A Week of Firsts and More Boo

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 7, 2008, 5:00 pm
Editor's Note: In Backspin, the GOLFCHANNEL.com editorial staff takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf -- with a spin.

Aloha 2008!: Sweden's Daniel Chopra tapped in a 1/4-inch putt on the fourth playoff hole to defeat Steve Stricker to capture the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship in Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii. It was Chopra's second career PGA TOUR victory.
Backspin Nothing like already having travel plans for the 2009 season sewn up in just the first week of 2008. And like they like to say in baseball, 'if the season ended today,' Chopra would be voted player of the year, lead the money list and be the only player back in Maui next year. Unfortunately, the Sony Open starts on Thursday and Tiger has about 16 events yet to play.

NO TIGER, NO PHIL, NO PROBLEM: Tiger and Phil decided - again - not to play in Maui, instead opting to hang out with family and friends in what has become their standard, long winter break from golf.
Backspin While four of the top 10 players - Harrington and Scott the others - were not in attendance for the 'winners only' tournament, that didn't take away from a great week of golf on the breathtaking Plantation Course in Kapalua, which ended with an exciting playoff finish. It now appears as though we will all have to wait for the Buick Invitational, at Torrey Pines, in late January, before we see the top-2 players in the world tee it up.

BUT NO FINCHEM? PROBLEM: PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem also was absent from the lid-lifter in Hawaii and it didn't go unnoticed, subsequently drawing the ire of one player in particular.
Backspin Joe Ogilvie, a member of the PGA TOUR policy board, seemed to have the pulse of the players when he said, 'I think it [sends the wrong message] when you've got four of the top 10 (players) not here at a marquee event. It seems to be common sense to me. If I was commissioner, I'd be here.' Those are Ogilvie's words.

BOO BEING BOO: En route to his visit to Maui for his first-ever appearance in the Mercedes-Benz Championship, Boo Weekley was stopped by airport security and was found to have several bullets in his carry-on luggage.
Backspin After spending the off season falling from ladders and hunting deer, Weekley had a little issue when trying to navigate airport security on his way to Hawaii. Weekley apparently had forgotten to empty out his carry on bag from his last hunting trip, leaving two bullets in the bottom, prompting security to red flag his name. Whoops. 'They put the red flags on me. I had the cops there. I thought I was going to jail,' Weekley recounted. Thanks, Boo, for getting us started on what we all hope is a long year full of stories from you.

RULES ARE RULES...: Scott Verplank had his ball positioned on the slope of the 13th fairway on Thursday - with wind gusting some 30 mph in his face - when his ball moved about a quarter-inch. Verplank did not think he had addressed the ball, but after a discussion with a rules official, he was told he caused the ball to move. Verplank protested, but lost the argument after his round and was left with a double bogey on his card.
Backspin Even Verplank's playing partner, Rory Sabbatini, disagreed with the decision of rules official Mike Shea, which says something. Verplank, who did bounce back with a birdie on the very next hole, finished in a tie for 18th. That extra shot actually only cost him a few thousand dollars in prize money.

UM, THANKS, BUT NO THANKS: It was reported by Golf Digest's Tim Rosaforte this past week that the membership at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York voted to take their club out of consideration from hosting the 2015 U.S. Open. Winged Foot hosted the memorable 2006 U.S. Open, the one that gave us the now infamous Mickelson 72nd hole meltdown.
Backspin According to sources, the main sticking point was - what esle? - money. But another key for the rejection was members not being happy with the amount of time that the course was closed for play. We here at Backspin would rather watch the U.S. Open hosted at another site and never have anyone messing with our tee times. Though it would be very cool to say your club has hosted an Open. O.K. - it's a toss up.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: By virtue of his win in the last event in the 2007 season, Stephen Ames was designated to hit the 'opening drive' of the 2008 season; A report out of Australia told of a python that received emergency surgery after it swallowed four golf balls which it had apparently mistaken for chicken eggs.
Backspin Finally, Ames will ultimately be remember more for this historic 'opening drive' than for his 9-and-8 beat down from Tiger in the 2006 Match Play Championship; A hungry snake, several golf balls, some chickens and going under the knife - sounds like an typical episode of Desperate Housewives.

Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Mercedes-Benz Championship
  • Weekley's Wild Adventure
  • More Headlines
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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.