They Would Be Stars Regardless

By George WhiteFebruary 21, 2006, 5:00 pm
The good old days boy, if you could have only seen how they made that golf ball dance around the hole. Yeah, youve heard it as much as I have. Of course, now the story goes, theyve souped up the balls and drivers so just about anybody who plays professionally can bash it out there 350 yards. But if these kids tried to make it 20-30-40 years ago, they would fail miserably.
OK, all that may be true. But there is at least one of the old boys who says these kids today can play every bit as good as their fathers. Curtis Strange was good enough to win back-to-back U.S. Opens in 1988 and 89, and just missed three in a row in 1990.
And, Strange says that dont you believe for a minute these gents today would not have been just as good back in the days when he and Tom Watson and Lee Trevino were winning tournaments ' heck, even before. Could the men of this generation been near the top 20 or 30 years ago? Certainly they could, he says.
The major part of the equation ' and the part that never gets talked about enough ' is the speed that these guys have, says Strange. Theyre better athletes, theyre stronger athletes, and the clubhead speed that these guys have is phenomenal. J.B. Holmes would hit it a lot further than I would 25 years ago ' because his speed is just so much faster. Tiger, J.J. Henry ' any of those guys.
Lets see, in 89 ' the year that Strange won his second straight U.S. Open ' Ed Humenik won the driving title by averaging a shade under 281 yards per drive. Davis Love III, who has long been reputed as one of the longer guys with a driver, averaged 274. Curtis himself, despite his Open victory, was down in 156th place with an average drive of 253. Curtis never was very long, but he could wear out the middle- and long-irons.
Strange concedes the blatantly obvious ' balls go further, the driver pops it longer. After all, he is hitting it 262 yards now at 51 years of age, almost 10 yards further than he was 15-17 years ago. He wont deny that todays players get the advantage of longer balls and drivers.
You take out of the equation the equipment, he said. Certainly it (the ball) goes further because of the technology ' bigger heads, longer club shafts with the driver, the ball spins less. If you launch it, the ball goes further.'
But, he says, bigger kids influence even bigger kids, better golfers begat even better golfers.
As Tiger says, this is just the tip of iceberg, because the Tiger-Ernie-Phil influence on the young kids might not show up for another 10 years. Tigers been on the scene for 10 years. Those kids might be 10 years old now, but they grew up with Tiger. They going to be bigger, faster, jump higher than J.B. Holmes. Theyre going to be 6-6 and 6-7 possibly, and hit it further and further ' I dont care what they hit it with.
Holmes is averaging 313.5 per wallop, and that doesnt even lead the driving statistics this year. Bubba Watson is on top with 320.5.
In fact, 13 golfers are averaging at least 300 yards per drive. If Humenik were using the same ball and driver he was using in 89, his average of 281 would be down in the 135th spot today.
Curtis is, in a word, impressed. He isnt saying that Jack Nicklaus wouldnt have been great. He isnt saying that Arnold Palmer or Ben Hogan wouldnt have been tremendous also. But he IS saying that the players of today, despite the advances of technology, would have been just as impressive 40 or 50 years ago.
These guys are still so talented, if you put them back in a time warp of 20 years, theyd adapt overnight, he insists. They really would. Theyve got great short games ' I dont care how far you hit it, you have to have a great short game to score. And, they would adapt in a hurry.
There is a difference in the game today and the game of Stranges time, though. The players today nail their drivers and attack the pin with a precise short-iron barrage. But he sees something missing in the equation.
The only thing I wish is that they would hit more middle- and long irons, he said.
I made a career out of hitting middle irons because of the length of the golf courses and the length we hit it. Those guys who were my length ' Faldo you played a U.S. Open, gosh you hit 4-5-6 iron all day long. And now, they dont ever hit that. I wish they would hit more long irons ' they do on par-5s, he said with a laugh.
But ' theyre incredibly talented.
Email your thoughts to George White
Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Ortiz leads LAAC through 54; Niemann, Gana one back

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 8:15 pm

Mexico's Alvaro Ortiz shot a 1-under 70 Monday to take the 54-hole lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship in Chile.

At 4 under for the week, he leads by one over over Argentina's Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Chile's Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann, and Guatemala's Dnaiel Gurtner.

Ortiz is the younger brother of three-time winner Carlos. Alvaro, a senior at Arkansas, finished tied for third at the LAAC in 2016 and lost in a three-way playoff last year that included Niemann and Gana, the champion.

Ortiz shared the 54-hole lead with Gana last year and they will once again play in the final group on Tuesday, along with Gurtner, a redshirt junior at TCU.

“Literally, I've been thinking about [winning] all year long," Ortiz said Monday. "Yes, I am a very emotional player, but tomorrow I want to go out calm and with a lot of patience. I don't want the emotions to get the better of me. What I've learned this past year, especially in the tournaments I’ve played for my university, is that I have become more mature and that I have learned how to control myself on the inside on the golf course.”

In the group behind, Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who is poised to turn professional, unless of course he walks away with the title.

“I feel a lot of motivation at the moment, especially because I am the only player in the field that shot seven under (during the second round), and I am actually just one shot off the lead," he said. "So I believe that tomorrow I can shoot another very low round."

Tuesday's winner will earn an invitation to this year's Masters and exemptions into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, and final qualifying for The Open.