Shigeki Stands Tall at Byron Nelson

By George WhiteMay 12, 2002, 4:00 pm
IRVING, Texas -- Is he really that short? Is he really that funny? Is he that professional a singer? Is he really that good?
 
Shigeki Maruyama, all 5-foot-8 of him, is the new Verizon Byron Nelson Classic champion. He won it Sunday by shooting 2-under-par 68, finishing with a 14-under 266 and gaining a two-shot victory. In the process, he answered all those questions ' especially showing that he is that good ' with a resounding yes.
 
Not bad for a man who loves to sing karaoke. I was singing, Tears in Heaven, the Eric Clapton song, said a grinning Maruyama through an interpreter. I dont sing English songs too much, but I knew that I would like to do that sometime at the Presidents Cup. Therefore, I studied and practiced quite a bit.
 
Maruyama on his win.

Maruyama hung on rather shakily in mid-round, making a bogey on No. 12 when he hit water on his approach shot, then missed the green with his tee shot on the par-3 13th. But he made par on the 13th to regain his three-shot lead, then scrambled for another par on the par-3 17th after missing the green by 20 feet. The victims Sunday were relative unknown Ben Crane and a charging Tiger Woods.
 
Maruyama won for the second time in the United States in two years. Last year, he got his first victory in the America at the Greater Milwaukee Open.
 
This was a big difference compared to Milwaukee, he said, feet still not reaching the carpet while sitting in the interview chair. I was leading (through so much of this tournament.) At Milwaukee, I remember I was so much like, coming back. This time was completely different.
 
The first time winning, I couldnt believe myself. This time, things are so different. I feel like my effort and my talent came out.
 
The 17th was the critical hole for Maruyama Sunday. He hit what looked like a good tee shot at first, but the ball carried over the back left. It rolled down a slope perilously close to water, but stopped about a yard short of a lake.
 
Facing a very difficult chip, uphill to an elevated green with a pin cut 20 feet from the edge of the green, Maruyama hit a delicate chip to within three feet. He sank the putt, and that par meant he would stay comfortably ahead of Crane, who was having to make par from a pitch shot on 18 to stay within two shots of Maruyama.
 
As soon as I hit the shot, I felt like, Oh yeah, it was good, he said of the swipe at 17. But I could hear the (gallery) going, Oooo. And then I almost fainted when I saw (where the shot had ended.)
 
The wind quieted down somewhat from Saturday. Maruyama saw it and knew he was going to have a more difficult time than if he had been battling the contrary breezes of the day before. I said, OK, the wind has stopped and all the players will start playing really good.
 
The only thing to do, decided Shigeki, was to play well himself. He opened with a birdie on the very first hole and played the front side in 1-under-par. He grimly hung on on the backside, making a birdie on No. 10, making a bogey at No. 11, but then putting brilliantly with clutch saves on the next three holes. As it developed, he would have just enough of a margin of error.
 
Woods rallied to shoot a 5-under 65, but an over-par round Thursday when he struggled with a 71 (par 70) doomed him. Crane, who tied for fifth at the 2001 qualifying school, shot a 65 also and threw a scare into Maruyama.
 
Just to be here and be playing on the weekend, I was so thankful, said Crane. I really had an amazing couple of days. Being in the hunt ' and playing with Ernie Els ' was awesome.
 
Crane is indisposed next week. He is getting married to Heather Heinze in Portland, Ore., May 18.
 
Woods, despite the failure to win, is pleased with where his game is after taking a long vacation since his win at the Masters.
 
Ive gotten better every day, said Tiger. Thats what you want to see when you take some time off. You want to see some progress, and Ive been able to do that. If I could have progressed every day, I feel like it would have been a successful week, which I have been able to do.
 
Final results from the Verizon Byron Nelson Classic

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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


FALLING

Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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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.