

They have only one cup in mind, and they took a big step toward it Thursday.

''This is my sixth week in a row. I haven't played more than three events in a row this year,'' Horschel said. ''But I have no issues with that. Listen, this is the FedEx Cup playoffs. If you can't get yourself in shape and get up for it on a daily basis, they why are you playing this game?

''It's our playoffs. It's like the World Series or the NBA championships and NFL playoffs. And we're all tired and we've just got to figure how to put it out of our mind and go out and play golf.''

Horschel has more on his mind than just a $10 million bonus. His wife is expecting their first child in two weeks. He said even if she were to go into labor early, they agreed that he should stay in Atlanta and try to win the FedEx Cup.

DIVOTS: Jason Day's coach and caddie, Colin Swatton, had to stop after eight holes when his back locked up on him. Day's mental coach caddied the rest of the way. ... Cameron Tringale made his debut in the Tour Championship with a 68, but it wasn't his first time at East Lake. He played at Georgia Tech, which has a corporate membership at East Lake. ... The average score was 69.8.

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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.