Gillis' consolation prize: Berth in Open Championship

By Nick MentaJuly 13, 2015, 1:17 am

SILVIS, Ill. – It’s safe to say there weren’t many people rooting for Tom Gillis at TPC Deere Run on Sunday.

There weren’t that many people rooting for him in his own house.

“My daughter just loves Jordan Spieth,” Gillis said. “She’s seven. So I wasn’t sure during the playoff whether she was pulling for me or Jordan.”

After finding the water on the second extra hole and losing to Spieth in a playoff, the soon-to-be-47-year-old missed out on a bid to finally earn his first PGA Tour victory.

Instead, he won a free flight.

With his 7-under 64 and second-place finish at the John Deere Classic, Gillis earned an invite to next week’s British Open. He’ll also get to spend plenty more time with Spieth, when the two of them board the tournament charter headed for Scotland later Sunday evening.

“I said all week I wasn’t going if I got the spot. I think I was just talking big,” Gillis said. “I spent five years over there [on the European Tour], going back and forth. I labored heavily for five years all over the world. So I kept saying all week, ‘I’m past that chapter in my life. I wouldn’t go if I got that spot.’

“’Then I find myself looking at the board and thinking, ‘Man, I wouldn’t mind if I got that spot.”

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He did. Gillis secured the very last spot in the British field via the Open Qualifying Series and now heads to St. Andrews with nothing but his passport and new outlook on what’s possible for the rest of his career.

“I mean, when you’re going to be 47, you’ve got – the window is closing,” he said. “You start to get to the point when you wonder how much more there is. But what I saw today and the last three days, I would have to say maybe I’ve still got some time left.”

That 47th birthday will come Thursday, when he tees off in the first round of his fifth major championship in his 25-year career. Gillis has twice played the Open, at Carnoustie in 1999 and Royal Birkdale in 2008, but he’s never played it at St. Andrews. His last trip there was as part of the Alfred Dunhill Links in 2012.

After this week, and given his feelings for the Old Course, it figures to be an emotional day.

“Every time you walk up that first tee, it’s emotional,” he said. “I’ve never been like that anywhere else. I’ve never been to Augusta. But when I walk off the first tee at St. Andrews, it’s very euphoric.”

As happy as he’ll be, it’s some kind of cruel irony that Gillis has only one other second-place finish in his Tour career – when he lost to then-23-year-old Rory McIlroy at the Honda Classic in 2012.

“Every time I get into situations like this, I seem to pick the biggest, toughest kid on the block,” he said.

“But here we are. Really, in the grand scheme of things, I never thought I’d have a nice house on a lake on the same street where I grew up in Michigan. Everything is gravy from here on out for me, because it’s been a lot of peaks and valleys since 1990.

“I am the prototypical journeyman.”

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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.