Notes: Henley more confident after second win

By Doug FergusonMarch 5, 2014, 1:23 am

DORAL, Fla. – Honda Classic winner Russell Henley can only hope the next 14 months are better than the 14 months that followed his first PGA Tour victory.

A quick, decisive player with a smooth putting stroke, Henley won his debut as a PGA Tour member in January 2013. It earned him automatic exemptions into the Masters, PGA Championship and four World Golf Championships. His FedEx Cup points turned out to be enough for a spot in the British Open, and the ranking points got him into the U.S. Open.

It proved to be a bit much.

''It was a lot to deal with after I won,'' Henley said. ''I played in the Masters, played in all the majors, played in all the WGCs, and I don't know that I was really prepared to do all that mentally.''

Over the next 32 tournaments, Henley missed the cut 11 times and had only two top 10s: a tie for sixth at Hilton Head and the Memorial, neither time in serious contention over the final hour.

His playoff win at PGA National landed him at Doral this week. He's eligible for the Masters, PGA Championship and two more WGCs (Firestone and Shanghai).

''I think this year, I'm more excited to keep playing golf and keep getting better, and I feel like I've got a little bit better direction that I'm going in right now,'' Henley said. ''I feel like I know what is going to make me better. A full year on tour will teach you a lot about who you are and what you need to do with your game – what works, what doesn't work. I think a year of experience is huge for me.

''Golf is so hard that nobody knows for sure if they are going to keep anything going,'' he said. ''I know I can control my work ethic and my attitude, and hopefully I can keep those consistent.''

TIGER'S FOUNDATION: The next step for Tiger Woods' summer event in the Washington, D.C., area is to find a rotation of courses.

Congressional Country Club members are mulling a proposal to host the tournament in 2016, 2018 and 2020 after the contract expires this year. Tiger Woods Foundation officials already have been considering locations for the alternate years.

One option is TPC Potomac Farms at Avenel, which has been redesigned and is a strong golf course. Woods is not a huge fan of TPCs – six of his 78 PGA Tour wins were on TPC courses – though he would do well to give this a closer look. Another course being mentioned is RTJ, which has staged the Presidents Cup four times.

Another possibility is Aronimink outside Philadelphia, which hosted the AT&T National to huge crowds in 2010 and 2011 when Congressional was preparing for a U.S. Open. Aronimink was trying to land a PGA Championship, but that won't happen over the next six years.

WEST COAST WRAPAROUND: For all the fretting over how the wraparound season would affect the West Coast swing or the European Tour, one measurement from the world ranking showed nothing at all.

The eight events – from Kapalua to the Match Play Championship – offered a total of 386 world ranking points to the winners this year. In 2013, those same eight events offered 386 points to the winners. The overall strength-of-field showed a slight difference – an average of 354.6 points in 2013 compared with 351.1 for this year.

Kapalua, Palm Springs, Riviera and Match Play were stronger in 2013. Honolulu, Torrey Pines, Phoenix and Pebble Beach were stronger this year.

In the end, it appears to be a wash.

Perception is everything.

Tiger Woods skipped the Match Play. Adam Scott, who happens to be No. 2 this year, skipped Riviera and Match Play (mostly because he was eligible for Kapalua and then stayed on for the Sony Open). Phil Mickelson missed Riviera because his daughter was on spring break.

VICTOR'S SHOTS: The shots Victor Dubuisson played out of the desert in extra holes in the final of the Match Play Championship won't soon be forgotten. But after the Frenchman watched replays of his 23-hole loss to Jason Day two weeks ago, that's not what pleased him the most.

On those two shots, there was a high degree of luck involved. On the first shot, from the base of a cactus, it was a case of hit and hope. More satisfying was being 2 down with two holes to play, hitting from a fairway bunker on the 17th to 15 feet for birdie, and then getting up-and-down from a bunker on the 18th green to force overtime.

''Those two shots from the desert – one from the desert and one from the rocks – it was an incredible shot, but it was not 100 percent in my control,'' Dubuisson said. ''This shot on 17 and the bunker shot on 18, they were the shots I will more remember.''

PIERCY OUT: Scott Piercy, who has been playing with an injured right arm for nearly a year, finally decided to do something about it.

Piercy, who lost in 18 holes to Justin Rose in the first round of the Match Play Championship, was diagnosed with a flexor tear in his right arm and had surgery. He is expected to be out for three to four months.

''I've never felt such pain in my life,'' Piercy said after the loss to Rose.

Piercy had two cortisone injections last year to keep playing. He tied for fifth in the PGA Championship. He fell out of the top 50 late last year and was not eligible for the Masters next month.

OLYMPIC UNIFORM: USA Golf Federation, the governing body for golf in the Olympics, said Adidas Golf will provide uniforms for golfers, coaches and the staff at Rio.

Golf returns to the Olympics in 2016.

Andy Levinson, the executive director of USA Golf, said the Adidas logo will not be visible on the uniform, which should come as good news to Tiger Woods if he is eligible and chooses to play in the '16 Olympics. Woods has been a Nike client his entire career.

Along with outfitting the men's and women's American teams, Adidas Golf will have a line of USA Golf-branded apparel that will be introduced late this year.

''We are elated that the game's best players will showcase their talents in our apparel on the world's greatest stage,'' Adidas Golf president Ben Sharpe said.

DIVOTS: Nick Watney is taking the next three weeks off after Doral. His wife, Amber, is to have their first child next week in Austin, Texas. It's a girl. The name? ''We're still negotiating that one,'' he said. ... The personal golf clubs belonging to Babe Didrikson Zaharias were sold last week for $31,250 by Nate D. Sanders Auctions of Los Angeles. Zaharias, voted the AP female athlete of the 20th century, used MacGregor Tommy Armour clubs in winning the Tam O'shanter All-American tournament four times before eventually signing an endorsement deal to use Wilson clubs in competition. ... Stephen Ames has been elected to the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Ames, who won The Players Championship in 2006 among four PGA Tour victories, will be the 74th member. ... Ten of the 69 players in the field at Doral are not yet eligible for the Masters.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Steve Stricker has been around long enough to have played at Doral under five different names: Doral-Ryder Open, Genuity Championship, Ford Championship at Doral, CA Championship, and Cadillac Championship.

FINAL WORD: ''You guys have been blessed by seeing Tiger Woods win for so many years, and being No. 1 for I think 12 years now, that people in general think it's easy to win. It's hard.'' - Jason Day, No. 4 in the world with two victories.

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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.