Gilliss Island

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 22, 2000, 4:00 pm
Tom Gillis has fond memories of the Belgacom Open. Two years ago, the American was on the brink of losing his European Tour card when he birdied the 72nd hole in Knokke, Belgium. He finished that week tied for 39th, good enough to maintain his playing privileges by a mere $300.
 
Once again, Gillis is fighting to keep his card. With the top 115 players earning an automatic exemption on the 2001 European Tour, the 32-year-old Michigander stands 106th with three full-field events remaining.
 
This week, Gillis is back in Belgium. And the way things are going; he won't need an 11th-hour miracle. Friday, the American fired a 7-under-par 64 to take a one-shot lead over Padraig Harrington into the third round.
 
At 11-under, Gillis is one shot clear of the Irishman, and three strokes lower than Lee Westwood, Gary Evans, Marc Farry and Roger Wessels.
 
In each of his first two years overseas, Gillis found himself near the Mendoza Line by season's end. 2000 has been no different.
 
After 18 starts, Gillis is inside the top 115, but not by much. And after missing the cut in his last two starts, he could see his 2001 Tour card slipping away.
 
'I was leaking oil again,' said Gillis. 'I felt the same feelings, the same pressures as two years ago. Rather than wait for the Lancome I decided to go home. I was not right in my head. So I put my boat on the back of my truck and drove north to Michigan.
 
'Didn't know where I was going to go - just had to get away. Went to a place called garland Resort where a friend of mine is a pro. They have four golf courses and a bunch of lakes. I caught 11 pike in two days, fished every morning and practiced every afternoon. When I drove out on Saturday, I was thinking right again.'
 
With his head on straight, Gillis reeled off five birdies in six holes for a back-nine 29 on Friday.
 
Gillis is just one of many good storylines entering weekend play.
 
Three shots off the 36-hole lead, Westwood is in prime position to regain first place on the Order of Merit. The Englishman is just $82,000 behind Darren Clarke; and he's guaranteed to make up some ground before next week's German Masters.
 
While Westwood sits comfortably in a tie for third, Clarke is heading home.
 
Clarke shot rounds of 73-73 to miss the cut. But though he may not lead the money list come Sunday afternoon, missing the cut isn't all that bad. The Northern Irishman was able to fly home and care for his wife Heather, who is expecting their second child next week.
 
Another story is that of Roger Wessels. One week ago, the South African shot polar-rounds of 63-81 to fall from first-round leader to weekend spectator.
 
This week, Wessels fired a Friday 64 to move into a tie for third with 36 holes to play.
 
'It was a good week to have a recovery,' said Wessels. 'I kept the good bits from last Thursday and got rid of the bad bits from last Friday.'
 
Belgacom first-round leader Hennie Otto didn't experience a Wessels-like meltdown in the second round, but his 1-over-par 72 dropped the South African into a tie for 13th at 6-under-par.
 
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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

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

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

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.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

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."

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.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

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