Els Goosen Start Slow in Cape Town
Cayeux finished with three successive birdies to card a 7-under-par 65 and head the field by one shot from new U.S. Tour card holder Brenden Pappas, Wallie Coetsee, Henk Alberts, Omar Sandys and American Rick Hartmann Jr.
Headline attractions Ernie Els and Rory Sabbatini, who are paired together for the first two days, and U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen had to settle for less-than-spectacular scoring in close to perfect conditions.
Els finished with a 70 after reaching the turn at 3-under. Sabbatini needed birdies at both the par-5s coming home to post a 1-over-par 73, and Goosen fired a 69 with a birdie at the final hole.
Although the purse at the Players' Championship is one of the most lucrative on the Sunshine Tour, Cayeux said he felt under far less pressure to perform than during his abortive attempt to win the Zimbabwe Open on his home course in Harare ten days ago.
'There was a lot of pressure in Zimbabwe, but here it's like there's nothing actually happening,' Cayeux said after completing his round. 'The atmosphere is nice, but it's different to Zimbabwe. At home I had all the members saying 'You're going to win this week,' but there's none of that here.
'I was pretty relaxed out there. My swing is feeling good and after the way things went in Zim, I said to myself 'Hey, just be patient and your time will come.' Let's see if we can do it this week.'
Alberts' 67 represented something of a miraculous turnaround after the player was involved in a serious car crash on Wednesday. Alberts went to the hospital after the incident, and was still nursing a sore neck when he arrived for his early tee-off time.
'It was a hard day yesterday and my neck's still a bit, stiff but it helped me keep my head down out there!' Alberts laughed. 'You could say it was a case of 'beware the wounded golfer.' But the necks not too bad really.
'I think the whole thing might have motivated me a bit. It definitely did more positive things than negative things.'
Els, meanwhile, was clearly far from satisfied with his round, complaining afterwards that the putts just would not drop in the later stages.
'It was a pretty mediocre round,' he said. 'I played good the front nine and then the back nine the putts just wouldn't go in. It's just one of those things. It's a calm day - good for scoring - but it just didn't work out for me.'
Els also admitted that the play-off defeat to Sergio Garcia at the Nedbank Golf Challenge Sunday had also taken its toll.
'It's hard to put those things behind you just like that, but I think I coped OK today. I tried to get focused and really zoned in for the tournament, but a 70 is still under par and there's a long way to go.'
Defending champion Trevor Immelman appeared to be mounting a strong defense of his title, reaching 6-under before carding a six at the par-4 6th ' his 15th ' and following that with a bogey six at the easy 7th to sign for a 69.
I was playing beautifully out there, which was great because I havent been at my best this year, Immelman said. I dont know what happened at the end, but I think my evil little brother came out somewhere.
Nico van Rensburg and Englishman Danny Poulter both came up with a hole-in-one on day 1. Van Rensburg aced the 8th hole with a perfect 6-iron in a round of 70 while Poulter holed his tee shot at the tough 13th on the way to a 69.
Full Field Scores from the Vodacom Players Championship
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.