Where have all the Texas legends gone?

By Jason SobelMay 18, 2012, 9:20 pm

IRVING, Texas – They say everything is bigger in Texas, from the trucks to the cattle to the 4-inch stiletto heels preferred by many of the local females here in the Byron Nelson Championship gallery.

It’s a notion which extends beyond the usual reproduction of T-shirt phrases and bumper-sticker slogans. It shapes the collective attitude of the state’s inhabitants. The way of life 'round these parts is so common that it has even spawned an adjective, and it doesn’t take a real-life cowboy to understand the meaning of “Texas-sized.”

Professional golfers have always been bigger here, too. Bigger presences, bigger winners, bigger legends. The chain of champions from the Lone Star State reads like a chronology of the game’s history, from Byron Nelson to Ben Hogan to Jimmy Demaret to Lloyd Mangrum to Jackie Burke Jr. to Lee Trevino to Tom Kite to Ben Crenshaw. Each generation has enjoyed a Texas-sized superstar, with some throughout history overlapping in the same area.

Each one, that is, except the current one.

Check the roster of best golfers with a Texas address and you’ll find an amalgamation of worldly travelers who have transplanted to a place with sustainable roots in the game. The list covers Hunter Mahan, Jason Day, K.J. Choi, Rory Sabbatini, Y.E. Yang and many others who came for the golf and weather – and never left.

Photo gallery: Texas' greatest players

It’s not that the current era is completely devoid of talent. Justin Leonard is the current active PGA Tour victory leader from here with 12; Bob Estes, Harrison Frazar, Mark Brooks and Scott Verplank have enjoyed lengthy careers; Colt Knost, Bobby Gates and J.J. Killeen are amongst a bevy of up-and-comers; and young studs Jordan Spieth and Kelly Kraft provide hope for the future.

There’s some hope for the very immediate future, too. The No. 2 position on the leaderboard halfway through the Nelson is shared by, amongst others, a pair of Colleyville residents in Chad Campbell and Ryan Palmer, no strangers to such surroundings in PGA Tour events.

Between 'em, they own seven career titles – Campbell has four; Palmer three – putting each on the short list of most accomplished active players from the state. Living just 25 minutes from the TPC-Four Seasons course probably doesn’t hurt, either.

“It’s hard to say,” Campbell surmised. “Obviously, I know the course probably as well as anybody, so you definitely think you would play better.”

Campbell and Palmer know each other as well as anybody, too.

Even though Campbell is two years older, they grew up playing junior golf against each other – Palmer and Campbell’s caddie, Judd Burkett, were on the same high school team – and have now been neighbors for about five years.

“We live a 30-second walk away from each other,” Palmer said. “Right around the corner. Out my gate and to the left.”

Really? That close?

“You could probably fly a 5-iron from my backyard to his,” he continued with a laugh. “I haven’t tried it yet.”

To which Campbell countered, “It would probably take me a 3-iron. He’s a little bit longer than I am.”

Each player intimated that he would enjoy a Sunday afternoon pairing with the other – especially if that pairing just happened to be the last one of the day.

“That would be great,” Campbell said. “We play quite a few practice rounds together.”

“We all stayed together at Honda this year and I went to dinner over at their house twice last week at Players,” Palmer added. “It’s funny, we’re never home together. I see him more on the road than at home.”

They’re not only battling for supremacy in the community, but amongst Texas players, as well. Only one native of this state has captured the Nelson in the past two decades; that was Verplank a half-decade ago.

If motivation and home cooking aren’t enough to propel either to victory this week, then consider more tangible reasoning.

A healthy, consistent wind blew through the course on Friday and – as usual around here – is expected to persist throughout the week. Advantage goes to the Texans, who are accustomed to battling in such conditions.

“In my mind, it is. I played well in it last year,” said Palmer, who lost in a playoff to Keegan Bradley. “To me, I wouldn’t say I’m a favorite, but in my mind I have a little bit of an advantage going forward because of last year.”

There haven’t been many favorites from this state in recent years. The days of Hogan and Nelson, and even Kite and Crenshaw, are either long gone or simply long dormant, waiting for a rebirth in the current era.

A win from Campbell or Palmer would hardly revive the prominence of Lone Star State golf, but around here it would certainly serve as a Texas-sized victory.

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x