McGirt takes two-shot lead in NTO

By Doug FergusonFebruary 15, 2014, 11:24 pm

LOS ANGELES – A city known for its star power has a PGA Tour event filled with fairy tales off Sunset Boulevard.

Start with William McGirt, who ran off eight birdies in 13 holes at Riviera on his way to a 6-under 65 on Saturday to build a two-shot lead in the Northern Trust Open. Going into his fourth full season, McGirt has never won on the PGA Tour. His last victory was on the eGolf Tour in the Carolinas, where the $16,000 winner's check paid off his credit cards. Asked to name the mini-tours he played, McGirt said he would run out of fingers and toes counting them.

''When you're around mini-tours for eight years and go through a bunch of heartaches at Q-school, once you finally get here, you really have to appreciate it,'' he said.

He was at 12-under 201, two shots ahead of George McNeill (66) and Charlie Beljan (68).

McNeill was working in a pro shop until giving the Tour one last shot, and it already has produced two wins, though neither was enough to get into the Masters. Beljan lost in a playoff at Riviera last year. He is best known for being wheeled off the course at Disney on a stretcher because of a panic attack, and winning two days later.

And then there's Jason Allred.


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He hasn't played a PGA Tour event since qualifying for the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. His wife is due with their third child at the end of the month, so Allred came over to try to Monday qualify. After opening with a 73, he followed with a 64 on Friday and a 67 on Saturday and now is just three shots behind.

A victory would give him a two-year exemption, trips to the Masters and PGA Championship, Kapalua and Bay Hill and the Memorial and Firestone, even Shanghai.

He got choked up talking about support from his wife and the treat to be able to have a week like this.

''Making the putt on 18 is probably the most excitement I felt from the crowd ever in my career,'' said Allred, who holed a 10-footer on the final hole. ''I can't tell you how much it means to me to be able to be at a place in my life. I just have so much to be thankful for with my amazing family. It just feels great to be out here and soak it up.''

One of them could emerge a big winner Sunday, though there are plenty of stars right behind them.

The leaderboard at times was more crowded than the 405, which has been reduced to two lanes this weekend because of construction, causing traffic that is bad even by LA standards. When the third round ended, 15 players were within five shots of the lead.

That's not much at Riviera, on Sunday, chasing someone who has never had a 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour.

The group at 8-under 205 featured Jordan Spieth (67), Dustin Johnson (69) and Jimmy Walker (67), who is going for his fourth win of the season after winning last week in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-am. Also in that group were a pair of Masters champions, Bubba Watson (64) and Charl Schwartzel (68).

Behind them were a pair of former champions at Riviera, Bill Haas and Aaron Baddeley.

''I've just got to go play my game tomorrow and hope that it's good enough,'' McGirt said.

McGirt held up nicely the last time he had a chance like this. He was in the last group at the 2010 Canadian Open, one shot out of the lead, and stayed near the lead all round until making bogey on the tough 18th hole at Hamilton Golf and Country Club to finish one shot behind Scott Piercy.

The 34-year-old from South Carolina has much at stake Sunday. McGirt has played in only one major, the PGA Championship two years ago. He hasn't won a proper event in nearly seven years, and even his one claim-to-fame comes with a caveat. McGirt made two aces in one round at a charity event, the second one worth a car.

Turns out the event failed to pay for insurance in case a professional made the hole-in-one. McGirt received a weedwacker shaped like a golf club, instead.

First place at the Northern Trust Open is worth $1,206,000, which is $22,000 short of his best season on Tour.

McGirt is among four players from the top 12 who have never won on Tour. The others are Brian Harman, who had a 68 and was three shots behind, Cameron Tringale, who had a 67 and was in the group four shots behind, and Allred.

This week already has been more than Allred could have dreamed, and he dreams a lot.

''I need to be honest, it's totally blown them out of the water,'' he said of his expectations. ''But also to be honest, even when I go out to practice, whether it's to prepare for a gate way tournament or this week, I still have that belief in me that I have in me to win big golf tournaments. At times, even I have a hard time believing that over the years, but it sure is fun to be out here and be able to have a chance.''


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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.