Estes Steady as Bob Burns at Kemper
As it played out, Bob Estes shot a one-birdie, 17-par 70 at the TPC at Avenal to win his third PGA Tour title in the past 12 months.
Estes finished at 11-under-par 273 to collect the $648,000 first-place prize. Rich Beem, the 1999 Kemper champion, was runner-up, one back after a 69. Burns (72) tied Steve Elkington (69) for third place at 9-under.
'I knew I was going to need to make a few birdies and as it turned out one was all it took,' said Estes, who was the only player in the field not to card a bogey Sunday. 'It didn't have to be that way.'
The leaderboard was knotted with potential winners, until Burns tried to straighten the string in dramatic fashion. Tied with Estes and Beem at 10-under, Burns played a 9-iron from 156 yards at the par-3 11th. His ball landed well right of the flag, kicked hard left and rolled some 30 feet into the bottom of the cup for an ace.
Now leading the field by two, Burns followed his career best shot with a pushed tee ball into the right rough at the par-4 12th. He made bogey, while Elkington, who was playing five groups in front of overnight leaders, birdied the 14th and 15th holes to pull even with Burns at 11-under.
Likewise, Beem birdied 14 and 15 to reach minus-11.
Elkington, who, incidentally, has a caddie named Bob Burns, dropped his position after missing the green at the par-3 17th and making bogey. He was quickly replaced, however, when Estes rolled home a 15-footer for birdie at 14.
Beem also missed the green left at 17 and failed to get up and down, leaving Burns and Estes as the top twosome.
Playing in the final group, Estes and Burns both missed the green at the par-4 15th. Burns was fortunate when his tee shot kicked off the right-hand cart path and caromed into the first cut of rough, but pulled his approach onto a mound left of the putting surface.
With little green to work with, Burns flopped his third to four feet, while Estes splashed out from the sand 12 feet past the hole. Estes converted his lengthy save, and Burns followed suit.
At 16, Burns hit a wonderful approach shot that appeared headed within 15 feet of the hole. Instead, it made a detour off the back of the green, down the slope and into a drain ' along with his chance of winning.
After a free drop, Burns chose a putter for his third stroke, but the balls momentum died while rolling up the hill and stopped at the crest, never reaching the green. It took three more swipes of the flatstick to find the cup.
'Certainly I'm disappointed not to have won,' said Burns. 'I feel like I physically played the shots at 16, which ultimately cost me a chance at the tournament, exactly how I wanted to.'
Estes now led Beem, who was in the clubhouse, by one, at 11-under, and Burns by two.
He still had the treacherous 17th to play ' the hole that subtracted a stroke from both Beem and Elkington. Unfazed, the 36-year-old Texan laced a 7-iron inside 10 feet. He missed the birdie putt, but maintained his one-shot lead heading to the 72nd hole.
After splitting the fairway off the tee at 18, Estes hit his second shot dead center into the green, from where he successfully two-putted for par and victory.
'My experience helped out a lot today,' said Estes. 'Knowing when to play at flags, when to maybe hit a 2-iron off the tee instead of a 3-wood or a 3-wood instead of driver, it was a really smart round of golf for the most part.'
Estes won twice last season on tour at the FedEx St. Jude Classic and the Invensys Classic at Las Vegas.
Final results from the Kemper Open
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.