TOUR Processing and Distribution

By Kraig KannJanuary 26, 2007, 5:00 pm
Now into the fourth week of the PGA TOUR schedule, its time for a little assessment and a little forward thinking.
The following is nothing more and nothing less than my random observations after three weeks on the Sprint Pre/Post Game desk including a week on the range at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic talking to several players.
  • It's great to have Tiger Woods back this week. Thats pretty obvious, huh? Woods drives the PGA TOUR and the PGA TOUR will shift into overdrive now that hes back. Interest peaks, and I think he cares far more about the consecutive PGA TOUR win streak than you might think. A win this week would be seven and his toughest challenge on the way toward Nelsons 11 will come at the Nissan Open which he has yet to win.
    Kapalua wasnt a given for Woods who didnt spend much Holiday time with the driver and 5-iron. The Buick Invitational has been a safe haven for Tiger ' hes won four times. And dating back to 1997, hes never finished outside the top 10 in his first start of the year.
  • Phil Mickelsons opening week isnt much to worry about. Hes determined to have a great year and I think hell get it. His karma at the Bob Hope Chrylser Classic wasnt all that great ' receiving many behind-the-back comments about not playing in the celebrity rotation, and about his off-season fitness that he says has allowed him to lose about 20 pounds and put 15 back on in muscle. Arnold Palmer was among many who said they didnt notice much. Truth be told, however, a few said that up close Phil did look more fit. Regardless, I expect at least two wins before the U.S. Open. I just hope hes not wearing those brown shoes when he does it.
  • Charley Hoffmans win Sunday at the Bob Hope Chrylser Classic showed a lot about the surfer-kids character down the stretch. Birdie, eagle finish ' are you kidding me? That wind was off the charts. Perhaps most impressive is this stat. Hoffmans win makes the number of PGA TOUR victories by former Nationwide Tour members stand at 198. Keep that in mind while watching Nationwide Tour coverage on the GOLF CHANNEL this year.
  • Watch out for Hoffman - 82nd on the PGA TOUR money list last year and hes motivated enough to chase a bigger prize than just a PGA TOUR win. Hoffman and others like him come to the big tour believing they can win, and perhaps make a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team. Glover didnt play well on Sunday in Palm Springs but hes already won and has proven worthy of debate about qualified players. Jeff Quinneys contention says a lot about the great crop of Nationwide Tour graduates and perhaps more about Tiger Woods dominance.
  • And one more thing about the Nationwide Tour as a proving ground. The percentage of former Nationwide Tour players on the PGA TOUR has grown to an all-time high of 65%. And nine Nationwide Tour graduates, including captain Tom Lehman, were members of the 2006 U.S. Ryder Cup team. (Tiger Woods not included.) That says a lot about a developmental league/tour that really works.
  • George Lopez is terrific. His attitude is infectious and his recruiting efforts to make the celebrity rotation at the Bob Hope Chyrsler Classic even better will pay off in a big way. Some question why so many celebrity shots are shown during a telecast and truth be told, the tournament organizers want to see as many celebrities as possible until Sunday. Thats how the big names come and play. And the fans who show up to watch are far more interested than you might think in watching guys like Samuel L. Jackson and Taylor Hicks hit a golf ball.
  • Watch out for Hale Irwin. 61 years old and a 62 in the first event out. You can bet all the talk about Fred Funk, Nick Price, Mark OMeara, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer and others has fueled the fire in Irwins belly to show these guys that age is no factor. Forty-five Champions Tour wins now. plus 20 PGA TOUR titles. Pretty impressive ' to say the least.
  • David Duval is far more ready to contend again than people think. Hes not doing a whole lot of talking about it (unless asked) which is smart. But a sampling of players at the Bob Hope suggests he wont unravel if he gets under the Sunday heat.
  • Annika Sorenstam has suddenly become the most intriguing player to watch this year. Rumors of her impending retirement because she wanted to start a family were quickly denied. Shes not claiming burnout. So when she tees it up well see. Twenty wins gets her past Kathy Whitworth on the all-time LPGA list. Thats four a year for five years. If she wants it, shell get it.
    Thats it for now.. well see who emerges this weekend at Torrey Pines. Enjoy the coverage and well see you on the Sprint Post Game.
    Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
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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.

    Enrique Berardi/LAAC

    Ortiz leads LAAC through 54; Niemann, Gana one back

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 8:15 pm

    Mexico's Alvaro Ortiz shot a 1-under 70 Monday to take the 54-hole lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship in Chile.

    At 4 under for the week, he leads by one over over Argentina's Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Chile's Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann, and Guatemala's Dnaiel Gurtner.

    Ortiz is the younger brother of three-time winner Carlos. Alvaro, a senior at Arkansas, finished tied for third at the LAAC in 2016 and lost in a three-way playoff last year that included Niemann and Gana, the champion.

    Ortiz shared the 54-hole lead with Gana last year and they will once again play in the final group on Tuesday, along with Gurtner, a redshirt junior at TCU.

    “Literally, I've been thinking about [winning] all year long," Ortiz said Monday. "Yes, I am a very emotional player, but tomorrow I want to go out calm and with a lot of patience. I don't want the emotions to get the better of me. What I've learned this past year, especially in the tournaments I’ve played for my university, is that I have become more mature and that I have learned how to control myself on the inside on the golf course.”

    In the group behind, Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who is poised to turn professional, unless of course he walks away with the title.

    “I feel a lot of motivation at the moment, especially because I am the only player in the field that shot seven under (during the second round), and I am actually just one shot off the lead," he said. "So I believe that tomorrow I can shoot another very low round."

    Tuesday's winner will earn an invitation to this year's Masters and exemptions into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, and final qualifying for The Open.