Notes: PGA Tour, Trump agree to changes at Doral

By Doug FergusonSeptember 1, 2015, 7:57 pm

NORTON, Mass. – Once among the most popular stops on the PGA Tour schedule, Trump National Doral had more players grumbling than ever. The complaints mainly were that the power players had too big an advantage.

The Tour was listening, and so was The Donald.

As part of constant feedback on golf courses, players were allowed to submit their thoughts (signed or anonymous). Those were presented to Trump and work has been underway to make a few changes for next year's Cadillac Championship.

''I just went over some changes to make it more friendly for guys who hit it my length instead of it being a bomber's paradise,'' said Brandt Snedeker, among those who offered reasonable suggestions. ''I think Gil (Hanse) tried to do the right thing to tighten it up, but it's hard to see how a golf course plays until guys play it. You don't know what bunkers are in play and out of play.''

The changes are mostly about the bunkers on six holes - Nos. 2, 6, 7, 12, 14 and 17.

The seventh hole was a prime example with two bunkers to the left and another bunker farther out on the right. The fairway sloped toward the right bunker, leaving the medium-length players limited options - a tiny landing zone, playing short of the left bunkers for a longer approach over the water to the green, or seeing their tee shots tumble into a bunker and facing that shot over water.

Andy Pazder, chief of operations for the PGA Tour, said a shorter bunker is being removed and another bunker is being added further out on the left.

''That makes the tee shot more fair,'' he said. ''And even the long hitters who can't quite carry the bunkers on the left and still hit 3-wood comfortably.''

That was just one example. The other changes are mainly about covering over some bunkers that were in play only for the medium hitters and extending or moving bunkers that would challenge the longer hitters.

Pazder described the changes as a result of ''continuous feedback we've received over the last few years after Gil's redesign.''

''This is designed to create a little more of a level playing field as it relates to those who carry it 300 yards and those who don't,'' he said.

Dustin Johnson won this year. Next on the leaderboard were J.B. Holmes, Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson and Adam Scott.

MINOR MOVEMENT: Points in the FedEx Cup playoffs are worth four times the value this year, down from five times the value a year ago. The idea was to give players a chance to move up with good play, without making it too volatile.

Here's how it shaped up after The Barclays:

Henrik Stenson finished alone in second at The Barclays and moved from No. 41 to No. 4, the same change it would have been last year.

Zac Blair started at No. 106, finished in a two-way tie for fourth and moved to No. 45. A year ago, if the player at No. 106 had finished in a two-way tie for fourth at The Barclays, he would have moved to No. 35.

One reason for the change was to avoid someone toward the bottom making too large a jump. Martin Laird was at No. 95 in 2010, was runner-up at The Barclays and shot all the way up to No. 3. Had that happened this year, the No. 95 player would have gone to No. 10.

CADDIE KNACK: If the American players can't win the Ryder Cup, maybe their caddies can.

The World Caddie Matches is in the planning stages for next year, a 36-hole event over one day featuring 16 professional tour caddies from the United States against 16 from around the world. It would be fourball matches in the morning, followed by singles in the afternoon.

Steve Hulka, the captain of the U.S. caddie team, says Foxwoods Resort & Casino in Connecticut has offered to host the inaugural event. The draw for matches would be held after the conclusions of The Barclays, and the competition would be the following day.

Mike ''Fluff'' Cowan is the assistant captain for the U.S. Captains for the caddies from around the world are Gareth Lord (who works for Henrik Stenson) and Mark Fulcher (Justin Rose). Still to be determined is a qualifying process for both teams.

And just like the tours on which they work, the plan is to have a charity component. The idea is for the caddie of each PGA Tour winner starting with the Travelers Championship to donate $500 into a fund, with the caddie for the runner-up donating $300.

Hulka said it could turn into an event played before each Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.

SMALL MARGINS: The final round of the Wyndham Championship was another example of how thin the margins can be in the FedEx Cup.

Cameron Percy and Vaughn Taylor were not remotely close to getting into the top 125 and qualifying for the playoffs, but the final hour did make a difference. Taylor made bogey on three of his last four holes to finish at 6-under 274, two shots behind Percy, who played that stretch at 2 over and finished two shots ahead.

Percy wound up No. 150 in the FedEx Cup with 360.773 points, just ahead of Taylor at 360.667 points.

But the FedEx Cup bonus structure pays out to 150th place. By finishing sixth-thousandths of a point ahead, Percy got $32,000. More than money, he has conditional status on the PGA Tour next year, and full status on the Tour for the weeks he doesn't get into PGA Tour events.

DIVOTS: Sam Horsfield of England has withdrawn from the Walker Cup because of personal reasons. He was replaced by Ewen Ferguson of Scotland. ... Jon Rahm of Spain, a senior at Arizona State, won the Mark H. McCormack Medal as the No. 1 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He is the first Spaniard to win the award, and provided he stays an amateur, will be exempt into the U.S. Open and British Open. Rahm tied for fifth at the Phoenix Open this year. ... Players hoping for a hole-in-one might stand a better chance with Scott Tway as the caddie. He works for Brian Harman, who made two aces Sunday at The Barclays. And he was working for brother Bob Tway when he made two aces in the same tournament at the 1994 Memorial. ... Jeff Maggert and amateur Trip Kuehne are among those to be inducted into the Texas Golf Hall of Fame on Oct. 12 in San Antonio.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Jason Day has four PGA Tour wins this year, the most by an Australian in one year since Jim Ferrier won five times in 1951.

FINAL WORD: ''I would have made a fortune on the Champions Tour this year.'' - Kevin Chappell, who had at least one round of 75 or worse in seven tournaments this year. Champions Tour events typically are 54 holes.

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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.