Yanks Too Preoccupied to Bother With Open
They get their fancy courtesy cars - a Mercedes one week, a Cadillac the next, a Buick at worst - and play for $5 million purses on courses that are manicured to perfection. But ask them to fly overseas, whether it's a World Golf Championship or the oldest championship in golf, and it becomes an imposition.
Stuart Appleby of Australia summed up it best a few years ago when a dozen Americans declined to take a chartered plane to Valderrama to play in a tournament that guaranteed $25,000 for last place.
'They're like a bag of prawns on a hot Sunday,' he said. 'They don't travel well.'
The outrage at Royal Troon is not just the number of no-shows - Fred Funk, of all people, topping the list - but how the Royal & Ancient Golf Club made it easier than ever for Americans to qualify for the British Open and they still turned their nose up at the benevolence.
For the first time, the R&A expanded its 36-hole qualifying from four links courses near the Open to include four courses around the world, giving tour players a chance to qualify without having to travel to Britain.
And how did they show their gratitude?
Fifty-two PGA Tour players didn't bother to show up for the U.S. qualifier at Congressional two weeks ago. Worse yet, six players didn't even call to say they weren't coming. None seemed the least bit bothered by turning down a chance to play in the British Open.
'Well, we are close to Iraq,' Colin Montgomerie said, not missing a chance to tweak the Americans.
The real jab came from Marcus Fraser, a European tour player from Australia who lost his chance to qualify in Malaysia because of a shoulder injury that kept him from traveling. He petitioned the R&A to play in the European qualifier when he was healthy, and was turned down.
So, Marcus, did you hear about the 52 Americans who got injured at Congressional?
'Sudden injury,' Fraser mused. 'Heart muscle, wasn't it?'
No, just poor etiquette, brought on by a sudden case of brain cramps.
'They made it easy for those guys, and it's a real slap in the face,' Tom Weiskopf said.
Even some players eligible for the British Open are not here.
Kirk Triplett said it was his favorite tournament to watch on TV. Fred Funk gave no reason for withdrawing, although one can only suspect that after his whining about links golf last year, he figures it will be easier to collect Ryder Cup points at the minor-league B.C. Open this week.
'This is the greatest tournament in the world,' Mark Calcavecchia said. 'If you're exempt, you should take a row boat if you have to.'
Funk said he would row a boat to South Africa for a chance to play in the Presidents Cup, but he won't take an eight-hour flight to Scotland for the British Open? Maybe it cost too much money for a former college golf coach with over $13 million in career earnings.
But whatever the reason, it is up to Funk to decide whether he wants to play for diamonds or costume jewelry.
It's up to Paul Stankowski and John Rollins whether to withdraw from an Open qualifier in their backyard.
And that's why the joke is on the R&A.
It has gotten away from its roots - the 'Open' championship of golf - by catering to the pros. It wanted a stronger field, but that is not the identity of the British Open. Whether it's Tiger Woods or Ben Curtis, Ernie Els or Paul Lawrie, the winner is introduced as the champion golfer of the world.
Those who aspire to such glory will earn their way to the British Open through exceptional golf or they will not think twice about traveling to Britain for 36 holes of qualifying.
Brad Faxon, who has a keen sense of history, came over to St. Andrews in 2000 and tried to qualify. He failed, flew home and won the B.C. Open.
It was a sad sight Saturday morning to see the parking lot at Western Gailes lined with cars, with players taking their clubs out of the trunk and heading to the tee to begin the first round of final qualifying. One had a caddie with a mohawk, presumably a distant cousin. Some used trolleys.
What remains of the 36-hole qualifying are the amateurs or tour wannabes - long shots, both. They once played alongside Faxon, Jeff Maggert and Ian Woosnam.
Now, only 15 spots were available in the four local qualifying sites. The rest went to the professional qualifying sites in England, Washington, Australia and Malaysia. And to free up more spots, the R&A reduced the exemption for U.S. Open champions like Corey Pavin and Lee Janzen from 10 years to five, so they were suddenly no longer eligible.
It was changed to get a stronger field, yet only 71 of the top 100 in the world are at Royal Troon.
The R&A is investigating the 52 no-shows at Congressional and sanctions are possible. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said it reflects poorly, and 'some action may be warranted.'
The easy solution is to go back to the way it was, and make everyone travel to Britain if they want to play in the British Open.
Those who don't come won't be missed.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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.