Major season not a good one for GOLF

By Joe PosnanskiAugust 3, 2016, 6:07 pm

As a golf fan, you might not care one bit if the professional game grows beyond its already sizable circle. That’s cool. And if you’re one of those golf fans who is happy to simply enjoy the professional game, then 2016 was a magical major champion season. We had great winners. We had drama. We had a duel for the ages.

It has been great for golf.

But — and here’s where we probably differ — I don’t think it’s been as great for GOLF, all capital letters.

What’s the difference between golf and GOLF? I guess I’d put it this way: It’s the difference between the Stanley Cup and the NHL regular season. It’s the difference between the Kentucky Derby and every other horse race. It’s the difference between the Indy 500 and other open-wheel races. Golf is a great sport. GOLF is a cultural phenomenon.

Yes, there are a few times in the game’s history when GOLF transcends its usual place in the American landscape and becomes something bigger. This happened for a time in the 1950s after Ben Hogan survived a horrible car crash and then came back to win the U.S. Open (and, a short while later, three majors in one year). They made a movie about that, threw a ticker tape parade for him, all that stuff.

GOLF became cool in the 1960s because Arnold Palmer was cool, the way he smoked his cigarettes and lashed at the ball and charged from behind at the finish. GOLF was titanic when Jack Nicklaus dueled with Palmer and Lee Trevino and Tom Watson.

And, of course, Tiger Woods took GOLF to unprecedented heights, unheard of ratings, impossibly high purses and all that. Tiger’s chase of “greatest player ever” masked his overwhelming accomplishment of becoming the most famous player ever. He made golf as important to sports fans as just about any other sport.

It seemed to me going into this major championship season that there was a chance for golf to once again skyrocket into America’s imagination. And, as great as 2016 was, I don’t think that happened. Don’t misunderstand: It was fantastic for golf fans. At the Masters, we watched Jordan Spieth’s first encounter with doubt and uncertainty. He collapsed down the stretch, and a fine English player, Danny Willett, played brilliantly and took the green jacket.

At the U.S. Open, we watched Dustin Johnson — a massive and star-crossed talent who can do things that no other player can — finally put it together and win even as the USGA clumsily mishandled a penalty ruling.

Photo gallery: Best moments from the 2016 major season

At The Open, we had perhaps the greatest duel in golf history — certainly right there with the Watson-Nicklaus Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977 — as the superb Henrik Stenson somehow out-birdied Phil Mickelson while they both left the rest of the world far behind.

And finally, at a weather-flattened PGA Championship, a game Texan with the plain name of Jimmy Walker held off the world’s No. 1 player, Jason Day, to win his first major championship. All four of the champions, in fact, were excellent pros and first-time major winners.

But GOLF, the grand version of the game, is driven by superstars. And some of us came into this year with the hope, even the expectation, of having more than one superstar drive the sport on to the front pages and magazine covers and lead stories on TV.

As the year began, the top three players in the world were:

1. Spieth: Magical putter; winner of two major championships and the FedEx Cup in 2015; likable Texan, who doesn’t only play well, he serves as he own analyst on the course.

2. Day: Friendly Australian; record setter for lowest major championship score at the PGA Championship; inspiring story who overcame various troubles and built a near-flawless game.

3. Rory McIlroy: Powerful Irishman; perfect swing; probably has the highest ceiling of any player in the world — at his best, he might be unbeatable.

You couldn’t get three more perfect candidates to have a shootout for golf’s top billing. They are friendly with each other, but there’s an obvious rivalry between them. They have very different styles and games. They all have charisma. No one player can ever be Tiger, but together the three have a chance to give us a tension and sense of surprise that The Woods Era could not provide. This was a chance for something great.

And that just didn’t materialize. Spieth, after his meltdown at Augusta, wasn’t a factor in any of the other majors. Day certainly has had a good year — winning The Players Championship and WGC-Match Play and finishing second at the PGA — but he returned to his close-but-not-quite ways in the majors. And McIlroy was all over the place, finishing top 10 at two majors (though not really in contention for either) and missing the cut in the other two.

So that just didn’t come together.

Of course, golf fans will tell you, that’s no surprise. Golf is a game of disappointment. Day had an amazing year, even if he didn’t win any majors. Spieth won twice this year and led for all but the last nine holes at the Masters. McIlroy won in Dubai. It’s not fair to expect those guys to just compete at every major championship.

And it isn’t fair. But this is how Woods spoiled us and lifted GOLF to such great heights. He brought his game week after week after week. He didn’t miss major championship cuts (or, really, any cuts). He didn’t blow leads in the fourth round. He didn’t miss the putts that win and lose championships. There was never even the slightest doubt who the No. 1 player in the world was, and this made golf fascinating to people like my mother who would not even know which end of the golf club with which to hit. He gave order to the game — you could root for him or against him and it was just as fun.

Now, who is No. 1 in the world? The rankings say it’s Day. He’s had the best year, but without a major championship the year is incomplete. Johnson moved up to No. 2 in the world, and he certainly could become that big star that draws people to golf — he’s a thrilling player, there’s the Gretzky connection, etc. — but he has proven to be unreliable for various reasons, and he just had a stink bomb of a PGA Championship. Spieth? McIlroy? Rickie Fowler? The ageless Mickelson? Tiger himself? How about Beef?

There’s a lot of excitement in all that, and if you’re a golf fan, these are good times.

But if you’re not a golf fan, I suspect 2016 didn’t change your mind. And that’s the lost chance.  

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CareerBuilder purse payouts: Rahm wins $1.062 million

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 12:50 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry on the fourth hole of sudden death to win the CareerBuilder Challenger. Here's a look at how the purse was paid out in La Quinta, Calif.:

1 Jon Rahm -22 $1,062,000
2 Andrew Landry -22 $637,200
T3 Adam Hadwin -20 $306,800
T3 John Huh -20 $306,800
T3 Martin Piller -20 $306,800
T6 Kevin Chappell -19 $205,025
T6 Scott Piercy -19 $205,025
T8 Brandon Harkins -18 $171,100
T8 Jason Kokrak -18 $171,100
T8 Sam Saunders -18 $171,100
T11 Harris English -17 $135,700
T11 Seamus Power -17 $135,700
T11 Jhonattan Vegas -17 $135,700
T14 Bud Cauley -16 $106,200
T14 Austin Cook -16 $106,200
T14 Grayson Murray -16 $106,200
T17 Andrew Putnam -15 $88,500
T17 Peter Uihlein -15 $88,500
T17 Aaron Wise -15 $88,500
T20 Ricky Barnes -14 $57,754
T20 Stewart Cink -14 $57,754
T20 Brian Harman -14 $57,754
T20 Beau Hossler -14 $57,754
T20 Charles Howell III -14 $57,754
T20 Zach Johnson -14 $57,754
T20 Ryan Palmer -14 $57,754
T20 Brendan Steele -14 $57,754
T20 Nick Taylor -14 $57,754
T29 Lucas Glover -13 $36,706
T29 Russell Knox -13 $36,706
T29 Nate Lashley -13 $36,706
T29 Tom Lovelady -13 $36,706
T29 Kevin Streelman -13 $36,706
T29 Hudson Swafford -13 $36,706
T29 Richy Werenski -13 $36,706
T36 Jason Dufner -12 $27,189
T36 Derek Fathauer -12 $27,189
T36 James Hahn -12 $27,189
T36 Chez Reavie -12 $27,189
T36 Webb Simpson -12 $27,189
T36 Tyrone Van Aswegen -12 $27,189
T42 Bronson Burgoon -11 $18,983
T42 Ben Crane -11 $18,983
T42 Brian Gay -11 $18,983
T42 Chesson Hadley -11 $18,983
T42 Patton Kizzire -11 $18,983
T42 Hunter Mahan -11 $18,983
T42 Kevin Na -11 $18,983
T42 Rob Oppenheim -11 $18,983
T50 Alex Cejka -10 $14,025
T50 Corey Conners -10 $14,025
T50 Michael Kim -10 $14,025
T50 Kevin Kisner -10 $14,025
T50 Sean O'Hair -10 $14,025
T50 Sam Ryder -10 $14,025
T50 Nick Watney -10 $14,025
T57 Robert Garrigus -9 $13,039
T57 Tom Hoge -9 $13,039
T57 David Lingmerth -9 $13,039
T57 Ben Martin -9 $13,039
T57 Trey Mullinax -9 $13,039
T57 Brett Stegmaier -9 $13,039
T63 Scott Brown -8 $12,449
T63 Wesley Bryan -8 $12,449
T63 Brice Garnett -8 $12,449
T63 Sung Kang -8 $12,449
T67 Talor Gooch -7 $12,095
T67 Tom Whitney -7 $12,095
T69 Matt Every -6 $11,623
T69 Billy Hurley III -6 $11,623
T69 Smylie Kaufman -6 $11,623
T69 Keith Mitchell -6 $11,623
T69 Rory Sabbatini -6 $11,623
T69 Chris Stroud -6 $11,623
75 John Peterson -5 $11,210
76 Abraham Ancer -4 $11,092
77 Ben Silverman 4 $10,974
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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, 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.