Fab Four Wows the Crowd at Boise
None other than the king himself, Arnie, once played on Monday. Another year it was John Elway playing (Tuesday this particular year) the day after his jersey was retired on Monday Night Football. The list of past invitees is impressive, and this year didn't disappoint.
John Daly and Hank Kuehne were present. Both men of legendary length off the tee, who make the golf ball wish it was a hockey puck, had a go at each other for nine holes.
But they weren't alone. Nancy Lopez, the Hall of Fame former LPGA star of 48 career wins, was Kuehnes partner. And if the event didn't have enough star-power, Michelle Wie was Dalys partner.
Ironically, it could be argued that Wie and Lopez are roughly equal distance from their primes, but on opposite sides of the spectrum. Perhaps the same for Daly and Kuehne - time will tell. Nonetheless, it was an intriguing cast of characters, and the fans came out of the woodwork to witness something akin to golf's heavyweight tag-team match. And speaking of woodwork, the enormous drives of Kuehne and Daly, and even Wie for that matter, were worth the price of admission.
Daly and Kuehne were the source of most of the awe-inspiring moans throughout the crowd, and the curiosity surrounding the 13-year-old phenom was very evident. And of course, Nancy Lopez is always a fan favorite and one of the classiest people in all of golf.
Most interesting to me was the interaction between four players who don't really know each other that well and come from four distinctly different corners of the golfing world. And did I mention four completely different personalities? I was curious to see if Daly would crank it up a notch to show the new long drive leader, Kuehne, that respect for ones elders is a virtue. But I was most curious to watch Michelle's interaction with Nancy.
At 13 years old, political correctness and interpersonal manners arent a given. But from the press conference preceding the event through the entire day, Wie was obviously respectful of the legend even though the dominance Nancy had on the LPGA Tour occurred before Michelle was born. And Nancy acted exactly as weve come to expect'in a nurturing manner with the best interest of the game, and its fans, at heart.
It would have been understandable if Michelle Wie would have felt a bit out of place amongst some of the games brightest stars. However, as shy and uncomfortable as a 9th grader might seem on camera, inside the ropes and over the shots Michelle looked as poised as a veteran three times her age. The innocence of youth was evident at every interaction, but her game is scary. The length, the accuracy, the touch, the game-management decisions, the entire package is eerily vintage.
Whether she ever lives up to her immense promise is pure speculation, but given the way she plays the game, conventional wisdom becomes obsolete, and the unthinkable becomes believable. Could she someday become the greatest golfer in the world - period? Impossible! Right? Frightening that the thought could even cross my mind. But Annika proved me wrong, Suzy Whaley proved me even wronger, and Im determined not to be a slow learner. After all, this is professional golf'part of the PGA Tour'anythings possible.
In the end it was the power, the reputations, and the curiosity that brought out over 15,000 fans to watch an exhibition, but it was the short game that made the difference.
From tee to green, Michelle Wie played the best golf of the group. But it was the flatstick that made the difference. With the two longest hitters in the history of the PGA Tour in the group, it all came down to who holed the putts'many of which were for par. And Lopez and Kuehne beat Wie and Daly by a narrow margin to win more money for their charity.
Now the fun begins. Michelle is teeing it up Thursday in the Albertsons Boise Open. Shes the first female ever to play in a Nationwide tournament, and the first ever female amateur to tee it up in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event.
Can she make the cut? Can she contend? I beg the forgiveness of my chauvinistic brethren, but Im trying not to be a slow learner. Absolutely not, but definitely maybe. Tune in this week to find out. You wont be disappointed.
One last parting shot: The Nationwide Tour was started three months after Michelle Wie was born.
Email your thoughts to Jerry Foltz
Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas
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.
Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?
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.
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?
McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever
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."
What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire
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