Players struggle amid tough Rd. 1 conditions

By Doug FergusonMarch 7, 2014, 5:29 pm

DORAL, Fla. – Patrick Reed ended a long opening round at the Cadillac Championship on Friday with a 4-under 68 to take a one-shot lead as the new Blue Monster showed some bite.

Just ask Tiger Woods.

A four-time champion at Doral, the world's No. 1 player finished off a 76 for his highest score in 40 complete rounds on the course. He wasn't alone. Steve Stricker, the runner-up to Woods last year, had a 77. Masters champion Adam Scott took a big step back in his bid to reach No. 1 in the world with a 75. Four players, including former U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, failed to break 80.

Only six players finished the first round Thursday because of a storm delay lasting more than two hours.

The rest of the field who had to return Friday morning did not find typical peaceful conditions. Donald Trump, who bought the resort and brought in Gil Hanse for a complete makeover, described it as ''bold.'' In this wind, it was brutal.

Woods played with Scott and Henrik Stenson in the traditional grouping of Nos. 1-2-3 in the world. They all made double bogey on the 14th hole – Woods from the middle of the fairway with what appeared to be a perfect shot into the green. It trickled into a back bunker, and he needed two to get out.

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Stenson went left into the water that typically is not in play. Scott went into the water, and then clanked one off a palm tree.

Stenson stopped walking off the 15th green and said, ''Are you having fun watching?'' And then he smiled as he looked back over his shoulder and said, ''Because it's sure as hell not any fun to be playing.''

Stenson, who had a shank on the second hole Thursday, birdied the 18th for a 73.

Harris English finished Thursday with a 69 (on a 45-foot birdie putt). He was joined by Francesco Molinari,Jason Dufner, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan. Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald were in the group at 70, along with Miguel Angel Jimenez, who had the most remarkable round. He didn't make a bogey.

Another Spaniard wasn't so fortunate.

Sergio Garcia was playing nicely until a 5-wood plugged in a bunker on the 16th hole, and he had no chance of getting out. His third shot flew over the green, over the corporate suite and into a water hazard next to the second green. He made triple bogey and went from a chance to break par to a 74.

''So much for being benign conditions in the morning,'' Zach Johnson said after a 70.

Not only was it windy, it came out of the west. The course had been set up Thursday for a more southerly direction, and it showed. Dufner went over the 12th green in two with a 3-iron. Stenson, typically 30 yards longer off the tee, couldn't reach with a 3-wood.

Zach Johnson needed a 3-wood to reach the side of the par-4 14th green, though he felt like Hercules on the 18th, usually the toughest on the Blue Monster. Johnson had a pitching wedge for his second shot.

The tough wind and the scores altered opinions about the new design.

''Certainly, people hitting greens, going in the water, that is certainly more of a case this year than it was in the old design,'' Donald said. ''Water is much more in play now on a lot more holes, and with shaved banks and greens this fast and decent slopes ... as fast as greens are, there's just nothing to stop it.

''I'm sure Mr. Trump wanted something pretty hard and a test. A World Golf Championship, he wanted something severe,'' Donald said. ''But it's bordering on unfair on a few holes.''

Woods didn't show any signs of having back trouble, which led to him walking off the Honda Classic on Sunday after 13 holes. He showed his game wasn't sharp, however, and in this wind, that was only exaggerated.

He started with a bogey from the bunker on No. 11. He missed a 4-foot par putt on the 13th. Woods threw his wedge against his bag on the 14th after being in an impossible spot in the bunker. His score might have been worse if not for three straight birdies.

He headed straight to the range to get ready for the second round, another 18 holes on a course that is giving most of the world's best players fits.

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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.