Notes Goggin Finally Gets to Play at Murfield

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 29, 2008, 4:00 pm
2007 The Memorial TournamentDUBLIN, Ohio -- They are two of the greatest sand shots in golf history. Paul Azinger has a hard time deciding which was better.
 
In 1993 at the Memorial, where he will be playing this week, Azinger came to the final hole on Sunday tied for the lead with his playing partner and friend, Payne Stewart, and Corey Pavin, who was already in the clubhouse. Both Azinger and Stewart hit their approach shots into the gaping bunker just off the left edge of the green.
 
Stewart muscled his buried lie to 8 feet above the hole. Azinger figured he had to get at least as close as Stewart.
 
But Azinger'in a shot that has been replayed innumerable times on TV and the Web'holed his shot for birdie and was handed the $252,000 first-place check by tournament founder Jack Nicklaus.
 
I was just hoping to get close so I wouldnt miss a playoff, Azinger said Wednesday before playing a Memorial practice round.
 
It would stand as the shot of his life'until the 2002 Ryder Cup at The Belfry.
 
With the Cup still hanging in the balance late in Sundays singles matches, Azinger faced a sand shot at the 18th hole to keep the Americans flickering hopes alive and to avoid a defeat against Niclas Fasth.
 
The whole European team was ready to pop the cork, he said of the impending celebration before a partisan crowd. I said to my caddie, I have to make this, dont I? and he didnt even say anything. The last thing I said before I hit the shot was, Well, of course I do. And then I made it.
 
It was Azingers last shot in a Ryder Cup. It became overshadowed, even forgotten, when the Americans ended up losing 15 1/2 -12 1/2 . With so much on the line, though, Azinger had hit the perfect shot.
 
This September, Azinger will captain the U.S. side when it takes on Europe in the latest joust for the Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Club outside Louisville, Ky.
 
So which was better, the one that won a tournament or the one that kept a nations golfing hopes on life support?
 
In the end, that was probably the best shot, he said of his Ryder Cup heroics. Really, if we would have won those matches, where would that shot be in history?
 
CAPTAIN FOR A DAY:
Nick Faldo was looking dapper in his navy tie and gray blazer with the Memorial Tournament Captains Club insignia as he got ready to attend a ceremony to honor Tony Jacklin.
 
But it raised an immediate question.
 
Faldo is a six-time major champion, European captain for the Ryder Cup and lead analyst for CBS Sports. But when did he become a member of the Captains Club at the Memorial?
 
Just for the day, Faldo said as he slipped on his blazer Tuesday. The airlines have lost my luggage.
 
SWEET MEMORIES:
Ryan Moore finished second a year ago to K.J. Choi but he only remembers the good stuff.
 
I didnt even know I was in the top 10 making the turn (on Sunday), he said. I just wanted to make a couple birdies and get myself hopefully in the top 10 or top five because I hadnt had a good finish the rest of the year. It just went from there.
 
He strung together five birdies to make a late charge, two-putting for par on the last hole to come up short by a shot to Choi.
 
There really isnt any negative that Im holding onto, he said.
 
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE:
Instead of selling caps and T-shirts in the Muirfield Village pro shop, Bob Sowards, a former assistant pro at the club, is in the field. He earned his PGA TOUR card last year.
 
Ive probably played it a hundred times, he said of the Nicklaus-designed layout. One of my main jobs was to host guests, so I played it quite a bit then.
 
Ben Curtis, who won the 2003 British Open at Royal St. Georges, will be making his sixth appearance at the Memorial. He grew up in Ostrander, all of 11 miles away from Dublin. His best finish is a tie for eighth in 2004.
 
Another player with intimate knowledge of the tournament is Travis Perkins, who attended high school just across the county line and 12 miles from the course. Hell be making his first appearance in his old backyard on Thursday, then turns 31 on Friday.
 
Sowards, who made the cut and ended up 79th in 2005, remembers how he felt when he played in his first Memorial.
 
I was standing on the first tee and I was so nervous I was about to puke, he said with a laugh.
 
DIVOTS:
Former world No. 1 and 2001 British Open winner David Duval will not go through sectional qualifying to try for a spot in the U.S. Open, but will instead play at next weeks Stanford St. Jude Championship. The 120-player field is the largest in the tournaments 33 years. Good news: Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson and Mike Weir in the same group the first two rounds. Bad news: They tee off at 8:33 a.m. on Thursday. Nine former champions are in the field.
 
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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.