Wi leads Villegas, Gainey on Day 1 at Disney

By Doug FergusonNovember 8, 2012, 11:35 pm

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Getting off to a quick start is nothing new for Charlie Wi. The hard part is figuring out how to finish.

Wi took the 18-hole lead for the third time this year – and the eighth time in his PGA Tour career – by closing with back-to-back birdies Thursday for an 8-under 64 on the easier Palm Course at Disney. That gave him a one-shot lead over Camilo Villegas and Tommy Gainey in the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.

This is the 184th career start for Wi on the PGA Tour and he's still looking for his first win.

Wi atop the leaderboard was a reminder that there's more at stake in the final PGA Tour event of the year than players trying to keep their jobs. Each event is another opportunity for him to get his first win, and that's would it take for him to have a chance of getting into the top 30 on the money list to earn his first trip to The Masters.

''Top 30 is definitely a goal,'' Wi said. ''I'm not just showing up to play. You've got to have goals. I at least want to give myself a chance.''

Gainey doesn't have that opportunity. He won for the first time on Tour three weeks ago at Sea Island when he closed with a 60, but he was so far down the money list that even a win at Disney wouldn't be enough for him to get into the Masters.

Even so, Gainey is on a roll. He is 17-under par in his last two rounds, courtesy of the 65 he posted on the Palm.

''My goal is just to win, anyway,'' he said. ''The way I'm playing right now, keep hitting the golf shots and keep hitting it in the fairways, and with the way I'm rolling this putter, it's going to be good by Sunday afternoon.''

Villegas was another story.

A rising star in 2008 when he won consecutive FedEx Cup playoff events and rose to No. 7 in the world, Villegas has fallen on tough times. He hasn't won since then, failed to qualify for any of the majors this year, has plunged to No. 214 in the world ranking and is at No. 150 on the money list. Only the top 125 earn their full cards for next year, and if Villegas falls out of the top 150, he'll have to go to the second stage of Q-school.

One thing that has changed is his attitude. Villegas realized he has a great job, stopped getting angry with his golf and decided to start having more fun. It appears to be working, and now the Colombian can only hope the change is not too late.

''Trust me, people remind you, 'Hey, you're 150th on the money list.' And I'm kind of like, 'Life is good. Just keep going.' If you're good at this game, if you're out, you'll be back in. Who knows? Just take it one shot at a time.''

The top 12 scores came from the Palm, which played about 1.7 shots easier than the Magnolia, where the final two rounds will be played. Henrik Stenson and Charles Howell III were among five players whose 68 was the best score at Magnolia.

Brian Harman, Scott Stallings and Russell Knox, the rookie from Scotland who is outside the top 150, were at 66. Kevin Chappell, at No. 123 on the money list, overcame an early bogey and was in the group at 67.

''I feel like if you give me enough opportunities, which I've had, I've got to play well at least one week,'' Chappell said. ''If it's the last week of the year, that's great.''

Chappell is well aware of his standing on the money list, though he was doing his best to hit good shots and to try to make putts. He changed coaches this year and was making decent progress until getting a six-week break when he failed to get past the first round of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

''I got engrossed with the golf swing, and when I came back to the fall finish, I was playing golf swing. I wasn't playing golf,'' Chappell said.

The first two days of Disney are a pro-am, and it's common for some players to ask to be paired with friends – Mike Weir and Dean Wilson, Harris English and Brian Harman. A year ago, the Tour put Luke Donald and Webb Simpson in the same group as they battled for the money title.

This year is a little different.

Rod Pampling is at No. 124 on the money list. He was paired with Billy Mayfair, who is at No. 125. Right behind them were Gary Christian and Alexandre Rocha, who are at No. 127 and No. 128 and right in the mix to keep their jobs.

Pampling opened with a 70 and Mayfair a 72. Christian and Rocha each had a 71.

''I was a bit surprised by that,'' Pampling said, grinning. ''We're all grinding. ... You don't need the guys right behind you and next to you. But that's OK. Billy is easy to play with. And it's not going to change anything, anyway.''

The biggest change belonged to Villegas. At some point this year, he realized that he played golf for a living and figured it wasn't worth getting overly frustrated about his scores.

''The game comes and kind of bites us, and the last year and a half hasn't been pretty, I can tell you that,'' he said. ''Even though I kept putting in the hours, sometimes it doesn't matter. You put those hours in and if you're not having fun, you're not going to get much out of it. So I've definitely changed a little bit the attitude. And, yes, I've been playing a lot better. ... I've had a great attitude the last few months and I've been really close.''

The tough part will be going to the Magnolia course Friday, and that goes for Wi, too.

He opened with a 61 at Monterey Peninsula in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and took a three-shot lead into the final round until he opened with a four-putt double bogey and wound up finishing second to Phil Mickelson. He had the lead at Bay Hill and was tied with Tiger Woods going into the weekend until he faded, and Woods won his first Tour event in more than two years.

Mickelson is in Singapore. Woods is taking time off. The biggest name at Disney is Davis Love III, who opened with a 73. Wi still has a long way to go before Sunday.

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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.