Spieth: 'A bit too soon' to judge any new era

By Doug FergusonNovember 3, 2015, 8:31 pm

SHANGHAI - Jordan Spieth wore a black tunic with red trim around the collar to take part in a Chinese drum ceremony late Tuesday afternoon just as the Shanghai skyline began to glow with lights behind him and three other top players.

This was the traditional photo opportunity to kick off the HSBC Champions. One observer noted that Spieth had not dressed like that since graduation, which for him was only four years ago - from high school.

The landscape in golf is changing quicker than the rapid beat of those Chinese drums.

One year ago, Spieth wasn't even in the top 10 in the world and had only one win as a pro. Since then, the 22-year-old Texan has won seven times around the world, including the Masters and the U.S. Open, along with a Tour Championship that capped a record $22 million year. He is looked upon as the future of American golf.

At least for now.

Also on the stage with Spieth was 26-year-old Rickie Fowler, who is coming off a big year of his own. Fowler won three times, the biggest at The Players Championship where he delivered perhaps the greatest finish of the season when he made three birdies on the island-green 17th to win a tension-filled playoff.

Jason Day couldn't make it to China. The 27-year-old Australian is home awaiting the birth of his second child. And the drum beat had to go on without 26-year-old Rory McIlroy, who was coping with a stomach ailment.

Not to be overlooked are the three winners of the new PGA Tour season - Emiliano Grillo (23), Smylie Kaufman (23) and Justin Thomas (22).

That explains why PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem sounded at ease when asked Monday about golf moving along without Tiger Woods.


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Click here for photos from the WGC-HSBC Champions


''We are headed for a long period of parity with a lot of stars being developed,'' Finchem said at the HSBC Golf Business Forum. ''And in today's world, you can become a star in a hurry. It's a great thing. The professional game is in exceptionally good shape. But I think the next 10 years are the most exciting we'll ever see to this point.''

It sure seems that way.

The top three players - Day, Spieth and McIlroy - are all in their 20s and hail from three continents. Players in their 20s won three majors for the second straight year. That had occurred only twice in the previous four decades, and one of those years was 2000 when a 24-year-old Woods won three majors.

Woods had another back procedure last week - that's three in the last 20 months - for another clear sign that his time is about up, if it isn't already.

But leave it to Spieth, with his wise head on such young shoulders, to preach patience and perspective.

A new era in golf?

''I think it's a bit soon,'' Spieth said. ''For Rory, it's different because it's been consistent for years now. Jason and I, we've played solid golf the last few years. In order to create an era, you almost need a decade of years like this. Sure, we have the potential to do it. But this was the first year of it. But unless we keep our heads down ... unless we're aware of it, and it drives us, and we get the right breaks, there's a lot of factors. So maybe it's a big premature to say that.

''But,'' he added, ''I believe there was a step needed in the right direction, and it took place this year. If we can ride with that, it will be significant.''

Spieth looks at this as a new year, and the World Golf Championship that starts Thursday at Sheshan International is his first event of a new PGA Tour season. McIlroy, still catching up from the two months he missed this summer from an ankle injury, is wrapping up another Race to Dubai title the rest of the month.

The beauty of having a cast of stars so young, as Fowler noted, is that they can battle each other for the next 10 or 15 years.

Then again, maybe the conversation might include a different list - or a longer list - of players at this time next year.

That seems improbable now, but consider where golf was a year ago. McIlroy was No. 1 and the only debate was which player was best suited to challenge him. McIlroy now is No. 3, and the list is growing.

''The top five in the world ranking, we've seen now in the last two years how much that changed,'' Spieth said.

At the end of 2013, the top five included Woods, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson. Spieth suspects things will stay in motion.

''I believe we'll all battle it out,'' he said. ''But to battle it out on highest stages and to stay up in the ranking and all that ... it can happen. But it's going to take more than just this year.''

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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.