Notes: How one putt could start Olympic domino effect for Kuchar

By Doug FergusonJuly 5, 2016, 4:07 pm

AKRON, Ohio – Matt Kuchar finished with a 12-foot birdie at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, which had no bearing on the outcome but still had a few ramifications.

Kuchar tied for third, so that putt was worth an additional $249,250. It cost Jordan Spieth enough world ranking points that Dustin Johnson moved ahead of him to No. 2 by the slimmest of margins.

And that birdie putt could send Kuchar to the Olympics.

Whether he earns a spot in Rio de Janeiro is now out of Kuchar's hands. The Americans are allowed the maximum four players because all of them are among the top 15 in the world ranking, and the birdie allowed him to move to No. 15. Still to be announced is which four Americans will go to Rio.

Of the top four in the world ranking – Johnson (2), Spieth (3), Bubba Watson (5) and Rickie Fowler (7) – Watson is the only one who has said he is going. The biggest question marks of that group are Spieth and Fowler. That's why Kuchar's birdie putt was so important, because if two Americans choose not to go, those spots could end up going to Patrick Reed and Kuchar.

Kuchar wants to play in the Olympics, though it's still a long way off. Not only does he need at least two players to withdraw, he has to be sure he stays among the top 15 in the world ranking after this week.

Olympic qualifying is based on the world ranking published next Monday, and that brings Phil Mickelson into the equation. Mickelson would have to finish alone in second at the Scottish Open – he won the last time it was held at Castle Stuart – to move ahead of Kuchar and be in position for any Olympic withdrawals. If Lefty were to win, he would have a mathematical chance to move ahead of Reed as the first U.S. alternate.

J.B. Holmes, Shane Lowry and Chris Wood also are at Castle Stuart and could bump Kuchar from the top 15 if they were to win. A victory by Wood likely would be enough for him to reach No. 15 and give the U.K. three players.


HURLEY NOTES: Billy Hurley III already delivered one of the most inspirational stories of the year when the former Naval officer won the Quicken Loans National at Congressional not far from his Virginia home, a tournament created to honor the military.

Then, he chose to give up his spot in The Open to honor a family commitment – his sister's wedding.

And it keeps getting better.

For the last few years, PGA Tour rules officials and other key employees have been receiving handwritten notes from Hurley thanking them for their work. When asked about this, Hurley smiled and said, ''I write a lot of notes.''

It's a lost art that goes back decades. Arnold Palmer once showed the way to a young Jack Nicklaus on writing thank-you notes to tournament directors in the 1960s. Hurley goes beyond that.

''I write to the tournament director, the superintendent and title sponsors, at least at the tournaments I'm playing,'' he said. ''And then the whole Tour staff. There's a lot of people that make this possible.''

Hurley doesn't know where he picked up this habit.

''I just think it's the right thing to do,'' he said. ''They work hard for us. I don't know what their salaries are, but it's not what ours are.''


HOME SWEET HOME: Shane Lowry is playing the PGA Tour as a member for the first time this year, and what he hopes is many years to come.

But he has no plans for moving his home base away from Ireland. His role model is Padraig Harrington, a PGA Tour member for more than a decade who has never followed other Europeans by getting a home in Florida.

''I can't see myself moving to the States at all,'' Lowry said. ''As everyone knows, I'm quite friendly with Padraig, so he's done it for the last 15 years, traveled over and back. I'm not finding it too difficult.''

Lowry typically plays two or three weeks in a row before going back to Ireland. He usually can get out Sunday night and be home Monday.

''Dublin is my home now in Ireland, and I see that being the case for the next while,'' he said.

And how does he practice in the winter?

''I don't,'' Lowry said with a laugh. ''The weather is obviously not great. You can get out and hit shots for an hour. I just need to keep the rust away for me. ... I might play nine holes with my friends. I'm not one of these guys that feels like I need to practice all every day. If I play nine holes four, five times a week, I'm pretty happy.''


McGIRT DOES EUROPE: Memorial winner William McGirt is excited about his first trip to The Open, mainly because of links golf, but also one other oddity.

''I've never been to Europe,'' McGirt said.

Yes, he has a passport. McGirt played in South America when he was on the Web.com Tour, and he played in Malaysia in 2012. He qualified for the Open by being in the top 20 in the FedEx Cup, and he's going over on the charter from Philadelphia.

''I'm looking forward to playing a completely different style of golf,'' he said. ''I grew up playing a golf course not manicured anywhere close to what we have out here. So I learned to play bump-and-run shots. Being able to use your imagination, that's the biggest thing I'm looking forward to, where there's no such thing as a standard shot.''


DIVOTS: Bubba Watson is all in for the Olympics, but he is leaving caddie Ted Scott at home. Watson said longtime friend Randall Wells will be on the bag for him in Rio. ... Jean Van de Velde, who lost a three-shot lead on the final hole in The Open in 1999 at Carnoustie, is making his PGA Tour Champions debut this week in the Dick's Sporting Goods Classic. ... The Greenbrier Classic has been canceled because of deadly flooding, but the charter flight to the British Open is still going. The same plane that takes players and others who would have been at The Greenbrier is the one that takes them from Scotland to the Canadian Open. The only difference? It now leaves Sunday night from Philadelphia. ... John Daly will be keeping a busy schedule the next two months. He begins his stretch of majors at Royal Troon for The Open and Carnoustie for The Senior Open. Then, it's back over the ocean to New Jersey for the PGA Championship at Baltusrol. Two weeks later, he has the U.S. Senior Open at Scioto in Ohio before heading back across the Atlantic to play the Czech Masters on the European Tour.


STAT OF THE WEEK: The winners of the three World Golf Championships this year all won in their previous start – Adam Scott (Honda Classic, WGC-Cadillac Championship), Jason Day (Arnold Palmer Invitational, WGC-Dell Match Play) and Dustin Johnson (U.S. Open, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational).


FINAL WORD: ''I work in the Army 14 years. ... And training every morning, that's why we come to play golf, I think really easy.'' - Thongchai Jaidee, a former paratrooper in Thailand, after his eighth European Tour victory in the French Open.

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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.