Instant classic: Fowler's win delivers on drama

By Randall MellMay 11, 2015, 2:26 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – You can’t script drama like The Players Championship delivered late Sunday afternoon at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course.

You can build a fabulous amphitheater, you can give players a dazzling stage, but then all you can do is stand back and watch them improvise.

What Rickie Fowler and Co. dreamed up will go down as a classic.

Fowler helped turn the course Pete Dye built on a swamp all those years ago into sport’s real Field of Dreams.

For more than two hours, Fowler and a brilliant supporting cast gave us drama almost as magical as that imagined in the fictional Iowa cornfield author Ray Kinsella created in his popular book that was turned into a movie. In fact, if Kinsella had written this finish to The Players, we might have seen Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Ben Hogan and Sam Snead in the shadows tipping their caps to Fowler.

Maybe even high fiving each other.

That’s how ridiculously over the top Fowler’s finish was.

“Obviously, an amazing finish,” Sergio Garcia said.

Fowler won on the fourth hole of Sunday’s playoff making birdie after hitting a gap wedge to 4 feet and 8 inches at the par-3 17th.

He played the famed island hole three times on Sunday and birdied it all three times, twice in the playoff.

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He played the final six holes of regulation in 6 under par.

Fowler birdied 15, eagled 16, birdied 17 and birdied 18 in regulation to get in a playoff with Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kisner, whose terrific finishes were reduced to footnotes.

Counting the playoff, Fowler played his final 10 holes in 8 under.

Kinsella doesn’t dream up stuff like that.

“Obviously, he’s not overrated,” Kisner said. “I think he proved that today.”

With the week starting amid a buzz over a player survey naming Fowler and Ian Poulter as the PGA Tour’s most overrated players, Fowler conceded he had some extra motivation if he needed “a kick in the butt” this weekend. What he did is kick everyone else’s butt.

“I didn't vote for Rickie as most overrated,” Billy Horschel said. “You can put me down for that. I don't know what people were thinking about when they thought he was overrated. He's such a humble guy and such a good guy, he doesn't brag about anything he does. I guess the only unfortunate thing for him is that the media hypes him up a lot because he is really talented.”

At 26, Fowler might have been criticized for falling short of expectations coming into this week with just his one PGA Tour title, but he spent Sunday exceeding what anybody could have expected over Dye’s finishing holes. Fowler hit more clutch shots in two hours than most of his peers will hit in an entire season.

The first time through the par-5 16th, Fowler carved a 3-wood from 240 yards around the lake, dropping his shot inches beyond the water. He watched it softly hop to 2 feet to set up his eagle.

Then Fowler marched to the 17th and hit wedge to 7 feet for birdie, and then he marched to the 18th, where he striped a 330-yard drive down the middle, setting up yet another birdie. He posted his 67 to get to 12 under an hour before the final group finished.

Fowler owned the island hole on Sunday. He eliminated Kisner in the end with that shot to 4 feet.

“A sick shot,” Kisner said.

The finish couldn’t have been more perfect for Fowler with his mother and sister scrambling back from the airport to see the playoff.

His mother, Lynn, and his sister, Taylor, were staying in villas near the course. They had a Mother’s Day lunch with Rickie and his girlfriend, Alexis Randock, and shortly after they headed to the Jacksonville Airport to catch a United flight home.

Lynn said they had checked their baggage at about 5 p.m. for a 7 p.m. flight when she received a text message as they were heading to the security lines.

“It got a text saying Rickie just stuck it to 2 feet at the 16th,” Lynn said. “We figured we should get back.”

There was a challenge getting back. Lynn and Taylor weren’t alone. Their arms were still full after checking in with Lynn’s two shih tzus. Still, she called PGA Tour’s transportation company, and she was told there were cars still there at the airport. A valet whisked a car over.

“Taylor jumped in the driver’s seat, and we threw the dogs in the car,” Lynn said.

Throughout the drive back to the golf course, Lynn busily texted friends for updates.

“I don’t follow social media,” Lynn said.

Fowler’s caddie, Joe Skovron, let Rickie know his mom and sister were on their way back as he waited for the playoff. Lynn and Taylor arrived in time to see the playoff begin. Rickie said he had no doubt they would.

“Taylor can handle herself behind the wheel,” Rickie said. “We both grew up riding and racing dirt bikes. She can manage.”

Rickie paid special tribute to his mother at the trophy presentation, but Lynn said she wanted him to know the day was special for other reasons.

“I know it’s Mother’s Day, but I texted him this morning telling him this was his day,” Lynn said. “I said `Do this for you.’”

Fowler delivered a classic finish for golf fans everywhere.

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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.