Tway Leads Impressive List of Past Champions
First of all, theres the leader, Bob Tway. Tway was the man who holed out from the bunker at No. 18 in the 1986 PGA Championship to beat Greg Norman. Tway hasnt done a lot in the intervening years, but he shot a 64 Thursday.
Next, theres the runner-up, Stewart Cink. Cink was one of those guys who missed a short putt at No. 18 in the U.S. Open to miss a playoff. Cink hasnt done much this year, but Thursday he shot a 65.
Then theres Stuart Appleby. Appleby won in three straight years ' the 1997 Honda, the 98 Kemper and the 99 Shell Houston Open. The last two years, he has sagged badly. At the Memorial, he fired a 67 in the first round. Thats the same score shot by Tom Lehman, the 1996 British Open champ who underwent surgery on his collarbone area in 1998. Lehman has never been the same since.
Even old warhorse Jack Nicklaus, the tournament host, enjoyed a day that was as outstanding as the beautiful weather. Nicklaus birdied four of the last five holes and got into the clubhouse with a 71.
Then the worlds No. 1 player, the guy who is trying to win the Memorial for the fourth straight time, struggled fitfully on opening day. Tiger Woods shot 74.
I hope there isnt a statute of limitations on confidence, said Tway. A lot has happened since (he won here in) 89. Theres no doubt about it in my career.
But the course itself makes coming to the Memorial a thrill, he said. There are not too many weeks in the year that the opportunity arises to think your way around the golf course. Its a great venue, Tway said, and even better when it dries out like it did Thursday.
I just wish that more often we got a chance to play a golf course like this, said Tway.
Experience is invaluable at Muirfield Village, said Cink, but only if youre smart enough to learn from your experiences.
This is one of the courses that teaches you a lot and it punishes you for being greedy and making bad decisions, he said. You just have to learn where your spots are where you can be aggressive.
Its like playing a major. You have to play to the center of the greens. Even if you feel like you can aim at it, sometimes you cant. And par is always good here.
Cink has gone back to the ABCs of golf, practicing a lot of late on the games fundamentals. He finished 10th on the money list in 2000, but dropped to 26th last year. This year hes down at 94.
Im just simplifying everything, Cink said. This year Ive been driving it pretty bad and I havent had a good year putting. And thats really the two things that you have to do, and I have not done either of them any good at all.
Appleby has missed five cuts this year after the promising early start to his career. But his last two tournaments have shown that he might have turned the corner. He finished in a tie for 14th at Greensboro and followed that with a tie for eighth at Colonial last week.
I drove the ball fantastically and I hit the irons fantastically and I putted pretty well, said Appleby. I really have to say it was a very clean round of golf and more what I feel I can play.
Appleby detailed what he believes it will take to get back to the norm. It takes a lot of practice. And it takes the proper mindset.
Usually its just confidence, and you just dont play to get confidence, you go and get it, he said. Youve got to practice for it ' basically, practice and play with confidence.
I have really been swinging the club well. If youre swinging the club well and not getting results, its something else thats wrong. Im swinging it well now and mentally Im much more relaxed, more positive, and much more into my shots. And then Im getting results.
For sheer surprises, though, there was none more dramatic than Nicklaus. He was uncertain whether he was even going to play until Wednesday evening.
Good gracious, I told Vijay (Singh), I shot three or four shots below my handicap, laughed Nicklaus. Ive been carrying a 2- or 3-handicap at home all year. I shot a 69 about a month ago and ruined my handicap. I went down to a 1. So I shortened my handicap by several shots today.
Nicklaus is still hurting. But hes not hurting enough to keep from swinging a club. And ' hes obviously having a good time.
I really enjoyed that, Nicklaus said. It was fun. I am obviously glad I played. I dont know what will happen tomorrow. Doesnt make much difference what happens tomorrow. The way Im playing, if I play this way again, Ill play a good round. If I dont, I wont. But thats the way it goes.
Full-field scores from the Memorial Tournament
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
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
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
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.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
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.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
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.