What We Learned: Kuchar is major ready

By Will GrayJune 3, 2013, 1:26 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the world of golf. In this edition, our writers weigh in on whether Matt Kuchar is ready to win a major, Karrie Webb's remarkable record of sustained excellence and the debate that still lingers over the format of the NCAAChampionship.

Matt Kuchar is ready to win a major. Long thought of as a player who is solid in many aspects but great in none, Kuchar has now demonstrated an ability to win consistently against upper-echelon fields. If you need proof, just consider the settings for each of his last three PGA Tour victories: The Players Championship a year ago, where annually one of the strongest fields in golf assembles; a resounding march through the bracket at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship earlier this season and Sunday’s triumph at Muirfield Village.

With his most recent win, Kuchar will likely supplant Justin Rose as the highest-ranked player without a major title to his credit when the new rankings are published Monday. In his post-round news conference, Kuchar noted a perception before the year began that two pieces were missing from his resume: a major victory and a multiple-win season. Now that the former has been achieved, the latter is all that remains in order to include Kuchar’s name when discussing the truly elite players in today’s game. – Will Gray

In the prognostication game, timing is everything. Anyone can pick a winnerp; it's picking the right winner on the right week that keeps those big buildings in Las Vegas in business. On Friday afternoon, with Matt Kuchar in the mix on a crowded Memorial Tournament leaderboard, I tweeted the following: 'How well has Matt Kuchar been playing? If I had to make a U.S. Open pick right this minute – and trust me, I don't – he's my guy.' Well, a little over 48 hours later, he tested my theory about timing, as the remarkably consistent Kuchar played some remarkably consistent golf to claim the Memorial title. It left me wondering: Did the victory actually hurt Kuchar's chances of winning at Merion? Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that he wouldn't take the W and take his chances, but the numbers tell us how difficult it is to win back-to-back starts. In fact, before Kuchar's victory, only one other player –  Tiger Woods, of course –  had even been able to back up a win this season with another one. We'll find out if Kuchar can disprove this theory soon enough by prevailing on a course that should be tailor-made to his game. Or else we'll learn once again that, yes, timing is everything in the prognostication game. – Jason Sobel

Five years into its match-play experiment, the NCAA Championship still has an identity crisis. Officials want drama, and the current format provides plenty of that. (Just ask Cal.) Officials also want the national championship to identify the top team in the country, and four times in the past five years the No. 1-ranked team has left NCAAs without the trophy. Match play will be used for a few more years, even if many think a 72-hole stroke-play tournament is what’s best for college golf. Fortunately, second-ranked Alabama’s win Sunday quieted this debate. But, rest assured, only for a few months. – Ryan Lavner

Karrie Webb’s longevity as a winner is something to marvel over.

It’s not so much her age. She’s only 38. That’s four years younger than Phil Mickelson, just a year older than Tiger Woods. It’s more the nature of the way she has been able to continue to fan the embers of her ambition after fashioning a Hall of Fame career that surpassed even her wildest dreams. That’s no easy trick in the women’s game, where youth rules so much more than in the men’s game, and where the pressures of being the top women’s player have taken such a toll. Annika Sorenstam retired at 37, Lorena Ochoa at 28. At her best, Webb was just as dominant as they were. 

For someone who has already secured her place in history, it must be exhausting fending off challengers who just keep getting younger. It must be difficult to keep pushing to do the work it takes to win on an ultra-young tour. Lydia Ko won at 15 last year, Lexi Thompson at 16 the year before. Yani Tseng was 22 when she rose to No. 1. Inbee Park holds the top spot now at 24.

Webb’s Shoprite victory Sunday was her 39th LPGA title. She has victories somewhere in the world in 18 of the last 19 years. The drive to keep beating these baby-faced challengers is something to marvel over. – Randall Mell

Matt Kuchar may have inherited the title “best player without a major” thanks to his performance at the Memorial. His two-stroke victory is his second of the season, and the sixth of his career, and makes him an easy pick heading into Merion and the U.S. Open in a fortnight. Kuchar has five top-10 finishes in his last 12 Grand Slam starts and after Muirfield Village he appears ready to take that next step. – Rex Hoggard

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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.