Wittenberg Surges NHL Player Struggles
The 37-year-old Winnipeg native carded a 4-under 68 Wednesday to take over the top spot at the halfway pole of the Canadian Tours Winter Qualifying School. After two trips around the 7,000-yard Black Bear GC, Collins has a 6-under 138 total, one stroke in front of Edmontons Danny Sahl, Scott McNeil of Calgary and Americans Chris Cureton and Casey Wittenberg.
Marc Savard of the Atlanta Thrashers, an Ottawa native looking to play his way onto the Canadian Tour after the National Hockey League cancelled its 2005 campaign last week, struggled to a 7-over 79 and is in 46th spot at 13-over.
Once final round action has wrapped up Friday, the Canadian Tour will award seven exempt playing cards for the 2005 season, with the same number of participants earning non-exempt status. The cutline to secure a card after two rounds is 1-under.
The 37-year-old Collins, who won the Manitoba PGA Championship in 1995, was consistent for the second straight day, coming on the heels of an opening-round 70 that left him one shot off the lead. Collins had a strong finish Wednesday, hitting a knockdown 9-iron from 131 yards to within two feet on the final hole for a tap-in birdie.
It was a good day, nothing spectacular but I didnt make many mistakes, said Collins, one of only ten Canadians in the starting field. Ive put myself in great position and Ill just stick to what Ive been doing. Golf can be a crazy game, so you need to stay with your game plan.
After taking seven years off from the sport as he nursed a nagging arm injury that required surgery in 1996, Collins returned to the links a year and a half ago, hoping to revive a once-promising career.
On Wednesday, Collins proved he made the right decision. Playing with American amateur phenom Casey Wittenberg, Collins held his own and is in prime position with just two days left.
Wittenberg fired a second-round 66, the low round of the day, and caught the attention of Collins.
That kid is a great player, Collins added. He made that 66 look so easy out there. Hes got some game.
Less than 24 hours after a double-bogey, bogey finish that left him with a 1-over 73, Wittenberg found his groove early Wednesday with birdies on four of his first five holes. The 20-year-old made the turn at 4-under and cruised home on the inward nine, moving up fourteen spots on the leaderboard into a tie for second.
I was pretty hot under the collar after my finish yesterday, but I gave myself a lot more opportunities today, admitted Wittenberg. It was tough (Tuesday) but at the end of the day, you have to come back out and play good golf.
Wittenberg is coming off a season to remember, highlighted by a 13th-place showing at The Masters, the best finish by an amateur in 41 years at Augusta. The former NCAA All-American at Oklahoma State University joins Tiger Woods as the only two players in history to be ranked the top amateur in the United States before starting college.
If being placed under the proverbial microscope is causing cracks in Wittenbergs armor, the 2003 U.S. amateur runner-up hides it well.
You know, if Ive learned anything, its that you cant put any more pressure on yourself. This game is hard enough, there is no need to make it any tougher. It can beat you up pretty quickly if you let it. I know what I can do and I know where I want to be. Im 20 years old. Its a learning process.
Savard, a member at the TPC at Sugarloaf who routinely plays practice rounds with PGA Tour star Stewart Cink, has had his fair share of problems on the greens thus far. Two double-bogeys Wednesday means Savard will have plenty of work to do if he wants to turn his week around, but the fourth-round draft pick of the New York Rangers in 1995 feels he can still take it low over the final two days.
Ive been hitting my driver and my irons great, I just cant make any putts, said Savard. The short stick and my chipping have been horrible, and they are usually my best attributes. Ive lost all feeling with the putter. I know I have a 68 in meI just have to get it done.
Second round scores from the 7,000-yard, par-72 Black Bear GC (A-denotes amateur):
Glenn Collins 70-68_138
Chris Cureton 72-67_139
Scott McNeil 71-68_139
Danny Sahl 69-70_139
Casey Wittenberg 73-66_139
John Humphries 70-70_140
Eddie Heinen 70-71_141
Jesse Smith 74-67_141
Billy Zihala 70-71_141
Jim Seki 74-68_142
Jesse Hibler 75-68_143
Jan Meierling 72-71_143
Brock Mulder 72-71_143
Justin Snelling 71-72_143
Chad Lydiatt 73-71_144
Brien Davis 72-73_145
Gavin Ferlic 73-72_145
Joe Horowitz 70-75_145
Ryan Kings 72-73_145
Mac McLeod 73-72_145
Yuji Makino 76-70_146
McNally. Michael 70-77_147
Matt Deschaine 74-74_148
Michael Hospodar 76-72_148
Lynn Kilduff 75-73_148
Brett Peterson 79-69_148
Greg Martin 72-77_149
JJ Williams 75-75_150
Billy Dickenson 74-77_151
Robert Kennedy 78-73_151
Pedro Park 74-77_151
Adrian Parker 77-74_151
Bret Guetz 81-71_152
Kelly Berger 78-75_153
Dan Cook 79-74_153
Juan Pablo Ibarreche 78-75_153
Scott Noble 77-76_153
Ron Hoenig 78-76_154
Evan Johnstone 78-76_154
Justin Sherriff 75-79_154
Michael Brown 81-74_155
Jerry Heinz 81-74_155
Ian Hogg 76-79_155
Rob Sitterley 78-78_156
Scott Yopchick 79-77_156
Michael Petrie 78-79_157
(A) Marc Savard 78-79_157
Shane Tripp 84-74_158
(A) Matt Yarvi 85-74_159
Jeffery Ryan 76-84_160
Jordan Totten 94-82_176
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.