Players turning back the clock at Nelson

By Jason SobelMay 16, 2014, 8:11 pm

IRVING, Texas - Excuse me while I download this AOL software, dial up the modem and wait a few minutes for the HP Byron Nelson Championship leaderboard page to appear.

I mean, this is 2001, right? We’ve been transported in some golf-cart time machine, I assume?

How else to explain what’s going on here, with Mike Weir near the lead and Retief Goosen and Padraig Harrington just behind him?

(Heck, if David Duval, who opened with a 66, didn’t miss the cut, it might have been enough to even pull the most casual golf fans away from their Backstreet Boys CDs to watch the tournament.)

“Maybe we have Byron's spirit with us, the old boys dragging him along a little bit,” Goosen suggested while nodding toward the Nelson statue here at TPC Four Seasons.

On the PGA Tour alone, Weir, Goosen and Harrington have combined for six major titles, 20 victories and 185 top-10 finishes, but those haven’t been recent developments. These days? They’re ranked 605th, 222nd and 206th in the world, respectively.

And yet, here they are on the Byron Nelson leaderboard, with Weir at 6 under, Goosen at 5 under and Harrington at 4 under – all of them in serious contention entering the weekend.

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“Great to see those guys up there, they're colleagues of mine, right in my era, glad to see them playing well,” Weir said. “Those guys still have plenty of length, but I think that short game is number one around this course. I think you have to be creative around the greens.”

In 18 previous starts this season, Weir has made the cut just six times with a best finish of T-44. Last year he was 9-for-22. The year before, 0-for-14. Before that, 2-for-15. His last top 10 came in his first start of the 2010 season, a sixth-place finish at the Bob Hope Classic.

It’s enough to make a former Masters champion start questioning his goals.

“There were plenty of times I was very down and maybe wondering what I was going to do next,” he admitted. “You start to question if you want to keep doing this. Especially, you know, I have two young daughters that are teenagers now and being away from home gets harder.”

Graham DeLaet, a fellow Canadian tied with him on the leaderboard, has seen the fruits of that labor.

“He works harder than probably anyone out here and you’ve got to appreciate that,” DeLaet said. “He was my hero and idol growing up so it's cool to see and maybe something special could happen and we could be paired together late on Sunday. It would be a lot of fun.”

Hampered by back injuries for years, Goosen insisted he hasn’t felt this good in “seven or eight years” – and it’s showing in his performance.

After being able to compete in only 21 total events the past two seasons, the two-time U.S. Open champion has already competed 16 times this season alone, with a pair of top 10s in the mix. Now he’s trying to improve on those results, seeking his first win this decade.

“I think I'm starting to play a little bit more consistent; just need a good four days together,” he said after rounds of 70-65. “You know, it's been awhile since I've been there. At some stage hopefully I'll have that chance again.”

Just two weeks ago, Harrington dropped outside the top 200 in the world for the first time in 938 weeks – a span that, remarkably, dates back to 1996.

He’s gone 16 PGA Tour starts without a top 10 and has only one result better than 60th so far this year.

“Look, my game hasn't been as good this year,” he said. “I'm addressing it, and I feel I'm addressing it the right way. I see some positive signs. A lot has to do with my putting. It hasn't been so strong and that feeds back into the game. I'm seeing some good stuff. It's not an overnight thing.”

For now, the golf-cart time machine remains set to 2001. Soon we’ll find out if we can keep living in the past here throughout the weekend.

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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.