Plucky charms

By Jay CoffinSeptember 24, 2011, 6:51 pm

DUNSANY, Ireland – It’s fitting that a player with the surname O’Toole has come to Ireland and found something special.

It’s vindicating too, given the criticism Ryann O’Toole has received since U.S. captain Rosie Jones picked the LPGA rookie for the Solheim Cup a month ago.

When O’Toole missed three consecutive cuts and shot over par six consecutive times, including a 79 and an 81, after being named to the U.S. team, Jones’ pick was panned as risky at best, ridiculous at worst. Yet the long-hitting, 24-year-old Californian has been one of the brightest stars for the U.S., going 2-0-1 over the first two days as the U.S. seeks its fourth consecutive Solheim Cup.

The U.S. and Europe are tied, 8-8, going into Sunday’s singles, a format the Americans historically dominate. But if O’Toole had played as poorly as her detractors feared she would, the Americans likely would be behind.

“I don’t know what was said; I stayed away from the media,” O’Toole said of the criticism of her selection. “But I know it was out there.”

O’Toole is playing well, but she’s making others around her play better, too. She has pulled Christina Kim and Stacy Lewis out of funks and teamed with Morgan Pressel to form a potent combination. Many believed Jones would need to hide O’Toole; now nearly everyone on Team USA wants her as a partner.

“She hits it miles, makes putts and I love the way she walks around the golf course,” Lewis said after she and O’Toole defeated Sandra Gal and Christel Boeljon, 2 and 1, Saturday in a crucial fourball match. “I just tried to hit fairways and greens, then let her go.”

Unlike O’Toole, much was expected of Lewis here. She is a Solheim Cup rookie, but she has won a major championship and many believed she would handle this atmosphere with ease. But she and Angela Stanford were a bad mix twice in foursomes, losing, 3 and 2 and 6 and 5. Neither played particularly well, and at times it appeared they didn’t want to speak to each other. Then O’Toole paired with Lewis in Saturday afternoon fourballs and Lewis promptly made three birdies and an eagle.

“I just feel like I have the personality to mesh with whoever (Jones) throws at me,” O’Toole said. “Christina is very energetic, very spunky. She just kept me loose out there.

“Now, playing with Stacy, I knew I could rely on her to make a bunch of birdies out there as well as stay steady.”

Kim had played poorly since June, with six missed cuts in her previous 10 events. But paired with O’Toole against Catriona Matthew and Sandra Gal in a Friday fourball match, Kim made three birdies to help earn the U.S. an unexpected half-point.

“This all is no surprise,” Kim said. “She’s a grinder in every sense of the word and she’s fiery. This format fits her perfectly.

Apparently.

Not only has O’Toole answered every question, she looks like a player who is built for multiple Solheim Cups over the next decade. She must work on her short game – chipping in particular needs some attention and she hits some loose shots in the scoring zone – but her length off the tee is impressive. She ranks sixth on the LPGA driving distance list with a 265.29-yard average.

O’Toole’s putting is spotty but she tends to make long putts when she needs to, like the 30-foot birdie on the 17th hole with Lewis that clinched Saturday afternoon’s fourball match against Gal and Boeljon.

Length and a flair for the dramatic are traits that do a Solheim Cup player well.

“A lot of people did question me when I made the pick,” Jones said. “I saw THIS in her. Whether or not she was able to do that was really going to be up to her and this team.”

A little luck of the Irish doesn’t hurt, either.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry