A Fine Mess at The Tour Championship
Mother Nature has more than compensated for the drought she wrought the area this summer. Nearly 13 inches of rain have fallen since mid-September at East Lake. It continued Monday and Tuesday, and more is expected before Thursdays opening round of The Tour Championship.
Its more than just a little wet. Its a quagmire out there right now, said 1999 champion Tiger Woods. Its going to be amazing to see if they can actually get this course playable so we dont have to play lift, clean and cheat.
PGA Tour and tournament officials havent yet said whether or not they will in fact play lift, clean and place ' as its more diplomatically known ' or lift, clean and replace.
The difference between the two is in the replacement of the ball once it has been wiped clean. In lift, clean and place, a player can replace his ball within one club length of the original position. In lift, clean and replace, the ball must be put back in its exact spot.
'I would be surprised if it got anywhere near dry,' said Phil Mickelson. 'It was playable (Tuesday), but it was playable at lift, clean and place.'
Woods is one who hopes the elite field of 30 will have the opportunity to play the ball where it lies.
I totally understand it, he said in relation to the tour implementing either version of lift and clean. I just think that if you get a professional with a ball in the hand, you know, the scores are going to be really low. It takes a lot of understanding and feel and talent to play with mud on your ball, and a lot of luck, too, by the way.
Scores have been particularly low the last two weeks on tour, primarily because players have been able to lift, clean and place.
The field got to do it while playing the Palm Course over the first two days of the Disney Golf Classic, where Bob Burns won with a 25-under total. Jonathan Byrd then won the Buick Challenge with a 27-under tally while playing all four days under those rules.
And even though a thick, wet rough will be present to penalize players this week, low scores are again expected.
The difficulty in the past with East Lake has been the pitch in the fairways, making it very difficult to hit; and then the ball goes in the rough and you have bunkers in front of the green that you have to carry out of the rough, Mickelson said.
You have to look at, well, about 3-under being par, and realistically, 5- or 6-under a day being about what you should expect to shoot, which would put the winning total around 20-under.
Mickelson isnt the defending champion, but he is the last man to win this event at East Lake. He came from behind to defeat Woods in 2000, becoming one of only four players ever to topple Tiger when he held a 54-hole lead.
The two will be paired together in the opening round.
Mike Weir won the tournament in a playoff a year ago at the Champions Golf Club in Houston. However, the Canadian is mired in 77th place on the money list and is sitting at home this go-around.
The $5 million Tour Championship is for the top 30 players in earnings. There are nine first-time participants vying for the $900,000 winners check.
East Lake, as a result of the event being sponsored by Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, is now the tournaments primary host. Champions Golf Club will again be the venue in 2003, but it will return to Georgia in '04 and 05, and possibly beyond.
East Lake hosted the event in 1998 (won by Hal Sutton) and 2000. Champions was the site in 1997 (David Duval), 99 and 2001.
This years venue is steeped in tradition and change. It is the home course to Bobby Jones, and the clubhouse is saturated with his memorabilia.
But over the years the course, which hosted the 1963 Ryder Cup, deteriorated along with its surroundings. As middle-income housing gave way to low-income renters locals literally feared for their lives while trying to play the haggard layout.
Stories of golfers being accosted and threatened at gunpoint finally turned to ones of inspiration when a local charitable foundation purchased East Lake in 1993. A year later, Rees Jones restored Donald Ross original course design. The East Lake Community Foundation was also formed to revitalize the neighborhood. All profits from the club, as well as charitable donations, support the foundation.
Statistical preview for the Tour Championship
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.