Punch Shot: Biggest story of the Tour season?

By Randall MellSeptember 17, 2014, 1:30 pm

The recently concluded PGA Tour season featured a split-year calendar, an incredible stretch from Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods' injury saga and Billy Horschel's late season surge to capture the FedEx Cup. The GolfChannel.com staff weighs in on their story of the year:


Tiger Woods splitting with swing coach Sean Foley ranks as the biggest story of the year because it significantly impacts one of the most important stories in the history of golf. It impacts Woods’ pursuit of Nicklaus and the Golden Bear’s record 18 major championship victories.

Woods didn’t win a major with Foley.

Why it didn’t work won’t matter when history eventually gives context to their four years together as it relates to the pursuit of Jack. Did Tiger make it harder on himself trying to change his swing for a third time? Did he become “over engineered” as some analysts suggest? Would emotional turmoil and injury have derailed Woods no matter what swing he committed to making? Did Tiger's changing priorities impact his quest?

History will remember that Tiger’s four years with Foley didn’t get him closer to the driving ambition of his professional life. It will remember the split signifying their union was a failure in that singularly cold and narrow regard. 


In time, we’ll likely view the season as the one in which the game’s two biggest stars stepped aside and ushered in a new era in golf.

Tiger Woods’ slide was more understandable. A five-time winner in 2013, he teed it up only seven times this season because of injury. Mickelson, meanwhile, played a reasonably full schedule, with 21 events, but his only top-10 was a T-2 at the PGA Championship, where a late bogey doomed his bid for a sixth career major. Those believing that performance would translate to a strong finishing kick were disappointed. Lefty bowed out at the BMW Championship, meaning that neither he nor Woods participated in the Tour Championship for the first time since 1992.

Mickelson’s thrill ride at Valhalla was a prime example of what we can expect in this new world order – occasional flashes of brilliance, followed by stretches of mediocrity. There’s a new king of the sport in Rory McIlroy. Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Billy Horschel seem poised to take the next step, and early-30-somethings such as Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia aren’t going anywhere, either.

So even if they return to championship form next season, Woods, who turns 39 in December, and Mickelson, 45 next summer, will find a more crowded, competitive landscape in which sometimes even their best won’t be enough. 


It took six months, but golf's Season of Parity was starkly interrupted by the Summer of Rory, as Rory McIlroy won two majors, four events overall and reestablished himself as the world's No. 1 player.

To me, that was this year's biggest story.

Remember: Entering the year, McIlroy was an ultra-talented rising star with two major titles on his resume, but his future was also shrouded in mystery. After an equipment change, he won just a single tournament in 2013 – and that was a late-season start in Australia.

His performance this year proved that he is not just the future of golf; he's the present, too.

The number of players in the modern era with four major titles at the age of 25 can be counted on one hand with a few fingers left over.

If we learned anything this year, it's that the game at its highest level has transitioned into the Rory McIlroy Era – a stark contrast to what we've seen over the past two decades.


While the coinciding struggles of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson helped define 2014, the key takeaway from this season will be the return of Rory McIlroy. McIlroy flashed his brilliance in 2012, but this year he sustained it. In between, he faced questions about equipment changes, relationship issues and even an apparent fear of Fridays. The Ulsterman persevered, and his tear through the summer that included a run of three straight wins and two majors will be the lasting image of this season.

McIlroy’s overall major haul is still to be determined, but that’s beside the point: this year he showed that he is able to both step into the spotlight and thrive under the brightest lights. Winning tournaments as the top player in the field is a tall task, but it’s an accomplishment he pulled off in consecutive weeks in August, and while comparisons with Woods are essentially unfair, McIlroy’s run through the summer – when his best was simply better than the rest of the world – was at least a little Woods-ian.

Tiger will be back, and so will Phil. Their seasons were each an exception, rather than a rule. The re-emergence of McIlroy, though, will have lasting effects that linger well after the calendar flips to 2015. 

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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.