After Further Review: DJ, Park return to winner's circle

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. In this edition of After Further Review, our writers weigh in on Dustin Johnson winning the WGC-Cadillac Championship just one month after returning to competitive golf, Inbee Park topping Stacy Lewis and Lydia Ko in Singapore and commissioner Tim Finchem's Ryder Cup whiff.

He spent six months away from the Tour to deal with "personal challenges," but Dustin Johnson's returned in a big way.

The 30-year-old star is now a nine-time winner, and after getting his life off the course in order he looks determined to take the next big step on the course – winning a major.

Starting the season, Rory McIlroy was the clear favorite to win at Augusta and claim the career slam. But after hot starts by DJ, Jason Day and Bubba Watson, the world No. 1 should have plenty of company when they tee it up next month in Augusta.   – Ryan Reiterman

Inbee Park can intimidate with her putter. She’s able to break a foe’s spirit with the shortest club in her bag more than anyone else in the women’s game.

Hall of Famer JoAnne Carner says Park makes more long putts than anybody she has watched since Nancy Lopez.

“I thought Nancy was a great putter, but Inbee’s even better,” Carner said back when Park won the first three majors of the year in 2013.

Notably, Park didn’t beat Lydia Ko and Stacy Lewis with her putter Sunday in Singapore as much as she did with her ball striking in their dynamic grouping at the HSBC Women’s Champions.

Park hit all 18 greens in regulation in the final round on the difficult Sentosa Golf Club’s Serapong Course. How good was that? Lewis and Ko are terrific ball strikers, but Lewis missed nine greens on Sunday, with Ko missing five. Park missed just one green in regulation the entire weekend.

It’s notable that with Park battling Ko and Lewis for the world No. 1 ranking, she has pushed herself to become a better ball striker under the watchful eye of her fiancé and coach, Gi Hyeob Nam.

Park, Ko and Lewis are all pushing each other to new heights, and that’s forcing the rest of the women’s game to keep getting better.   – Randall Mell

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem admitted Sunday that he “whiffed” on the decision not to award 2016 Ryder Cup points at a handful of events this fall, and that he “didn’t really think through” the changes that were introduced by the PGA of America at a press conference last week.

Wait, what?

Finchem’s comments showed a surprising amount of candor, but they also illustrated the communication gap that apparently exists between the Tour and the PGA of America. The two organizations, with headquarters separated by less than 300 miles, have divergent agendas but cross paths every few months at events like the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup.

So while the decision was made by the brass in Palm Beach Gardens, it is the Tour whose properties are affected – namely the five regular-season fall events who now award no points, including the McGladrey Classic which is hosted by newly-minted captain Davis Love III. How can these decisions be made without input from Ponte Vedra, or conversely how can Finchem not anticipate a negative reaction from the impacted tournaments?

Whether he knew about the changes and simply miscalculated their reception, or if instead the PGA of America made the changes unilaterally, Finchem’s comments show that the U.S. side still has plenty of uniting to do.   – Will Gray

Getty Images

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

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.