Thomas plays Frys pro-am with 'golf nuts' Curry, Iguodala

By Ryan LavnerOctober 14, 2015, 10:02 pm

NAPA, Calif. – To be fair, it’s only his second year out here, but Justin Thomas felt even more anonymous than usual Wednesday at the Open. 

No surprise there. He played in the same pro-am group as Golden State Warriors stars Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala. 

“It was great for me because no one knew who I was,” Thomas joked afterward. “I just walked to the next tee. I signed one autograph the whole day; they figured I was just part of an entourage.

“No one knows who I am anyways, but even more so in that situation.”

The group attracted by far the biggest crowd of the day, even with Rory McIlroy out on the course.

Curry, the reigning NBA MVP, is one of the best golfers on the celebrity circuit, and as recently as this summer he sported a 0.1 handicap index. He had signed up for the California State Amateur in June but later had to withdraw – his team reached (and then won) the NBA Finals. 

“He’s really good,” Thomas said. “Does everything really well.” 

Curry says he has a “very clear-cut golf season.” It starts the day after his final game of the season and runs through the end of September, when practice for the new season begins to ramp up. He usually plays three or four times a week, though he says it's less often now that he has two young children. 

Curry played in a preseason game Tuesday night in Oakland (14 points, seven assists) and was headed back to practice after the pro-am. When asked whether it was difficult to cram a basketball game and 18 holes into a 14-hour window, Curry laughed. 

“I wouldn’t call it tough,” he said, “because any time you get to play golf you somehow miraculously get energy. We have to obviously recharge before tonight. But this is a nice little breath of fresh air to come out and play and have some fun.”

Iguodala, the 2015 Finals MVP, began playing three years ago but only started taking the game seriously within the past year, when he has cut his handicap in half. He topped his first tee shot into the hazard but settled down as the round went on, even stuffing an approach to 5 feet on the last. (He missed.)

“I’m tired of giving him compliments while we’re playing golf,” Iguodala said of Curry. “I guess he just has it. I don’t know what it is, but I’m trying to figure out a way to give it to my son. Hopefully he’ll give my son some lessons.”

How does Thomas fit in this group? 

PGA Tour player Rickie Barnes went to school at Arizona with Iguodala and attended (along with several others) the Warriors’ playoff game in New Orleans in April. That night, Curry dropped 40 points, including a 3-pointer in the final seconds, to help lift the Warriors to a 20-point, fourth-quarter comeback.

Iguodala invited Barnes and a few of his friends out to dinner later that week, and he and Thomas have stayed in touch over the past few months. When it became clear Iguodala and Curry were able to play the pro-am, Thomas set up the group.

“It was so cool,” Thomas said. “They’re both golf nuts too, so they really enjoy it and like the game as much as we like watching them.”

Justin Rose has his own Curry story. 

After attending that Warriors-Pelicans playoff game, Rose said he was inspired by Curry’s lights-out performance and went on to earn his own victory that week at the Zurich Classic. In the winner’s news conference, Rose even credited Curry with some of his success.

“I was struck by his confidence,” he said.  

A few days later, while shopping around Union Square in San Francisco, Rose bumped into Curry, who had heard about Rose’s remarks.

“The craziest thing,” Rose said. 

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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.