A Return Tripp How Fast
Tripp Isenhour has won twice on the No. 1 on the tours money list.
Most importantly for Isenhour is the chance to head back to the place he feels he belongs ' the PGA TOUR.
This week the Nationwide Tour visits Athens, Georgia for the first time. Its the inaugural Athens Regional Foundation Classic. Tripps a Georgia Tech grad looking to buzz the field in the land the the Dawgs. And make no mistake, the buzz on tour is Tripp.
Isenhour played with the big boys in 2001 (16 cuts made in 31 starts ' 146th on money list), 2002 (14 cuts made in 21 starts ' 154th on money list) and 2004 (8 cuts made in 22 starts ' 218th on money list.) Nothing great, but like so many with similar resumes, hes realized what it takes to hang around.
During each of the last two years Isenhours battled injuries. But during that time hes never been a complainer. I know. As a fellow Orlando guy, Ive seen Tripp and his family at church and weve chatted in the hallways while dropping off our little ones at pre-school. All the while, hes kept his eye on the prize and worked to get a little better.
Ah yes, better.
Tripps a good player trying to become a better player and all that really does is make him like a whole lot of players in professional golf. Being great is another league all together.
But heres what Isenhour can do this week or perhaps next week in Greenville, South Carolina at the BMW Charity Pro-Am at the Cliffs. He can make history.
While Isenhour has his sights set on becoming the 8th player to win three Nationwide Tour events in one season - thus earning a Battlefield Promotion to the PGA TOUR - nobody has done it in six or seven events.
Chris Smith won three in 1997. Heath Slocum, Chad Campbell and Pat Bates each won three in 2001. Patrick Moore won three in 2002. Tom Carter won three in 2003. And Jason Gore won three in 2005.
A look at that list tells you that dominating success at the Nationwide Tour level guarantees very little at the PGA TOUR level.
And the Nationwide Tour is certainly full of spots for those whove been to the show but didnt show enough.
Guys like Tommy Tolles and Franklin Langham who came close to winning but couldnt quite stay the course. Guys like Garrett Willis and Tom Scherrer who won, but couldnt sustain. And guys like Matt Kuchar and Jeff Quinney whove won the United States Amateur but havent been able to keep their star on the rise.
It sure is fun rooting for the underdog. Its fun trying to find the guy whos the next great graduate (Chad Campbell.) And its fun to follow them once they reach the range where the stars hang out (Jason Gore.)
Bart Bryant and Loren Roberts are guys who found their greatest success after the age of 40. Fred Funk qualifies as well. Tom Lehman used the Nationwide Tour to gain confidence before major championship status. You can come up with others.
Tripp Isenhour may never reach that status. But the beauty of this game is the drive to see how good you can be. For some ' winning once on the PGA TOUR is realizing a dream. For others, three wins on the Nationwide Tour keeps that dream alive.
So this week, take your mind off the Shell Houston Open for just a minute or two and check the leaderboard in Athens, Georgia. See if Tripps trip back to the PGA TOUR is still alive.
Professional golf goes way beyond the world rankings. To me, stories like that are worth rooting for. People like Tripp are worth following. Agreed?
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
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
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
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.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
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.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
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.