Golf Talk Live - Freddie Haas Transcript Segment 1
FREDDIE HAAS JR. WAS A WALKER CUPPER.
A RYDER CUPPER.... AND THE MAN WHO STOPPED BYRON NELSON'S STREAK AT ELEVEN WINS IN 1945 BY WINNING THE MEMPHIS OPEN. MEET FREDDIE HAAS JR. NOW ON GOLF TALK LIVE.
THE FOLLOWING IS AN ENCORE PRESENTATION OF GOLF TALK LIVE.
WHEN 29 YEAR OLD AMATEUR FREDDIE HAAS JR. JOINED THE TOUR IN THE SUMMER OF '45 HE DID SO TO GET CLOSE TO THE PROS IN ORDER TO SELL THEM LIFE INSURANCE. IT WAS THE YEAR OF THE BYRON NELSON STREAK AND FROM
MARCH THROUGH EARLY AUGUST, NELSON WON ELEVEN TIMES IN ELEVEN STARTS. ON AUGUST 19TH, FIVE DAYS AFTER PRESIDENT TRUMAN ANNOUNCED JAPAN SURRENDERED WHICH ENDED WORLD WAR II, FREDDIE HAAS JR. STOPPED
THE NELSON STREAK AT ELEVEN BY WINNING THE MEMPHIS OPEN WHILE PAIRED WITH BYRON IN THE FINAL ROUND. HE'S SEEN OR PLAYED WITH ALMOST EVERY GREAT PLAYER OF THE 20TH CENTURY INCLUDING JONES, SNEAD,
NELSON AND HOGAN. HE REMEMBERS THE HIGH DRAW OF BOBBY JONES AND THE DANCE JONES' BALL DID WHEN IT LANDED ON THE GREEN. HE ALSO REMEMBERS THE SNAP HOOK THAT HOGAN HAD IN THE 1930'S BEFORE BEN FIGURED OUT HOW TO
HIT A CONTROLLED FADE. FREDDIE HAAS JR. TURNED PRO MONTHS AFTER WINNING THE 1945 MEMPHIS OPEN AND EVERY YEAR SINCE 1946 HE HAS CASHED A TOURNAMENT CHECK AND JUST LIKE THE
REST OF US, FREDDIE'S BIGGEST CONCERN RIGHT NOW IS PLAYING WELL ENOUGH TO BREAK 80 AGAIN.
WELCOME TO GOLF TALK LIVE I'M PETER KESSLER. GREAT PLEASURE TO INTRODUCE YOU TO ONE OF THE GAME'S GREAT TREASURES, FREDDIE HAAS JR.
WHAT A PLEASURE TO HAVE YOU HERE, SIR.
PETER IT'S SO NICE TO BE HERE. YOU DON'T KNOW HOW WE LOOK FORWARD TO THIS IN NEW ORLEANS.
ARE YOU BREAKING 80?
OH YEAH, I CAN DO THAT EVERY NOW AND THEN.
WHEN YOUR DAD FIRST STARTED TO PLAY GOLF, ALMOST A HUNDRED YEARS AGO IN THE EARLY 1900'S, THE GAME WAS IN IT'S INFANCY IN AMERICA. VERY FEW PEOPLE PLAYED. THE PGA OF AMERICA HAD NOT YET BEEN ESTABLISHED AND LONG
BEFORE HE BECAME A CLUB PROFESSIONAL AND BEFORE HE EVER PLAYED GOLF, HE TOOK 25 GOLF LESSONS BEFORE HE ACTUALLY TEED IT UP AND PLAYED 18 HOLES. WHAT GOT HIM SO EXCITED ABOUT GOLF?
I THINK IT WAS FRANCIS QUIMET WHEN HE BEAT TED WRIGHT AND HARRY VARDON AND HE WON THE NATIONAL OPEN AND THEY HAD TOLD HIM ABOUT THAT TIME HE SHOULD QUIT PLAYING
TENNIS. HE WAS A RANKED TENNIS PLAYER. VERY GOOD, BUT HE SAID I THINK I'LL TAKE UP GOLF AND HE HAD JACK REDMAN, TRICK SHOT ARTIST, WAS AT ONE OF THE CLUB'S THERE IN CAROLINAS, SO DAD TOOK 25 STRAIGHT
LESSONS. DIDN'T PLAY BUT HE BROKE 90 THE FIRST TIME HE PLAYED WHICH IS RATHER GOOD.
AND MAYBE GOOD ADVICE FOR OTHER PEOPLE AT HOME.
IT DOES HELP YOU TO GO OUT WITH A LITTLE BIT OF SKILL, A LITTLE KNOWLEDGE AND A LITTLE DESIRE AND MAYBE EVEN A LITTLE MONEY AND A LITTLE TIME.
SPEAKING OF SKILL, IN 1930 BOBBY JONES HAD HIS GRAND SLAM YEAR. ONE, WHAT WERE FOR HIM, THE FOUR MAJORS, THE U.S. AND BRITISH OPENS THE U.S. AND BRITISH AMATEURS.
BUT YEARS LATER HE WOULD POINT TO AUGUSTA, AUGUSTA COUNTRY CLUB FROM AUGUSTA NATIONAL WHICH HE DESIGNED AND WHERE OF COURSE THE MASTERS IS HELD AND HE WOULD SAY, IN 1930, THAT'S WHERE I PLAYED MY BEST
GOLF. NOW OF COURSE HE WAS REFERRING TO NOT ONLY AUGUSTA COUNTRY CLUB BUT FORREST HILLS COUNTRY CLUB WHERE THE SOUTH EASTERN OPEN WAS HELD
IN THE WINTER OF 1930.
YOU WERE 14 YEARS OLD. YOU PLAYED IN THE TOURNAMENT. JONES WON BY 13. HE HAD LED BY 18 WITH THREE HOLES TO PLAY
BEFORE THERE WAS A BIG DELAY AND HE DIDN'T CARE HOW HE FINISHED BECAUSE HE LED BY SO MANY.
SO HE WAS PLAYING THEN WHAT WAS ARGUABLY THE BEST GOLF THAT ANYBODY HAS EVER PLAYED BEFORE OR SINCE. WHAT DID YOU SEE WHEN YOU WATCHED HIM THAT MADE HIS SWING
AND HIS INTELLECT SET HIM APART FROM EVERYBODY ELSE?
WELL HE, HE JUST HAD A, AN AIR ABOUT HIM THAT WHEN YOU SAW JONES GRAB HOLD OF A GOLF CLUB YOU KNEW SOMETHING GOOD WAS GOING TO HAPPEN. AND JONES HAD THE ABILITY TO SWING THE GOLF CLUB SO BEAUTIFULLY, SO GRACEFULLY, HE WAS ON THE, OH HE WAS
JUST WITH IT ALL THE TIME AND HE STARTED OUT THAT LAST ROUND IN THE SOUTHEAST, THE PGA THREE, THREE, THREE, THREE, THREE. THAT'S AN EAGLE, FOUR BIRDIES, AND IT WAS CLOSE, KIND
OF UP TO THAT TIME, BUT I SAW GENE SARAZEN SAY WAIT A MINUTE, THERE'S NO WAY WE CAN BEAT THIS GUY, AND SURE ENOUGH HE BUILT UP A RATHER SUBSTANTIAL LEAD.
AND OF COURSE 1930 WAS THE YEAR THAT GENE SARAZEN WON EIGHT PROFESSIONAL GOLF TOURNAMENTS JUST THAT NONE OF THEM HAPPENED TO BE THE MAJORS AND THAT'S WHY JONES' YEAR WAS THOUGHT TO BE SIGNIFICANTLY GREATER THAN SARAZEN'S EIGHT WIN YEAR OF THE SAME SEASON.
WELL THEY WERE SO GOOD THAT IT, IT WAS JUST WONDERFUL TO WATCH THEM PLAY AND I THINK IF YOU HAVE A CHANCE YOU OUGHT TO CHECK THEIR, PEOPLE OUT THERE OR CHECK THEIR SWINGS AND FIND OUT. NOW JONES HAD A LITTLE HITCH IN
HIS SWING UP HERE AT THE BACK WHERE HE DID A LITTLE LOOP BUT THAT LOOP WAS PRETTY GOOD, THE WAY HE WAS ABLE TO CONTROL IT. ONE OF THE FEW GUYS I KNOW WHO WAS ABLE TO HIT A HIGH HOOK AND CONTROL IT AND MAKE
THE BALL KIND OF BOUNCE AROUND. THEY DON'T DO THAT NOW A DAYS AND I THINK THE MAIN REASON IS BECAUSE, LET'S GO BACK AND FIND OUT WHAT JONES REALLY WAS. JONES WAS A LEFT SIDE DOMINANT GUY. HE WROTE WITH HIS
LEFT HAND. HE DID EVERYTHING LEFT HANDED, AND WHEN HE STOOD UP TO THE BALL HIS CHIN WAS TO THE RIGHT OF THE BALL AND WHEN HE GOT BACK UP HERE TO THE TOP HE WAS STILL LOOKING AT THE BALL WITH HIS MASTER EYE. NOT ME, I'M RIGHT HANDED. I HAVE TO STAND UP
HERE THIS WAY AND I'D GET BACK HERE AND I'D PICK THE BALL BACK UP WITH MY RIGHT EYE ON THE WAY DOWN AND I FELT LIKE I WAS HITTING A MOVING OBJECT. IF YOU POINT YOUR FINGER AT SOMETHING
OVER HERE AND YOU CLOSE ONE EYE AND THEN THE OTHER, DON'T CHANGE YOUR EYE IF YOUR NOSE GETS IN THE WAY. YOU EITHER GOT TO CUT OFF THE NOSE (LAUGHING) OR YOU GOT TO MAKE SOME OTHER ARRANGEMENT.
WHEN YOU THINK OF JONES COMPARED TO THE OTHER GREAT SPORTS HEROES OF THE GOLDEN AGE OF SPORT AS IT WAS CALLED AT THE TIME, HOW DID HE COMPARE IN TERMS OF HIS POPULARITY TO, TO PEOPLE
LIKE BABE RUTH AND JACK DEMPSEY.
TWO OF THE OTHER GREAT HEROES OF THE 1920'S AND EARLY '30'S?
OH YOU GOT TO PUT THEM ON A LEVEL BECAUSE THEY'RE TOP, THAT'S REALLY TOP DOG. THEY WERE REALLY TOPS AND WONDERFUL GUYS. I HAD THE GOOD FORTUNE TO KNOW THEM VERY LITTLE BUT IT WAS A GREAT PLEASURE. ALSO,
WALTER HAGAN WAS IN THAT GROUP AND WHAT HE DID FOR GOLF IN SCOTLAND AND ENGLAND IS UNREAL.
WERE HAGAN'S CONTRIBUTIONS IN TERMS OF POPULARIZING THE GAME IN YOUR VIEW SIMILAR TO THE ONES THAT ARNOLD PALMER MADE IN THE EARLY 1960'S?
(LAUGHS) TWO PEACHES IN A POD. ABSOLUTELY. I HAD THE GOOD FORTUNE TO PLAY WITH WALTER HAGAN WHEN HE CAME TO NEW ORLEANS. WE PLAYED IN EVERY COUNTRY CLUB AND HE COMES
OUT WITH A SILK SHIRT. HE'S GOT A TIE ON. HE'S GOT A LITTLE GOLF CLUB HOLDING HIS TIE IN PLACE AND WE HAVE 92 DEGREE WEATHER DOWN THERE AND THE HUMIDITY OF A HUNDRED AND THIS FELLOW IS PLAYING JUST LIKE HE CAME OUT OF VANITY FAIR. JUST MAGNIFICENT.
HE HAD MORE OIL IN HIS HAIR THAN THERE WAS UNDER GROUND.
I'LL TELL YOU WHAT. WE GOT AN AWFUL LOT OF OIL ON THE FIRST TEE BECAUSE I THOUGHT THAT WALTER HAGAN OUGHT TO GIVE US A STROKE OR TWO ON THE, ON THE NINE HOLES. HE SAID OH NO, THERE'S
NO WAY I COULD DO THAT, BUT HE SAID WE'LL PLAY FOR A DOLLAR AND BRAGGING RIGHTS. WELL, HE MADE A COUPLE OF BEAUTIFUL BIRDIES ON THAT FRONT NINE BUT I HAD A GOOD PARTNER (?). WE BROKE EVEN SO EVERYBODY CALLED IT A, A WIN WIN SITUATION.
WE WILL COME RIGHT BACK WITH FREDDIE HAAS JR. DON'T GO AWAY.
YOU BRIEFLY MENTIONED FRANCIS QUIMET AND HIS INFLUENCE ON YOUR DAD IN 1913 WHEN QUIMET BEAT VARDON AND RAY TO WIN THE NATIONAL OPEN AT BROOKLINE AT THE COUNTRY CLUB IN
THAT'S CALLED BROOKLINE.
PEOPLE DON'T APPRECIATE PERHAPS AS MUCH AS YOU DO, THE CONTRIBUTIONS THAT QUIMET MADE AND THAT JONES MADE TO GOLF BEYOND THEIR RESPECTIVE PLAYING RECORD. COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT IT.
WELL, FIRST PLACE, THEY WERE JUST GREAT GUYS AND EVERYBODY JUST LOVED THEM AND YOU COULDN'T, YOU COULDN'T BE WITH HIM WITHOUT
APPRECIATING ALL OF THE TIME AND EFFORT THAT THEY PUT INTO IT IN ADDITION TO MAINTAINING THE WORK ETHICS THAT THEY ACCUMULATED OVER THE YEARS.
JONES WAS A VERY OUTSTANDING ATTORNEY AND I DON'T KNOW EXACTLY WHAT FRANCIS QUIMET DID BUT I KNOW HE AND DAD DID SOME BUSINESS AND WE WERE SO DELIGHTED WHEN HE WON THE
NATIONAL AMATEUR BECAUSE IT SHOWED THAT HIM WINNING THE NATIONAL OPEN OVER RAY AND VARDON WAS NO FLUKE. THIS GUY COULD PLAY GOLF AND HERE IS 19 YEARS OLD, IT JUST CAPTURED THE FANCY OF THE PEOPLE WHO WERE, KNEW ANYTHING AT ALL ABOUT GOLF OR, THEY SAID WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED GOLF?
REALLY? AND UH SAME THING IS HAPPENING WITH TIGER WOODS. THEY'RE SAYING WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON HERE? WELL, WHAT WENT ON THEN. WELL I'LL TELL YOU, IT WAS ALMOST A MIRACLE.
WE COULDN'T BELIEVE THAT FRANCIS QUIMET BEAT VARDON AND RAY. GREATEST PLAYERS IN THE WORLD.
PEOPLE LIKE TO CRITICIZE A LITTLE BIT JONES' 1930 YEAR BY SUGGESTING THAT BECAUSE HE WAS AN AMATEUR AND NOT A PROFESSIONAL THAT HE DIDN'T HAVE GREAT PLAYERS TO PLAY AGAINST. NOW WE KNOW OF COURSE THAT HAGAN AND SARAZEN WERE IN THEIR PRIME AND
FROM 1923 ON NEITHER ONE OF THEM EVER WON A MAJOR CHAMPIONSHIP THAT JONES ACTUALLY PLAYED IN BECAUSE HE
WAS BUSY WINNING ALL OF THEM. GIVE US A SENSE OF WHY JONES' RECORD IS AS GREAT AS YOU AND I THINK IT IS REGARDLESS OF WHETHER HE WAS AN AMATEUR OR PROFESSIONAL.
WELL THE FIRST PLACE, HE HAD TO TRAVEL TO PLAY IN THESE FOUR TOURNAMENTS AND TRAVELING WASN'T TOO EASY THEN, HOW YOU GOING TO GET THERE? WELL, ONLY WAY YOU CAN GET
TO ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND'S GET ON A BOAT. WELL AFTER YOU'VE BEEN TOPSY TURVY ON A BOAT FOR FIVE TO SEVEN DAYS I WANT TO SEE YOU GET OUT AND REALLY HIT THE BALL. CHARLIE YATES IN 1938 GOT OFF THAT BOAT AND HE WAS HITTING THE BALL LIKE, BOY, JUST LIKE HE WANTED TO HIT IT.
WHO WON THE BRITISH AMATEUR OF COURSE THAT YEAR.
AND HE WON THE BRITISH AMATEUR, WAS A STAR OF THE WALKER CUP, JUST GREAT. SEVERAL OF US, WE, WE, WE WERE WOBBLING ALL OVER THE PLACE. IT WASN'T TOO MUCH FUN. ONLY WAY YOU
COULD GET THERE. JONES OVER CAME. HE HAD TO DO THAT TWICE. IT'S A VERY DIFFICULT SITUATION, TRAVELING, AND FINDING PLACES TO STAY. OF COURSE I'M SURE HE HAD SOME HELP, BUT IT WAS
WONDERFUL THAT HE WAS ABLE TO PUT TOGETHER WHAT HE DID. WE JUST ALL MARVELED AT IT. WE REALLY DID. HERE'S AN AMATEUR THAT'S WORKING AND IS PLAYING WITH THE BEST PLAYERS
AND IF YOU DON'T THINK HAGAN AND CHUTE AND CRAIG WOOD AND ALL THOSE GUYS COULD PLAY. SARAZEN, WELL I WANT TO TELL YOU THEY COULD. THEY WERE GOOD AND YOU OUGHT TO SEE THE EQUIPMENT THEY (LAUGHING) PLAYED WITH.
IF THEY HAD HAD THE GRAPHITE SHAFT WHERE THEY COULD HAVE HAD A 45 OR 46 INCH DRIVER, HOW FAR DO YOU THINK THEY'D HIT IT? WELL WE HAD WOODEN SHAFTS AND I WANT TO TELL YOU IF YOU HIT THE BALL ON THE TOE OR THE HEEL
YOU JUST HAD NO IDEA WHERE THE BALL WAS GOING TO GO. NOW IF YOU CAUGHT IT RIGHT IN THE CENTER LIKE JONES DID ALL THE TIME, HE COULD PLAY WITH IT.
WHAT DID IT MEAN TO YOU WHEN HE INVITED YOU TO PLAY IN THE MASTERS IN 1935 AFTER YOU HAD WON THE SOUTHERN OPEN IN 1934?
WELL IT WAS THE SOUTHERN AMATEUR AT THE NEW ORLEANS COUNTRY CLUB AND THEY ASKED ME TO PLAY WITH BOBBY. I WAS QUITE HONORED, QUITE NICE. HE CAME TO THE MEADORY (?) COUNTRY CLUB. WE PLAYED IN SEPTEMBER AND WHEN WE GOT THROUGH BOBBY SAID WE HAD A
GATHERING OF SOME REAL FINE PROFESSIONALS LAST YEAR AND HE SAID WE'RE GOING TO PUT ON A TOURNAMENT THIS YEAR THAT WE'RE GOING TO CALL THE MASTERS AND HE SAID I'D LIKE TO HAVE A COUPLE OF YOUNG AMATEURS
LIKE YOU AND CHARLIE YATES COME OVER AND PLAY. WOULD YOU CARE TO PLAY? I SAID THANK YOU VERY MUCH, MR. JONES, I'LL BE THERE, PLEASE SIR.
WHAT DID IT MEAN TO YOU TO HAVE FRANCIS QUIMET AS THE CAPTAIN OF THE 38 WALKER CUP TEAM? YOU ALREADY REFERENCED HIS AMATEUR WINS, ACTUALLY ONE IN '31 AND HE ALSO WON IN 1914 AFTER WINNING THE OPEN IN '13. WHAT KIND OF CAPTAIN WAS HE?
OH HE WAS GREAT (LAUGHS). IF YOU JUST HAD THE OPPORTUNITY OF KNOWING FRANCIS. YOU JUST, THAT WAS IT, AND FRANCIS WAS JUST MADE THE TRIP A SUCCESS BECAUSE I HAD TWO REALLY
GOALS IN MIND. I WANTED TO BE ON THE WALKER CUP TEAM. I THOUGHT THAT WOULD BE REALLY NEAT TO PLAY, AND I ALSO WANTED TO WIN THE NATIONAL INTERCOLLEGIATE CHAMPIONSHIP WHICH
WAS PUT ON AT THAT TIME BY THE USGA AND I WAS FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO WIN THE INTERCOLLEGIATE IN '37 AND WON THE SOUTHERN IN '34 AND '37. I PLAYED CHARLIE YATES IN THE FINAL. THAT RASCAL. HE PLAYED GOOD, BOY, I JUST
DIDN'T KNOWS HIM. I TELL YOU. THAT WAS A TOUGHIE. ANYWAY, I PLAYED AND IT WAS, IT WAS PROBABLY THE HEIGHT OF MY GOLF CAREER. I ENJOYED THE RYDER CUP TEAM AND IT WAS FINE BUT, AND WE WENT OVER TO FRANCE AND PLAYED AT
ST. (?) AND WE PLAYED AT ST. JERMAINE AND WE PLAYED WITH NATO AND WE PLAYED A GROUP FROM THE CONTINENT OVER THERE. WE HAD A GREAT TIME, AND IT WAS WONDERFUL BUT SOMETHING
ABOUT THE WALKER CUP TEAM IS JUST MAGIC AND CHARLIE YATES IS CAPTURING THAT NOW. I DON'T KNOW WHETHER YOU KNOW THEY'RE HAVING A BIG GET TOGETHER AT THE WALKER CUP THIS
YEAR AND HE'S BEEN DOING THAT FOR THE PAST OH I DON'T KNOW, SIX, OR EIGHT, OR TEN YEARS AND IT, IT'S CAMARADERIE PERSONIFIED. IT'S GREAT.
WE'RE GOING TO TAKE A LITTLE BREAK AND WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK. AS WE LEAVE YOU FOR JUST A MOMENT, JUST A COUPLE OF THE PLAYING CAREER HIGHLIGHTS OF FREDDIE HAAS, JR.
-WHILE AT LOUISIANA STATE, 1937 NCAA INDIVIDUAL CHAMPION, RUNNER-UP IN 1935.
-FIRST PERSON TO PLAY ON BOTH THE U.S. RYDER CUP AND WALKER CUP TEAMS.
-1966 PGA SENIORS AND WORLD SENIORS CHAMPION
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
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
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
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.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
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.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
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.