Castro's chip-in on 18 caps unpredictable day

By Jason SobelJune 29, 2013, 11:53 pm

BETHESDA, Md. – In a wildly unpredictable, unstable and uncertain tournament, it was perfectly fitting that a little-known player searching for his first career win closed out the AT&T National’s third round with a wildly unpredictable shot that was punctuated by a handshake-handslap that ranked about a 5 on the awkwardness scale.

After starting his round 3 over through three holes, after battling back with four birdies during the round, after rinsing his approach shot in the water guarding the 18th green, Roberto Castro holed an 80-foot pitch shot to save par and stay part of a four-way share of the lead entering the final round.

One year ago, storylines after this tournament’s third round were plentiful and obvious. Tiger Woods, the host with the most, was in contention while a derecho storm had rendered the course a ghost town, closed to most spectators for the day.

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This year, Woods is on the shelf with a sore elbow and conditions – for one day, at least – were pristine, leaving an eclectic leaderboard devoid of superstars.

Of the quartet tied for the lead, the biggest name is that of Bill Haas, seeking a victory for the fourth consecutive season, a mark he would share with only Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose.

Even Haas doesn’t come without a measure of unpredictability, though, and on this day it came in the form of his scorecard. He went six holes before making his first par, carded a triple bogey on the 11th hole and made nine birdies to shoot one of the crazier 68s you’ll ever see.

“Could have been a 6-, 7-, 8-under day, but it also could have been a 4-, 5-, 6-over day if I hadn't putted well,” he said afterward. “I don't really know what to make of how I'm playing other than I've got to take the positives and doing some good things. Just got to hopefully do more good than bad tomorrow.”

At one point during the proceedings, it appeared Andres Romero was intent on pulling away from the pack, but his three-stroke lead disappeared in a hurry, with a double bogey-bogey swing on Nos. 11 and 12. He’ll be seeking his first victory since 2008 – and he’s the only player in the top seven other than Haas who has won before on the PGA Tour.

For the man they call Pigu, though, there’s even more at stake. Romero burst onto the scene at the 2007 Open Championship, when a final-round rally netted 10 birdies, but left him just shy of a playoff. He finished in the top 10 at two more majors the next year; since 2010, however, he’s competed in only two of 'em.

“I need to work very hard to get there,” he said through an interpreter. “Obviously it’s very important for a player to get into majors. I’m not feeling very well sitting at home watching majors on TV, but I’m working very hard to get there.”

James Driscoll is among those seeking a first career win. It’s been a long time coming, too. The 2000 U.S. Amateur runner-up has competed in 207 previous events without finding some hardware.

The 35-year-old Brookline, Mass., native could also be a silver lining in what’s been a dark cloud over Boston sports already this week.

“I’d like to be, that’s for sure,” he said after posting a third consecutive round in the 60s. “It’s been a tough week up there, but like any other time Boston bounces back pretty well. … The Bruins was a tough pill to swallow, especially the way Game 6 ended. As far as the Celtics, it’s tough to see [coach] Doc [Rivers] gone, too. There are a lot of things to get over up there, but we’ll get over it and move on.”

The fourth man in that unpredictable foursome atop the leaderboard is Castro, who was last seen celebrating that all-world par at the final hole.

“A bogey would have been fine,” he explained later, “but even a double … I would have still been right in there, I think.”

His words may show optimism, but his actions after the ball dropped into the hole were a mixture of excitement and relief, as he and caddie Rusty Stark repeatedly slapped hands in acknowledgment.

“We did OK, right?” Castro asked about the celebration. “It felt good to me.”

When told it ranked right about in the middle on the awkwardness scale, he turned to Stark and said, “We’ve got to tighten that up.”

The caddie in turn jokingly told anyone within earshot, “It’s our first time. Give us a break.”

And what a break it was. In what’s been a wildly unpredictable tournament so far, there could be a first time for something else in the winner’s circle come Sunday afternoon.

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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.