McIlroy takes back top spot from Donald

By April 15, 2012, 6:03 pm

Rory McIlroy is again the No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Ranking. With Luke Donald failing to finish inside the top eight at Harbour Town this week, the idle Ulsterman assumed the top spot in the world for the second time in a month.  

Donald and McIlroy have traded the ranking twice since March, when McIlroy claimed the No. 1 position with a win at the Honda Classic. Week to week, the change means little - save for maybe some contractual bonuses for attaining the top spot.  

If Donald is able to get out of his short-term funk – his win in Tampa aside – however, then golf may have a longtime rivalry on its hands.

When McIlroy was born in May 1989, Seve Ballesteros was atop the golf world. Back then, the ranking was barely three years old, carried little significance and was more of a marketing tool for IMG than a global measuring stick of form. Ballesteros, however, was part of a two-man race which made the label 'No. 1 in the world' relevant.

The Spaniard and Greg Norman locked in a four-year battle for the top spot in the ranking. Between April 27, 1986, and Sept. 1, 1990, the two traded No. 1 nine times before Nick Faldo stepped into the mix. Four of those times – twice for each – the stay at No. 1 lasted merely a week, three lasted for a year or more and two went for five months.  

In that four-year span, Seve won 15 times on the European Tour. Norman won six times on the PGA Tour and 18 times around the world, including the '86 Open Championship in the year of his “Saturday Slam.”

Their duel for supremacy will be a difficult measure for Mcilroy and Donald to equal.  

Seve and Norman were one-name athletes, transcending golf into the broader consciousness. While Donald has enjoyed an incredible two-year run to the top, he lacks even the number of major close calls Norman had. McIlroy, almost a decade younger than Norman when he began the battle with Seve, is just realizing his potential.

Norman and Ballesteros were not the only names in the No. 1 conversation - though certainly they were the largest. Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle, Curtis Strange, Ian Woosnam and Ben Crenshaw were in the conversation, too. Faldo was gaining strength as his reworked swing with David Leadbetter paid dividends.

Perhaps this is merely a transitory period in the game, with several players all getting a turn on the game's statistical throne.  

Lee Westwood isn't going anywhere. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson may still have a reign in them. Bubba Watson could get to the top of the mountain. Martin Kaymer, Hunter Mahan, Jason Day and other 20-somethings are champing at the bit to join McIlroy in the fight to transition the game to the next generation.   

If McIlroy continues to contend and win at the pace he set last year, however, this feud with Donald may more closely mirror that of Woods and David Duval in 1999. Winning 10 times in 33 starts, Duval became No. 1 for 14 weeks. Woods took the top spot back on Independence Day. Duval got it back for one final week the next month before Woods began a 264-week reign of terror over the sport.  

Surely, McIlroy would prefer less jockeying for No. 1 and more time holding court.

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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.