Press Pass From Sawgrass to Oakmont

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 16, 2007, 4:00 pm
Press PassEach week, GOLF CHANNEL experts and analysts offer their thoughts and opinions on hot topics in the world of golf with the Press Pass.
Hot Topic
Looking back, do you think the par-3 17th at Sawrass is 'gimmicky' as Tiger Woods suggested at the beginning of last week?
Brian Hewitt Brian Hewitt - Columnist,
In the parlance of the day: It is what it is. For something to be 'gimmicky' I think part of the concept has to be new and/or surprising. The 17th at the Stadium Course is neither. I think if they ever let the green get too firm, it would be gimmicky. As it stands now, the players at THE PLAYERS all know, well in advance, what's coming. It's a dangerous hole. But it's not an ambush. Therefore, I do not think it's gimmicky.
Steve Sands Steve Sands - Reporter, GOLF CHANNEL:
It might be a little gimmicky, but it's helped make the course and championship famous. It's one of the most highly anticipated shots in all of golf.
Mercer Baggs Mercer Baggs - Senior Producer,
Maybe, but it's definitely entertaining. To make it the eighth hole on the course, as Tiger also suggested, would take away a great deal of drama from this tournament. As the 17th, it has helped make the tournament what it is today.
Hot Topic
After back-to-back huge weeks on the PGA TOUR, who is your early sleeper pick for the U.S. Open at Oakmont?
My sleeper pick is Steve Stricker. Even though Stricker didn't play well at THE PLAYERS, he has started finding fairways again off the tee and has continued to improve on 2006. As putters go, he's one of the best five or 10 on TOUR. Putting will be at an ultra-premium at Oakmont, the most intimidating set of greens in America. Sentimental sleeper is Ernie Els, who won at Oakmont in 1994.
I think people are overlooking Sergio Garcia. His runner-up finish at THE PLAYERS was a big confidence boost.
It might be hard to consider the third-ranked player in the world a 'sleeper,' but Jim Furyk isn't making a lot of headlines this year. He could have won this tournament a year ago, were it not for a bogey at the last. He's as accurate as ever off the tee; if he can improve on his putting over the next month the Pennsylvania native might be able to add a second U.S. Open title to his resume. Scott Verplank might be worth keeping an eye on as well.
Hot Topic
What was your favorite storyline from THE PLAYERS Championship?
Favorite storyline had to be Tiger Woods putting the hammer down on 'Roary' Sabbatini. Enough said.
Phil winning was big, but I was really impressed with Sean O'Hair trying to win. A large paycheck is nice, but winning is what it should be about at the highest level. He tried to win the golf tournament when he attacked the pin at 17 and it cost him around $700,000 when he went in the water.
As much as I loved the soap opera moments from THE PLAYERS, I think the way Phil played on Sunday was the highlight of the tournament. He avoided disaster on 17 and 18 and played the kind of golf that it takes to win a major (semi-major) event. This should make his pre-tournament press conference at the U.S. Open a little more pleasant.
Hot Topic
What in your view was the shot of the week at THE PLAYERS?
With apologies to the double eagles of Hunter Mahan and Peter Lonard, the shot of the week was, without question, Phil Mickelson's thread-the-needle second at the 10th on Friday. Remember, this is a hole Mickelson once five-putted. The risk-reward was such on this hole in the third round that Mickelson didn't even tell his caddie, before the shot, what he was trying to do.
Phil's second at 18 on Sunday. It almost went in the water but stayed up. If it's wet it could've cost him THE PLAYERS, but it didn't. And he won.
Nearly a decade later, I still think about Len Mattiace hitting two in the water Sunday at 17 to cost him a shot at winning THE PLAYERS. Ten years from now, I'll still be able to recall Sean O'Hair doing pretty much the same thing this past Sunday.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - THE PLAYERS Championship
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    After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

    Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

    Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

    Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

    It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

    On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

    There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

    He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

    His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

    Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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    Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

    With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

    He picked up one more No. 2, too.

    The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

    In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

    Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

    “It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

    Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

    Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

    He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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    Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

    Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

    Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

    His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

    “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

    Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

    Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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    Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

    Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

    Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

    What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

    Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

    Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

    Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

    Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

    Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

    Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry