Winds of Change
The winds blew us all off our respective mark here at the Buy.Com Tour Championship on Friday. The players had trouble breaking 80 and we at The Golf Channel had trouble getting off the air. Actually we stayed on an extra half hour and still couldnt get the full field into the clubhouse. You can thank the wind for that. Gusts of 40 miles per hour arent far-fetched. I was out there following play and can attest to that.
But despite the wind, the face of the Buy.com Tour hasnt changed much heading to the weekend at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail here in Prattville, Alabama. Number 1 on the money list, Chad Campbell is tied at the top with two rounds to go. Hes already got 3 wins this year and the coveted Battlefield Promotion behind him. But hes obviously not satisfied. The west Texas 27 year old has gone 71-72 and is one of only 3 players under par heading to Saturday. The others are #3 Rod Pampling and #5 Pat Bates. That said, it appears the best of the best are up to the test this week under the stress of a brutal test.
Actually, while walking the course with Campbell and his playing competitor Darron Stiles, I made the comment to Chad about the wind making it a fun day. His reply ' Sure is! And you know what, I believe him. Hes used to the wind in Texas and hes used to stepping up to the challenge. Youd think he wasnt motivated to play after winning 3 times and already locking up his exempt spot on the PGA Tour for 2002, but thats not the case at all. After his round he talked about it being a test of survival, but made it quite clear that he wants the top spot on the money list when the week ends.
Only 4 men were able to post rounds of par or better on Friday. In fact, rounds of 80 or higher were more common. Day 1 leader Don Reese fired 81, Jim Benepe shot 83 and even top 10 player Jonathyn Byrd couldnt break 80. They shouldnt feel bad. Neither did PGA Tour winner Mike Heinen or PGA Tour veteran Joe Daley and the list goes on and on and on.
I for one cant help but wonder if the course might be a bit too stern a test under the conditions. Over 7600 yards is one thing, but playing holes downwind and upwind at 40 miles an hour is a different task all together. The PGA Tour field staff could never have bargained for this! And believe me, theyre trying to make it as fair as possible.
As the weekend rolls on, look out for Pat Bates, the best putter on tour. He now realizes that a win here would not only be his third, but would also give him the Battlefield Promotion title and allow him to be fully-exempt next year without being re-shuffled for position because of money.
Look out for a grizzled veteran like Jay Delsing, whos playing well within himself and has been there and done that so many times this must be just another week. And look out for Rod Pampling too. The Australian must think 40-mile-per-hour winds are like a small breeze having grown up down under.
When its all said and done, Im still convinced my pick on Wednesday still holds the trophy. Chad Campbell didnt win three times because of luck. He didnt win 800,000 dollars on the Hooters Tour in four years because there wasnt anybody else who could play either. In my opinion, hes just the best player out here on the Buy.com Tour. And with weather conditions that are forecast to deteriorate as the weekend progresses, I like a guy who can say this is fun.
After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time
Each week, GolfChannel.com 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
Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2
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.
Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title
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."
Tom Brady, postgame, on wearing the wrap on his hand: “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. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) January 22, 2018
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.
Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:
Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)
What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.
Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.
Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.
Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.
Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.
Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:
Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry