Nothing Better Than the Present

By Kraig KannJune 11, 2001, 4:00 pm
Is there a better send-off to the United States Open Championship than a win in your country's national championship? Richard Zokol, who hails from Richmond, British Columbia, probably can't imagine one! And to watch the 41-year old do it in front of a large and supportive Canadian gallery was certainly something I'll never forget.
Extremely likeable as a person, and so polished as a professional who knows how to handle the good with the bad, there could not have been a better ending to the 85th edition of the Samsung Canadian PGA Championship. Dating back to 1912, this championship has a history that really only a man who's represented his country for the better part of 20 years as a golfer can appreciate. You didn't have to tell Zokol that Arnold Palmer, Raymond Floyd and Lee Trevino had joined the likes of Canadian legend Moe Norman and fellow PGA Tour veteran Dave Barr as names engraved on the P.D. Ross trophy. He knew all about it.
Richard Zokol talks about winning the Canadian PGA
In fact, what made Zokol's week all the more special was his promotion of the event itself. You see, the Canadian PGA Championship was in need of some new flavor. It was not receiving the support it once had, and the purse was certainly in need of a bump. This year, it got both as the PGA Tour joined forces with the Canadian PGA to bring the
Buy.Com Tour north of the border for the first time in its 12 year history. With the change came a field strong in Buy.Com talent but weak in Canadian numbers. Just 23 Canadians played in the championship, which certainly hurt some feelings. But not Zokol. A man with a great sense of the past and a vision for the future talked openly about how the event was given 'new life' and a chance to really grow and gain more exposure through television coverage on The Golf Channel.
And from the first tee on Thursday, Zokol let his game do some talking as well. Easily the most recognizable Canadian name in the field, the winner of the Greater Milwaukee Open in 1992 fired a first round 67. He then followed it with rounds of 68, 70 and a remarkable 66 to capture the championship he so dearly wanted by three shots.
From my vantage point in the booth with Curt Byrum, this was the best storybook finish in the Buy.Com Tour's history. A win for Zokol himself, who hadn't won since that Milwaukee triumph in 92' but was able to hold off all comers while not letting the frenzy of support frazzle his game, a win for his country which so desperately wanted one of its own to hold the trophy, and a win for the Championship itself, which was under a critical eye from local columnists all week because of its new joint venture with the PGA Tour, that as they saw it, had taken away it's Canadian charm and replaced it with unknown Americans and a tour that wasn't its own. (Completely wrong as I saw it).
Nothis Championship is on an upward path because of the new merger, and also because of the way it played out on Sunday. Richard Zokol, who works so hard to stay in the present on the golf course not letting himself drift into the 'what might be's' or the consequences of 'what just was', gave this Championship a present that it won't soon forget - one of its very own as Champion in every sense of the word. And my sense is that it might be quite some time before a man of such class and stature wins THE tournament he wants more than any other he can think of.
Congratulations Richard Zokol, and go get 'em at Southern Hills!
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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.