After Further Review: Anchoring pros will be just fine

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. In this edition of After Further Review, our writers weigh in on the looming anchoring ban, the LPGA's big-bang start to the 2015 season and Justin Thomas' bright future.

I’m officially done worrying that any elite-level pro will be stuck folding shirts at a muni once the anchoring ban takes place 11 months from now.

I mean, I was already close after one former anchorman, Bill Haas, posted a strong season last year without one … and another, Keegan Bradley, opened with a 67 at the Memorial last year … and another, Brendan Steele, opened with a 62 at the Travelers … and yet another, Webb Simpson, opened with the same score at the Sony.

In each instance, though, I’d tweet about these players being just fine with a short stick, only to have the masses implore me to wait until a Sunday afternoon.

Well, I did. Having just watched Haas win while Steele and Simpson remained in the thick of things with a pair of final-round 64s at the Humana Challenge, I think we can now put to rest any notion that these players won’t be able to find success without the “crutch” of an anchored stroke.

That doesn’t mean they’ll win every time they’re in contention, but they weren’t before anyway. Just don’t expect Haas, Steele, Simpson, Bradley or any other ex-anchorers to be folding shirts anytime soon. – Jason Sobel

The LPGA’s 2015 schedule offers up something this week the PGA Tour doesn’t: A big bang start to the new season.

With Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park, No. 2 Lydia Ko, No. 3 Stacy Lewis, No. 5 Suzann Pettersen and No. 6 Michelle Wie teeing it up, the Coates Golf Championship gives the LPGA a star-studded season opener that really feels like an “Opening Day” for women’s golf fans. Karrie Webb, Lexi Thompson, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer and Juli Inkster help give the LPGA the big names that a big event needs.

Ten events into its new wraparound season, we’re still waiting for the PGA Tour to feel like it’s underway. World No. 1 Rory McIlroy has yet to play, nor has Tiger Woods.

Of course, as is the LPGA’s fate, that’s about to change in a big-bang way. The PGA Tour’s new season explodes into international awareness this week with Woods making his return to the tour at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. With Woods and the Super Bowl in Phoenix together, there will be a shadow cast over every sport. The PGA Tour may not have a big-bang event as its official season opener, but it still has Tiger as the ultimate trump card. Every event he plays is a big-bang event. – Randall Mell

Sunday belonged to Bill Haas, but make no mistake: Justin Thomas will soon have his day. The 21-year-old rookie seemingly defies physics, using his 145-pound frame to belt drive after drive past the 300-yard mark, and he remained in the mix deep into the final round at Humana. His T-7 finish was his third top 10 of the season, his second in as many weeks and were it not for an ill-fated approach to No. 16, Thomas could easily have been the last man standing in Palm Springs.

It’s difficult to win on the PGA Tour, but sometimes a player can show himself to be a cut above the competition even from an early stage. Thomas will win, and soon – although the time until his maiden victory will surely include several more six-figure paydays. – Will Gray

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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.