Players skipping events have earned the right

By Jason SobelMay 16, 2012, 9:26 pm

IRVING, Texas – There’s an old saying that states, “Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes.” Nice sentiment, but if we want this to translate into modern-day analysis of professional golfers, it needs some amendments.

Instead, try: “Before you criticize someone, you should fly a few hundred thousand miles in their soft spikes.”

It’s easy to examine a high-profile player who eschews a high-profile tournament and come to the conclusion that he should – no, he needs to –compete in that event. Think Phil Mickelson and the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship or Bubba Watson and The Players Championship.

Each received his fair share of criticism for skipping those events, even though they both chose to spend the week in question with family instead of teeing it up.

The underlying problem is a Catch 22 for the game’s elite players. Reach a certain level and you’ll qualify for more tournaments. Play those tournaments and your status increases. Your status increases and more events will be vying for your presence. More events vie for your presence and more will be disappointed when you choose to spend time away from competition.

Quite simply, if you look closely enough and you’ll find a reason why every single player should tee it up every single week – which sounds like a beautiful concept in PGA Tour Utopia, but doesn’t fly in the real world of independent contractors.

In past years, the result has often been a PGA Tour schedule – and to a lesser degree, schedules on other international circuits – that is comprised of the haves and have-nots. More and more, though, those lines are blurring, with players electing to compete at certain tournaments based on venue, placement on the schedule and, of course, sponsorship tie-ins as opposed to perceived stature of the event itself.

“It's very difficult because every week there is a great tournament on,” Adam Scott explained. “It's hard sometimes to sit at home and see guys go at it, and you're at home practicing, passing up the chance.”

When it comes to specific players joining the field at certain events, sometimes it’s better for those tournaments to be lucky than good.

This week’s Byron Nelson Championship is a perfect example.

In the year of what would have been Lord Byron’s 100th birthday, the tournament is enjoying a power surge within its field. After multi-year absences, Scott, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson each chose to play here for different yet similar reasons.

“I've always loved this tournament; I love what the Nelson family has done,” Mickelson said Wednesday. “Unfortunately, the last few years it's been a scheduling thing.”

“Because of that tournament in England that had the same damn date for so many years – and we redesigned the course, so I had a commitment to go there,” Els explained. “But I always wanted to come back here, and now that they changed the date in England, I'm grateful for that.”

“Obviously, it's a date change, I believe – this year the two Texas ones switched,” Scott said. “Last year, I played Players, Colonial; this year I'm playing Players and here. It's a nice couple of weeks for me, where I want to play and hopefully build some momentum heading into the summer of golf really.”

Once again, it’s difficult to chastise high-level players for skipping tournaments. Just as a doctor or lawyer may work hard to reach a certain status – say, opening a practice whereupon one can be his own boss – one of the benefits reaped from such work in golf is the ability to call your own shots.

If that criticism does exist, though, then praise should likewise be lauded on top players for decided to compete in these events. Even those with a legitimate get-out-of-jail-free card – like winning the previous tournament – should be saluted for being beholden to the previous commitment.

“This is about the only scenario that I think you could throw a little bit of a wrench on it with a win of this kind of a magnitude,” said Matt Kuchar, who won last week’s Players Championship. “But for me, knowing that the U.S. Open is on the horizon and spending time with [instructor] Chris [O’Connell] is great.”

For an elite player, choosing a schedule is never an easy proposition, much like a hungry linebacker picking his way through a buffet. Until you fly in his soft spikes, though, it’s impossible to criticize for specific decisions.

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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.