Ty at the Top
Better known as Ty, Tryon became a media sensation this week in Coral Springs, Fla. The Lake Highland High School (Orlando, Fla.) sophomore made news by shooting 70 and Monday qualifying for the Honda. He then grabbed the major headlines by shooting 67 in Round One and eventually becoming the second youngest player in PGA Tour history to make a cut.
A modest and affable kid, Tryon was a deer in headlights when the throng of reporters came to interview him the first two days. Though quite poised on the course, he didn't really know what to do off it.
'Do I look at you or at the camera?' he asked NBC's Mark Rolfing before a live interview following his second-round 73.
'That was the most nerve-racking experience of the week,' he later said of the interview.
But by Saturday he was a seasoned veteran. Joking with the scribes. Acknowledging his audience. It had almost become routine. It was certainly expected.
But the awe hadn't completely vanished from awesome. After his third-round 70, he was once again interviewed by NBC. 'Is this live?' he asked. When the reporter answered, 'No,' Tryon responded, 'Cool, then I can go watch it.'
That was the best part of the week for Tryon - seeing himself on television.
'That's awesome, being on SportsCenter and The Golf Channel - even for one second, that's cool,' Tyron said with a joy that is most often reserved for kids.
Admittedly, Tryon loved the attention. He especially loved wowing the crowd. In the third round, after recording seven straight pars, Tryon looked to his caddie, Tim 'Smiles Malone' Thalamueller, and said he needed to start making some birdies because 'my crowd is dwindling.'
Thalamueller was just one of many who was impressed by the 16-year-old. Known simply as 'Smiles,' he has seen this kind of talent before, having toted a bag for the likes of Tom Watson, Mark O'Meara and John Cook. In fact, it was Cook who arranged for the two to work together.
Cook is the assistant coach to Tryon's team, which also includes the sons of he and David Leadbetter, as well as Christo Greyling, who qualified for the 2000 Buick Challenge and missed the cut.
Cook played the Honda and actually finished one shot higher than his pupil, who ended the tournament at 10-under-par.
This Monday, Tryon said Cook is taking the team to California to play, among others, Torrey Pines and Mission Hills. That meant as soon as his final round ended and he had fulfilled his obligations to the media and his fans, he was going to ride back to Orlando with his parents, who were in attendance, get a bit of sleep and head to the Golden State at 6:45 a.m.
'That's gonna be great,' Tryon said with a smile. This from a kid who slept a carefree ten hours after shooting 67 in his PGA Tour debut.
When asked where school fit into his schedule, Tryon just shrugged his shoulders. He's got one week of golf vacation until he returns to his air-conditioned classroom.
Tryon knows when he gets back home the reaction is going to be 'mind-boggling.' But he's prepared.
'I think I know what to expect,' said the country's fifth-ranked junior amateur golfer. 'I've already dealt with a lot this week.'
That includes signing autographs - hundreds and hundreds of them. He even signed a couple coming off the 18th green on Friday - in the middle of his round.
'It's so weird. That's the No. 1 new thing to me, signing autographs. I can't believe I'm signing autographs for kids my age. And like turning people down, I feel like so bad.'
Tryon knows what it's like to get turned down for an autograph. Living in Orlando, he got turned down by the best golfers in the world. Now he knows how difficult it is to try and please everybody. Though, he really did try and usually succeeded.
Tryon's performance this week - both on and off the course - drew rave reviews from all involved, including the players.
'I was really impressed with his composure. He seemed to have it together emotionally as well as physically,' said Jeff Hart, who was paired with Tryon in the third round. 'He's got a pretty bright future ahead. If he needs a sponsor, I'm willing to ante up. I'd take out a loan for him.'
Said Honda champion Jesper Parnevik: 'I talked to a few guys and we could hardly remember what we did when we were 16. So what he's doing here is unbelievable.'
Perhaps the most unbelievable thing occurred Friday, when after 31 holes of competition, Tryon was just two shots off the lead and tied for second place. He reeled off three consecutive birdies on his back nine, but then like Icarus, whose wings melted when he flew too close to the sun, Tryon faltered down the stretch.
Tryon played his final five holes that day in 5-over. But he made the cut. In the process, he became the youngest player since Bob Panasik (15 years, eight months, 20 days) in the 1957 Canadian Open to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.
'This is like a movie,' said Leadbetter, Tryon's main instructor. 'You see 16-year-olds playing like this in junior tournaments, but you don't see it in this company.'
The fairy tale continued on Saturday, when Tryon concluded his third round by holing a bunker shot for birdie on the par-4 finishing hole.
'It's the best shot I've ever hit,' he told the press. 'That's going to stick with me forever.'
Saturday night, he watched his highlight on ESPN. 'That was awesome,' he said.
Sunday was another memorable day. Tryon made the turn in 4-under-par 32, and then birdied the 10th to move to 11-under for the event. He bogeyed holes 12 and 13, but responded with a birdie at the 14th.
He capped his day - and his tournament - with an eight-foot par save on the 72nd hole.
'That was pretty impressive,' said Tom Lehman, who played in the final round with Tryon. 'He's way, way, way beyond his years.
'He's also very polite. He kept calling me `Mr. Lehman,' which was pretty hard to swallow.'
Said Tryon following his 4-under-par 68: 'I had fun today. I had fun all week. I just didn't want it to end.'
Alas, it had to. But not without a lifetime experience gained. For now, Tryon returns to playing with kids his own age. Still a greenhorn behind the wheel of a car and not yet ready to use the electric razor his dad bought for him, Tryon is back to just being another kid - at least off the course.
'I hope I get back (from California) to Bay Hill on Sunday and watch the guys,' Tryon said in reference to next week's PGA Tour event in Orlando.
'The guys.' Tryon feels like he's one of them, now. That more than anything has to feel awesome.
What do you think of 16 year-old Ty Tryon's Honda Classic performance?
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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.