Davis hopes McIlroy runs away with the Open

By June 18, 2011, 1:00 am

BETHESDA, Md. – Thanks to Rory McIlroy, Friday was a bad day for a few of the sacred cows of the USGA’s national championship.

McIlroy became the first player in U.S. Open history to reach 13 under par at any point in the championship. He became the fifth man in 111 U.S. Opens to reach double digits under par – the fourth in the last 12 Opens.

If the USGA lived up to its country club legend, then executive director Mike Davis should be sitting in a lair, pounding his fist on the desk and yelling at his subordinates to make the Ulsterman pay for daring to thump his course.

Instead, Davis sat back in his chair inside the rules trailer at Congressional and was enjoying the action on 20 different camera angles beamed to a big screen TV. He was genuinely happy.

What gives?

“I think what Rory did the last two days is fantastic,” Davis said Friday. “One of the things we always look at is that we want it to be a stern test but we want to make sure every part of it rewards good shots. In some ways, to be honest, when I see it, I love it, because I know he was just not missing shots. It rewarded him. In that sense, it’s great.

 “When you look at [McIlroy's] score and then look at the other 155 players, you say, ‘Here’s somebody that just played flat out great.’ It was like Tiger in 2000 at Pebble Beach,” he said.

In fact, Davis was hoping the 22 year old could have finished with a par instead of double bogey. He said, “Part of me thought it was too bad when he double bogeyed the last hole. To go 35 holes without a bogey, then finish how he did, that was too bad.”

There are no plans to exact revenge on McIlroy.

“Contrary to what people think, we don’t mess around with it.”

He added, “With the greens at these speeds, there are only so many places we can put the hole locations. There’s really not much we can do, even if we wanted to.”

Davis points to a piece of paper on a clipboard. It’s a spreadsheet with 18 lines – one for each hole – and a ton of boxes. Laid out in the boxes are the pin placements for all four championship rounds and even spots for a hypothetical playoff. They’re already set in stone and won’t change.

The five pin locations were selected months ago during a Davis visit to Congressional. He spied five possible spots for the holes but never assigns a day to them. The week before, in his final walk through, Davis sets the rotation for each hole. No magic, no revisionism.

On some of the greens, Davis got his highly-publicized wish of getting to 14 on the Stimpmeter. They settled into the mid-13s by the end of the day.

“I’m happy with how the course is playing. I wish the greens were firmer, only because I think it creates a more interesting event,” he said.

There will be no water applied overnight Friday at Congressional and the rough will be cut. In this Open, Davis can run the Subair system with confidence, knowing he won’t dry out the greens too much.

“Last year at Pebble in that last round – if I had it to do over again given the weather conditions – I would have put more water on the greens,” Davis said.

The USGA is not trying to embarrass players, they’re trying to identify them, Davis said with a modern spin.

“I actually get concerned sometimes when it’s overly tough,” he said. “Yes, it’s a great test, but you just don’t want to see pars, bogeys, bogeys, bogeys. That’s why you saw all of the par 5s reachable in two shots today. We could’ve made them harder, but we like those risk-reward shots.”

In four of the last 12 Opens, a player has identified himself as particularly outstanding – even if their status under par is fleeting. Only Tiger Woods has finished an Open double digits under par. That was not on Mike Davis’ watch, but since 2006, he concedes that there is a chance his way of doing things at the national championship has created the possibility of better scoring.

“I think you can make an argument that it’s probably – all things being equal – easier to score with this graduated rough if you’re really playing well versus really playing well the other way.

“I would argue there’s room for more shot making skills. We’re playing wider U.S. Open courses than we used – they were so narrow before. So if you’re playing well, there’s a chance to score very well.”

That’s what McIlroy is doing right now and, if he is to win the U.S. Open, then Mike Davis wants to see a blowout.

“In a way, I would rather Rory just run away with this thing versus him win by four. If he’s only going to win by four, then I want him to fall back a little closer.”

That said – a common qualifier in delicate situations like the reputation of a major championship – it can be safe to say that this will not be a regular occurrence.

“Personally, I don’t really care about scores. I care much more about how a course was playing,” he said. “But, there’s a tradition – a mystique and a trademark – to the U.S. Open. If you started seeing double digits under par win every year, then people would start saying, ‘What has changed?’”

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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.