Z. Johnson holds three-shot lead in Maui

By Will GrayJanuary 5, 2014, 12:10 am

On another day where low scores were the name of the game in Hawaii, no one went lower than the Johnsons. Here's how things shape up heading into the third round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, where Zach holds a three-shot lead over, among others, Dustin:

Leaderboard: Zach Johnson (-13), Dustin Johnson (-10), Matt Kuchar (-10), Jordan Spieth (-10), Michael Thompson (-9), Webb Simpson (-9)

What it means: While the Plantation Course at Kapalua has often been seen as a long hitter's ballpark, the shorter-hitting Johnson has had no troubles through 36 holes and as a result finds his name atop the leaderboard at an event where his prior track record hasn't been the best. He'll still need to fend off a series of potent challengers, though, including the younger Johnson, the event's defending champion, and first-round co-leader Spieth.

Round of the day: A winner last year at the BMW Championship, Zach Johnson carded a bogey-free 66 Saturday to grab sole possession of the lead. The former Masters champ was able to make the most of the middle part of his round, carding seven birdies across an 11-hole stretch from Nos. 4-14. Johnson's 14 birdies through 36 holes pace the 30-man field, and he will now take an advantage into Sunday as he looks to close in on his 11th career PGA Tour win.

Best of the rest: After leaving Maui with the trophy a year ago, Dustin Johnson raised questions when he was forced to withdraw from the pro-am earlier this week with a neck injury. He showed no signs of struggle Saturday, however, recording nine birdies on the Plantation Course to more than offset a pair of bogeys. Johnson's outward nine of 6-under 30 included three straight birdies both from Nos. 3-5 and Nos. 7-9.

Biggest disappointment: Though he held a share of the overnight lead, Chris Kirk saw his name tumble backwards on a day when the rest of the winners-only field had few troubles carding birdies. A winner at the McGladrey Classic in November, Kirk bogeyed two of his first four holes Saturday and failed to get on track from there, ultimately settling for a 2-over 75. As a result, he will tee off Sunday morning eight shots off the lead that he held a share of just 24 hours ago.

Main storyline heading into Sunday: Few active players can match the win totals of Johnson, who just last month stared down Tiger Woods at his own event and emerged victorious. It remains to be seen if the 37-year-old can hold on and earn a return trip to Maui next January, but he's certainly in position to do just that through 36 holes. The three players closest to him, though, all warrant attention: the event's defending champ is the only player in this week's field who has won at Kapalua, while Kuchar and Spieth were both mainstays on leaderboards throughout 2013.

Shot of the day: One of the longest hitters on Tour, Gary Woodland was expected to play well this week and got a boost Saturday at the par-4 seventh hole. After bombing his drive 381 yards down the right side, the Reno-Tahoe champ carved his approach from 133 yards over bunkers in front of the green and watched his ball find the hole for an eagle 2. The result helped propel Woodland to a 3-under 70, and at 5-under 141 he will begin the third round eight shots off the pace.

Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.