Kaymer relishes Ryder Cup-like scenario at Sawgrass

By Jason SobelMay 11, 2014, 1:05 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – There is a sweet little irony to Martin Kaymer being in contention to win here, on the home turf of PGA Tour headquarters, at one of its prized TPC backdrops.

It was just a few years ago, not long before Kaymer won the 2010 PGA Championship, when he couldn’t even get onto the practice tee of one of these courses. The native of Germany is a Scottsdale, Ariz., transplant and his home club, Whisper Rock, was closed on Mondays during the summer. So he called TPC Scottsdale, a top-10 player in the world seeking to practice one day each week at the facility.

“But I was not a PGA Tour member,” he recalled, “so I was not allowed to practice.”

Moral of the story: Kaymer has gotten used to being an outsider.

It happened again when he won his major championship later that summer. The biggest headlines afterward swirled around a big-hitting guy named Bubba Watson turning risk-reward into a harrowing defeat and another big hitter named Dustin Johnson carelessly grounding his club in a hazard on the final hole. Kaymer? He was the winner, but he was also an afterthought.

And now it’s happening yet again. He played 18 holes alongside American wunderkind Jordan Spieth in Saturday’s final pairing, with the two of them ending the day deadlocked at 12 under, three strokes clear of the next closest competitor. If you only listened to the partisan crowd, though, it felt like Kaymer was playing Garfunkel to Spieth’s Simon – just a sidekick along for the ride.

“I had the same experience when I was in the playoff against Bubba at the PGA,” explained Kaymer, who posted an even-par 72. “When you're trying to win a big tournament, usually the big tournaments, you play them in America, so I'm always a foreigner. It's a good challenge. It's another challenge of that day. It's not easy, but I know what's going to happen. I know what I can expect, and therefore it's OK.”

The truth is, we can extend the analogy one step further.

Full-field scores from The Players Championship

The Players Championship: Articles, videos and photos

The American and the European, essentially playing match play, trying to outduel each other? The scene owned the gravitas of a Ryder Cup – without the matching team uniforms.

“It felt a bit like a Ryder Cup match, but we didn't play in Europe, obviously,” Kaymer said with a smirk.

“With how great of a guy Martin is, I wish it didn't feel as much like a Ryder Cup,” added Spieth. “That's really kind of what it felt like out there, which is great. I think that's only going to help me to have momentum with the crowd behind me.”

This is the part of the story where a gentle reminder is offered: The last time a Ryder Cup was contested, two years ago at Medinah Country Club, it was Kaymer who clinched the winning point for the European side on U.S. soil.

None of this is to suggest that the two players were jingling coins in their pockets or producing any other forms of gamesmanship during the day. In fact, it was just the opposite.

After Spieth lipped out a birdie attempt on the 10th hole, they hit their tee shots on 11 and his playing partner sidled up next to him as they walked down the fairway.

“He's like, ‘Just don't worry about it; just have some fun; this is where you want to be,” Spieth related. “Which was really cool for him to come up and say that at the time. He did get to a couple‑shot lead at the time, so maybe that made him happier, but it was just really nice for him to do that in the setting that we were in.”

The biased gallery didn’t repay the favor.

When Kaymer missed his par putt on the final hole, it led to a burst of cheering from outside the ropes, the assembled crowd realizing the newest American hero would enter the final round in a tie for the lead.

“I wish [that] didn't happen,” Spieth said. “He handled it gracefully, just a class act, took his hat off, smiled. We were saying how much we enjoyed playing with each other and we'll enjoy it tomorrow.”

Yes, Sunday should be more of the same, with the two players enjoying each other’s company in the final pairing – and the fans treating the festivities like a Ryder Cup.

All of which should suit Kaymer just fine. He’s used to being an outsider. And he’s been pretty successful in this scenario over the years, too.

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.