Clarke to Defend at Dimension Data

By Golf Channel NewsroomJanuary 29, 2002, 5:00 pm
Sunshine TourIrishman Darren Clarke rose to prominence in world golf in February 2000 by first beating the then-No. 2 world-ranked David Duval in the semi-finals of the WGC-Andersen Consulting Match Play, then defeating Tiger Woods in the final.
At the time, executive chairman of Dimension Data Jeremy Ord proved that he had made yet another very astute business decision - his company had recently signed a sponsorship deal with Clarke. As the world looked on, Clarke gratefully accepted the $1 million winner's cheque - his visor bearing the recognizable Dimension Data logo.
At last year's Dimension Data Pro-Am, Clarke fittingly won his benefactors event at Sun City, edging out Retief Goosen. But if the big-hitting Clarke hopes to again win the event sponsored by the company whose name is emblazoned on his headgear, he will have to produce his best form.
Besides having to beat a quality field, Clarke's last showing in Sun City in December at the 'Million' was hardly encouraging - following a strict protein diet prior to the event had robbed him of energy.
Clarke did set a final 36-hole record in the Nedbank Golf Challenge in 1999 (rounds of 64 and 65) at the Gary Player Country Club, and has a liking for the layout, so one might expect him to put up a stout defense of his title.
There is no shortage of serious contenders in the battle to lift the handsome trophy - a bronze fish eagle sculpted by renowned artist Keith Calder, and for the lessor lights, the $27,517 winner's check is a huge incentive to come to grips with both courses at Sun City and upstage the big guns.
Nick Price, returning to one of his favourite and most lucrative haunts, together with Goosen, who has enjoyed a stellar period since finishing as runner-up last year, will be obvious favorites to prevent Clarke from completing back-to-back titles.
Lee Westwood, the Dimension Data champion in 2000, must also be factored in as a threat to his stable-companion (Westwood and Clarke share the same manager, Andrew 'Chubby' Chandler), and the evergreen Mark McNulty is also due to triumph soon - a Sunshine Tour without the Zimbabwean winning is almost unthinkable.
Recently crowned Dunhill Championship winner, Justin Rose, cannot be discounted, nor can Martin Maritz - a most exciting prospect who seems to have all the credentials to set him on the road to golfing stardom.
Irishman Paul McGinley and Englishman Ian Poulter will also feature amongst the top players lining up to deny Clarke a successful defense at Sun City.
By far the biggest Pro-Am event played on the African subcontinent, with two full fields playing over both the Lost City and GPCC courses, the Dimension Data event also boasts a field of amateurs who represent the who's who of South Africa's business world.
When this event was launched six years ago, it was seemingly based on the Pebble Beach concept, but while the Californian pro-am features stars of stage and screen, it is captains of commerce and industry that join the pros in Sun City.
However, the lineup of amateurs will star former Celtic, Liverpool and Scotland soccer legend, Kenny Dalglish, who made 102 international appearances for Scotland. Other amateurs teeing it up with Dalglish are ex-Springboks Nick Mallet, Schalk Burger, and Morne du Plessis.
With only two tournaments remaining before the summer season is wound up after the Dimension Data, the Nashua Masters and the Tour Championship, the all-important Order of Merit race could take a few interesting twists and turns.
On the revitalised Gary Player Country Club (the course is back to its best after problems this time last year) we can expect a thrilling spectacle. Picking a winner is difficult, but we can safely predict that trading on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange will be light during the event, as most of the gentlemen with the large share portfolios will be concentrating on their golf games.
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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.