The Thrills of No-Frills
While the rest of the world was tuned into Tiger and Amen Corner on the weekend, the Canadian Tour was kicking off its 2008 season in relative anonymity, as it usually does, at the Spring International Presented by Foster Farms Dairy, a charming name that evokes images of simpler times.
Weve got a very, very strong field. Weve got a number of Nationwide (Tour) players here. The Nationwide Tour last week was just down the road in Livermore, said tour commissioner Rick Janes, explaining that the run-in with the Masters is the result of tight schedule this year.
The fact of the matter is that we have an agreement for next week in Stockton and thats a permanent, fixed date, so we always want to have at least two events in a row (in the same area) and, as a result, we dont really have any choice, he added.
We go up against the British Open when were in Winnipeg. Obviously, wed rather not, but its just a matter of efficiency for the players, said Janes.
In that respect, the Canadian Tours mandate is as simple as the name of the tournament at Modestos Del Rio Country Club on the weekend. It is a players tour and not because of the courtesy cars and other perks normally enjoyed by the guys at Augusta on the weekend.
Instead, this tour is designed to provide a competitive environment and as many tournaments as possible for players to develop the way Mike Weir, Chris DiMarco and Steve Stricker, among other tour graduates, did in the past.
For that reason, there was no apology when the tour began playing events in warm weather American locations a few years back to the chagrin of some who took the Canadian in the tours name too seriously, even if homebrew players were getting more opportunities to play.
In 2005, the tour had 11 tournaments on the schedule. This year, there are 16, with 11 of them in Canada, including the International Team Matches, which will be played in late July at Torontos Scarborough Golf and Country Club.
The schedule could soar as high as 20 events as 2008 progresses, with the tour looking at possible tournaments in Western Canada, Thunder Bay, Ottawa and Atlantic Canada. Any concern in the past appears to be unfounded the way Canadian content is being emphasized these days.
Thats not to say that there wont be more events outside of our borders. The tour is also looking at a fall series with possible stops in Florida, Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala to prepare its players for PGA TOUR qualifying school and Janes says he would like to see bigger galleries.
The real thrust of our efforts now is increasing the profile of the tour to the average golfer, helping them to understand what its about, why it exists, said Janes, was overwhelmed with the response of people in Southwestern Ontario to a new tournament that will be played in Seaforth, Ont., in late August.
Janes says he was shocked when he was told 30,000 tickets had been printed. When I heard them say that, I thought, I hope I havent misled you. We dont typically get 30,000 people at our events, but the fact of the matter is people are buying the tickets because theyre going to support the local hospitals.
It really is a great case study. Its like the Green Bay Packers in the NFL, where the community has rallied behind this, said Janes, hoping the thrills of no-frills catches on in other locations and fans see the benefits of catching a player, Canadian or otherwise, on his way up the chain to the PGA TOUR.
Certainly, there are additional efforts being made to lure players at that level to the Canadian Tour. Prize money now is our next priority, he said. Theres a lot to be said for the size of prize purses and people start to take it seriously when they see the purses at the higher levels.
We will see some of that this year. Well see the Canadian Tour Championship increase. We havent announced it yet, but it will certainly be over $200,000 and theres another (existing) event in Canada that will be announced shortly that its going over $200,000, he said.
Janes adds that there are also negotiations going on that could see Canadian Tour players get increased World Golf Ranking points, so while the gap between Modesto and Augusta seemed so expansive on the weekend, players may look back from the Masters one day and realize the jump is entirely possible.
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Editor's Note: Ian Hutchinson is golf columnist for the Toronto Sun. He is also a frequent contributor to Golf Scene and Golf Canada Magazine, the official magazine of the Royal Canadian Golf Association.
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
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
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
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.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
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.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
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.