Ladies First Major Looks to be Quite a Test

By Mike RitzMarch 26, 2003, 5:00 pm
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Its the first major of the year and the host course for the LPGAs Kraft Nabisco Championship should provide a major test. The Dinah Shore Course at Mission Hills is the kind of course that brings to mind the standard line of the USGA: We want to provide a test that will identify the best golfer.
The course is in perfect major condition. The lush fairways are providing little roll, so the one of the longest tracks on tour is playing even longer.
The week starts with the rough about three inches long ' not U.S. Open length, yet. But it is extremely thick and penal.
As they are every year here, the greens are firm and fast. Any player who finds herself in greenside rough, above the hole, will be hard-pressed to get up and down in two.
Any player who finds herself hitting an approach shot from that lush rough has a couple of options 'neither is good. Any shot that jumps from the thick stuff has little chance of stopping on a putting surface if it lands on the green and if the plan is to land the shot short of the green and run it up, forget it. The fairways in front of the greens are too soft.
The course and the way it is set up puts a premium on ball-striking and course management. The cream should rise to the top. Which brings us to Annika Sorenstam.
The best female golfer on the planet has won the Dinah two years in a row. Shes trying to become the first player in LPGA history to win the same major three years in a row.
A few thoughts about storylines this week:
*The last time Annika had a shot at winning a major three straight times was at the U.S. Womens Open in 1997. She missed the cut.
*Annika is not the same player she was six years ago.
*Liselotte Neumann finished second to Sorenstam here last year by one stroke. This winter, Neumann was seen at Annikas home course in Orlando, getting a lesson from Sorenstams coach. Ive got to figure out how to get more distance, said Neumann.
*Granted it was in the thin, warm air of the Arizona desert, but last week, Annika averaged 286.9 yards per drive in her first tournament of the year. Thats 21 yards longer than her average last year. This week, length is a premium.
*Speaking of long driving: If Laura Davies wins this week, shell complete the career grand slam and earn the two points she needs to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame.
*Annika comes to mind again. The only thing she needs to do to qualify for the Hall is to complete her 10th year on Tour. This is Sorenstams 10th year and she wants to make it something special.
*If 25-year-old Se Ri Pak (last weeks winner) wins this Kraft Nabisco, shed be the youngest player to complete the career slam.
*If Meg Mallon wins this week, shed complete the career slam. Two weeks ago, Meg shot a 60.
*Dottie Pepper won this championship four years ago with a major championship record-score of 19-under par. After missing the cut last week, Dotties playing this week with one of those Scotty Cameron Titleist Futura putters. Her buddy, Jeff Sluman, sent it to her. Yes, its hideous looking, she says.
*Sorenstam, Pak, Karrie Webb and Juli Inkster have combined to win all eight of the past eight major championships 16 of the last 20.
*43-year-old Rosie Jones has yet to win a major championship, but has finished in the top-10 22 times in the majors. She tied for third here last year.
*13-year-old Michelle Wie is playing in a major for the first time in her career.
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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

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

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

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.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

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.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

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.