Reversal of Fortune
The International team turned the tables on the Americans in Friday's morning Four-ball matches at the 4th biennial Presidents Cup in Prince William County, Va. Shut out after Day One, the defending champions earned a full four points in the better-ball format to cut their overall deficit to 6-4.
Campbell/Goosen vs. Sutton/Azinger
Just as the U.S. did on Thursday, the Internationals got off to a hot start on Friday and never looked back. Michael Campbell and Retief Goosen were the first to go out, the first to come in and the first to record a point for their team.
After sitting out Thursday's matches, Campbell showed no signs of nerves in his maiden Cup appearance. The Kiwi helped his South African partner record six birdies, and also added a solo eagle at the par-5 14th for an easy 4-and-3 victory over his American counterparts.
Any chance the Americans had of earning a point in this match were dissolved at the short par-4 10th. Down three, and with Goosen in the greenside bunker off the tee, Hal Sutton tried to lay-up safely in the fairway, but pushed his tee shot into the right rough.
With no margin for error, Paul Azinger pulled out the driver and went for the green. He found the hazard. The Americans lost the hole, and, in effect, lost the match.
'This is a huge boost to our confidence,' said Campbell. 'Hopefully, this is a good start to the rest of the week.'
Furyk/Duval vs. Price/Norman
Greg Norman and Nick Price have played in a combined 26-career Presidents Cup matches. Yet, until Friday, they had never been paired together.
You might see this twosome again.
Price and Norman carded seven birdies and no bogeys over 13 holes to soundly defeat Jim Furyk and David Duval 6-and-5. Norman made a three-foot birdie putt at the 3rd to take a 1-up lead - a lead they would never relinquish. The Australian atoned for his poor performance on Thursday by sinking nearly every putt he faced inside 15 feet.
By contrast, Furyk and Duval couldn't buy a putt. The tandem combined for only two birdies and one bogey. That bogey came at the par-3 9th. Down three, Furyk hit his tee shot into the water surrounding the left side of the green. Inexplicably, Duval followed suit. The Internationals went 4-up and cruised to victory. The final blow was a four-foot par putt by Norman at the 13th; said his complimentary playing companion: 'Greg played about as well as I've seen him in quite some time.'
Lehman/Roberts vs. Weir/Elkington,
Like his fellow Australian, Steve Elkington helped his partner record seven birdies en route to a 3-and-2 victory over Tom Lehman and Loren Roberts.
Roberts and Lehman played well, particularly Lehman. The 1996 British Open champion birdied three holes in a row to square the match early, but a near hole-out by Weir at the par-4 7th gave the Internationals the lead for good.
After Roberts cut the International's lead to 1-up with a birdie at the 12th, Elkington responded with a birdie of his own at the 13th to reclaim a 2-up advantage. Weir closed out the match with the team's seventh, and final birdie of the day at the par-3 16th.
Woods/Begay III vs. Maruyama/Franco
Tiger Woods and Notah Begay III defeated Ernie Els and Vijay Singh on Thursday. Surely, they could handle Shigeki Maruyama and Carlos Franco.
Thursday, Begay and Woods never trailed. Friday, they never led. Franco converted birdie putts on the 9th and 11th holes to give his team a 2-up lead. Maruyama then contributed with his first birdie of the day at the 14th to go 3-up with four holes to play.
The two teams halved the next two holes to give the Internationals a 3-and-2 win. It was Maruyama's sixth-career Presidents Cup victory. He's never lost a match. On the other hand, it was Franco's first-career Cup win.
Mickelson/Love III vs. Els/Singh
The duo of Phil Mickelson and Davis Love III avoided an American whitewashing by defeating Els and Singh 2-and-1.
The U.S. maintained at least a 2-up lead for the better part of the day, before Singh unexpectedly dropped a 30-foot birdie putt at the 13th to cut the International deficit to 1-down.
With the match in the balance, Mickelson sank a birdie putt at the 15th to reclaim a 2-up lead. Love then sealed the deal with a 25-foot birdie bomb at the 17th to close out the Internationals 2-and-1.
After a very short break, the two teams are back out on the course for five Afternoon Foursome matches.
Friday Afternoon Foursomes
Cink/Triplett vs. Allenby/Appleby
Roberts/Azinger vs. Franco/Maruyama
Woods/Begay III vs. Singh/Els
Sutton/Lehman vs. Campbell/Goosen
Mickelson/Duval vs. Price/Weir
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.