Roll Out the Barrel - Clarke Wins Again
And what does he resemble when he swings the golf club? Last week he looked like he was born with a 7-iron in his hand. The Irishman would rear back and have a go at the ball, and it would shoot off as if on a string. He alone tamed the Firestone course, toying with the rest of the field while winning the WGC-NEC.
Every now and then, he does this. Hes gotten all kinds of grief because some people believe that all that separates him from 50 career wins is a gigantic dose of dont-cares. He wants to put a halt to that belief right now.
People dont think that I (work hard), looking at me, but I actually do work pretty hard, Clarke told a group of assembled media on Saturday. I have been working really hard, and its been frustrating to put as much work in as I have been and not gotten any results. Sometimes that happens.
He had had just nine wins on the European Tour since he made his debut a dozen years ago. In 2000 he defeated David Duval in the semifinals of the WCG-Accenture Match Play at La Costa, then turned right around and beat Tiger Woods in the finals. That was heady stuff indeed for a Euro who always seemed to have loads of potential but not many trophies. Surely, the wags were saying, Clarke would now drum the big boys on a regular basis.
That, of course, wasnt to be. Since that day, he has won an occasional European event (at the rate of one per year), as well as a tournament in South Africa and one in Japan. But he has hardly been a world-beater. And after this win at Akron, the pundits will undoubtedly predict more startling things in the 35-year-olds future. Who knows if the forecasters will be proven right?
He has had a successful career, I suppose, by American standards. If you can win 10 times ' and if you can win twice in the U.S. against the strongest fields ' and have a nice little succession of paydays to boot, youre considered a success.
Clarke, though, shows so much more, and has delivered so much less.
The weight thing has generally been spotlighted as the culprit. If he doesnt care enough to get his weight under control, so the theory goes, how can he ever hope to be a consistent winner?
I'm pretty strong now, said Clarke. I don't need to do that much. I've just got to lose a little bit of weight basically and get myself a little bit fitter, so maybe coming down the stretch I won't make mistakes because of not being out of shape and not mentally alert and sharp as I should be.
Clarke has worked with Butch Harmon the last couple of years, and people who are privy to such things say the difference in his game is dramatic. The visible differences havent filtered down to us yet because we havent seen much in the way of victories. But perhaps that is what separates the insiders from us. Whereas Clarke appears to be a mass of untapped potential, he says the potential is about to become unplugged.
That's not the first time I've been asked that, he said. I've been asked that a few times. When I play well I can play very well. Unfortunately, it doesn't happen as much as I would like.
It's not through lack of work, it's just sometimes it doesn't happen. I have tended to get very annoyed in the past, but hopefully I think this year my attitude has been very, very good. Again, my results haven't shown that. It's trying to be patient and wait for things to happen, and patience is not one of my virtues.
Clarke thus far has been too addicted to his beloved Guinness to make much of a dent in the bear-like belly. At the age of 35, one wonders if he will ever lose much. He thoroughly enjoys a good pint and a good cigar, he has millions squirreled away in the Irish bank accounts, and youve got to ask if, at this stage of the game, its worth it to try to look more like Tiger Woods than Colin Montgomerie. But he insists the diet is just around the corner.
I have been doing a little bit, Darren said. Believe it or not, I have been doing a little bit.
Because I've been playing an awful lot of golf, and one of the things I said I would do is do it at home and not at the golf tournaments, because I want to practice as much as I have, and because I've been working really hard I haven't had time to do very little else. That's not an excuse; it's actually the real reason. It's something that I am still going to pursue. Hopefully I'll be a little bit lighter when you ask the same question again next year.
Yeah, yeah. But at least he isnt kidding anyone, least of all Darren Clarke. He knows that if he lost a little weight, he probably would gain a few more trophies.
They said if theres ever a rain delay, do not pick Darren Clarke, he said. That means I have to play more than 18 holes in a day.
He went 33 holes in one day in his final-day victory in the 2000 Match Play against Woods. So surely he doesnt always flame out.
Sometimes I'm OK and sometimes I'm not, he said. Most of the time I'm OK, but Augusta was one where it really brought it home for me. Augusta was playing as hilly as the golf course was. They were very long walks, and I made some mistakes that I don't think ordinarily I would have done, so that's what brought the whole thing to my attention.
The Barrel has won The NEC. I can appreciate that, along with a doughnut and a brewski. Clarke should win much more now. But if he doesnt, what the heck. Hes been an exceptional role model for us sofa-sitters.
After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...
Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).
Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.
It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard
On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...
There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.
He sure looks like the real deal, though.
His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.
Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner
Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2
With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.
He picked up one more No. 2, too.
The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.
In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.
Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.
“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”
Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.
Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.
He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.
Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title
Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.
Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.
His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.
“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."
Tom Brady, postgame, on wearing the wrap on his hand: “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) January 22, 2018
Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.
Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.
Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:
Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)
What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.
Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.
Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.
Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.
Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.
Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:
Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry