Fowler, Garcia show class in victory and defeat

By Randall MellMay 12, 2015, 12:01 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The Players Championship delivered a class act as its champion early Sunday evening.

The most boisterous of those fans at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course got a better winner than they deserved in Rickie Fowler.

Those who heckled Sergio Garcia through the back nine couldn’t have been golf fans because they would have known a derisively aimed barb in this game isn’t the same as it is in a baseball, basketball or football game. A taunt in a golfer’s backswing is more like a fan running onto the football field and tripping a running back racing up a sideline. It can unfairly interfere with the final outcome. It can mar the competition.

Most of us, I think, are tuning in to see the world’s best players decide who wins a championship, not some idiot fan with a belly full of booze.

As is usually the case, it was an obnoxious minority standing out Sunday, but more than the usual few in that natural amphitheater around the 17th island hole.

Both Fowler and Garcia handled the unique challenges this past week with a dignity that fans who care about the game’s special values appreciate. For all the grief Garcia has received for painting himself as a victim of bad fortune in the past, he navigated above the fray during and after his round. He may have learned the hard way, but he deserves credit. Garcia was a model of restraint and grace under fire.



Sunday wasn’t just a day the world’s best players got to show off their tremendous skill on a larger stage than their niche sport is accustomed. It was a day they got to show off how their sport aspires to be admirably different, even with barbarians at the gate.

No, this isn’t to say golfers are perfect. They’re as flawed and corruptible as athletes from other sports, but the honor is in how the game aspires to be different. It’s in how the game holds its participants to a higher standard. The sport aims for a standard of civility that matters more than ever.

At a time when blow-hard chest thumping, taunting and deflating footballs are the growing norm in a world where sportsmanship seems to matter less and less, Fowler and Garcia reminded us what’s still possible. They didn’t just deliver high drama along with Kevin Kisner and others. They delivered it nobly.

While there are sure to be folks rolling their eyes reading this, dismissing the message as naïve, prudish and even out of touch, the game’s line of civility moves when nobody cares to notice.

Competition is based on the Latin word competere, which means to strive together. Michael Josephson of the Josephson Institute of Ethics once instructed this writer that sportsmanship is based on the ancient Olympic ideal that you honor your opponent because you’re striving for excellence together. Your opponent makes you better.

Sportsmanship is civility’s first cousin.

“Manners are more important than laws,” British statesman Edmund Burke once wrote. “Upon them in a great measure the laws depend. The law touches us but here and there, and now and then. Manners are what vex and soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe ... They aid morals, they supply them, or they totally destroy them.”

There was refinement in Fowler’s and Garcia’s efforts.

Fowler might have been privately angry over learning his peers voted he and Ian Poulter the most overrated players on the PGA Tour in an anonymous survey last week, but he was old school in the way he handled it. There was no knee-jerk rebuke. He didn’t shut down with his fellow players or media.

“Rickie doesn’t work that way,” Fowler’s mother, Lynn, said shortly after Sunday’s trophy presentation. “I don’t think he works like that, based on something negative, at all.”

Fowler obviously relished proving he isn’t overrated.

“I laughed at the poll, but, yeah, if there was any question, I think this right here answers anything you need to know,” Fowler said.

That’s as close as Fowler got to sticking what his victory means in anyone’s face.

Instead, Fowler let his clubs do the talking for him. And, wow, he couldn’t have designated more eloquent spokesmen.

That’s old school.

Fowler’s 3-wood at the 16th in regulation on Sunday – that was a statement. He carved a 240-yard shot over the edge of the lake to 2 feet to set up eagle. He made statements with all those wedges he hit in close making birdie three times at the 17th. He did again with those two 330-yard drives down the middle of the 18th fairway, maybe his best shots all week.

Garcia endured heckling on the back nine. His caddie even asked for extra security after making the turn. Garcia had to step off his shot at the 17th tee because of the abuse.

“Obviously, some guys there don’t deserve to be here watching golf,” Garcia said.

Like Fowler, Garcia kept answering with his clubs. He was at his most eloquent holing a 40-footer for birdie at the 17th to help him get in the playoff with Fowler and Kisner.

“We all three did some amazing things coming in,” Garcia said. “I thought it was a well-played championship.”

It was more than that. It was well conducted. That matters, too.

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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.