Major champs Rose, Bradley, Johnson grouped at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 19, 2013, 1:17 pm

Fresh off his U.S. Open triumph at Merion, Justin Rose will play the first two rounds of the Travelers Championship alongside a pair of fellow major champions. Here are some other key groups to keep an eye on this week at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn.:

7:40 a.m. (10th tee): Harris English, Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan

Coming off a T-4 finish at Merion, Mahan returns to a course where he won in 2007 and finished inside the top five on two other occasions. He'll play the first two rounds with Fowler, always a crowd favorite who also enters off a solid performance at the season's second major, and English, who will tee it up for the first time since scoring his maiden PGA Tour victory in Memphis two weeks ago.

7:50 a.m. (10th tee): Kevin Streelman, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood

A year ago, Simpson made a cross-country trek from San Francisco to play in Connecticut on the heels of his first major win. This year he enters with considerably less fanfare but in the midst of a solid 2013 campaign, highlighted by a playoff loss to Graeme McDowell at Harbour Town. He'll be joined by Westwood, hoping for inspiration from his fellow countryman's success last week in Philadelphia, and Streelman, who is in the midst of a career year that has already included a win in Tampa and a runner-up finish at TPC Sawgrass.

12:50 p.m. (1st tee): Justin Rose, Keegan Bradley, Zach Johnson

All eyes this week will be on the reigning U.S. Open champion, as Rose makes his first start with the title 'major champion' prefacing his name. Playing alongside the Englishman for the first two rounds are fellow major winners Bradley, who will have support all week long from the New England crowds, and Johnson, who will look to bounce back from a disappointing performance at Merion that ended with several pointed comments directed to the USGA pertaining to course setup.

12:50 p.m. (10th tee): Michael Thompson, Brian Gay, Ian Poulter

Ironically, the highest-ranked (and most outspoken) player of this threesome is the only one without a PGA Tour title to his credit in 2013. Like Westwood, Poulter will hope to draw on Rose's victory last week, an event in which he himself was firmly in contention heading into the weekend before fading to a T-21 result. Thompson, a winner earlier this year at PGA National, and Gay, who won in a playoff at the Humana Challenge, will both look to add another trophy to their collection this week in Connecticut.

1:00 p.m. (1st tee): Marc Leishman, Jason Dufner, Bubba Watson

Set to defend his lone PGA Tour title to date, Leishman has already had an impressive 2013 season thus far, one that saw the Aussie notch four consecutive top-12 finishes that included a T-4 result at the Masters. He'll be joined by Watson, a winner here in 2010 and co-runner-up a year ago, and Dufner, who rose to a T-4 finish at Merion, his best result of the season, thanks to a 3-under 67 in the final round that could have been much lower if not for a triple bogey on the 15th hole.

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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.