Kaymer makes it look easy against golf's 'nearly men'

By Randall MellJune 16, 2014, 1:51 am

PINEHURST, N.C. – There was no heartache.

There was none of the stinging pain that comes with losing a close call.

There wasn’t any of the torment that usually comes when golf’s “nearly men” are denied in their Sunday chance to win their first major championship.

That’s because Martin Kaymer made the men who look like they are nearly there in their quest to break through and win a major look so far away from it on Sunday at the U.S. Open.

In his eight-shot runaway at Pinehurst No. 2, Kaymer left some of the best players never to win a major looking as if they’ve still got a lot of work to do.

Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, Brandt Snedeker and Jason Day added to their top-10 finishes in majors, showings that will look better on their resumes than they did to the galleries and TV audience looking for them to make a game of it.

Nobody was able to put any pressure on Kaymer.

Of the 16 players who went off in the final eight pairings Sunday, Kaymer was the only one to break par.

Fowler came into this major off a tie for fifth at the Masters, equaling his best finish in a major. He arrived saying he “couldn’t care less what happened in other tournaments because my main goals are to be ready for the majors.”

Fowler wasn’t quite ready for Sunday, not on this beastly course, not against Kaymer, but he wasn’t dissatisfied with his tie for second. He’s only 25, and it was, after all, his first time playing in the final Sunday pairing at a major. He found some encouragement in his 72, a tie for second that goes down as his best finish in a major.

“The more experience you can get in the final groups, and especially in majors, and in contention at majors, it definitely helps out for down the road,” Fowler said. “It’s going to happen. I just have to keep going through the process, putting myself in position . . . We're going to continue to do this and keep my game progressing the right way and it's just a matter of time.”

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Fowler got himself off track at the fourth hole, skulling a shot over the green and behind a tree, making a mess that forced him to hole a 20-foot putt just to make double bogey.

“They talk about prime being early 30s,” Fowler said. “I got a little ways to go.”

Johnson, who turns 30 next week, kept saying “anything can happen” with Kaymer running away this weekend. Johnson left frustrated because he couldn’t make anything happen. He’s had those disappointments – blowing a 54-hole lead at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 2010 and giving away a one-shot lead at the 72nd hole of the 2010 PGA Championship, where he infamously grounded his club in dirt he didn’t know was a bunker. This was a different kind of frustration Sunday.

“I just wasn’t very good today,” Johnson said after shooting a 73 and finishing tied for fourth, 10 shots back. “I needed to get some momentum. I just felt like I never got any going.”

Johnson didn’t make his first birdie until the 10th hole.

Stenson, 38, finished tied for fourth after a 73. It’s the sixth time he’s finished T-4 or better in a major, but maybe the least satisfying.

“I didn’t have the game to even try to charge,” Stenson said.

Snedeker, 33, who saw his runs at the ’08 Masters and ’12 British Open fall short, also closed with a 73 Sunday. Snedeker tied for ninth with Johnson, his sixth top 10 in a major.

Snedeker, though, wasn’t himself, not with another injury plaguing him. He tweaked his back early in the round, so much so that he struggled reaching over to get his ball out of the hole. He wouldn’t use it as an excuse in the end.

“I’m pretty disappointed,” Snedeker said. “I didn’t feel good, but it wasn’t what I was hoping for today. A good finish at this point in my career doesn’t mean a hell of a lot. I’m here to win golf tournanments. I saw a lot of good signs, I take positives about that, but I don’t take much out of top-10 finishes.”

Day, like Fowler, is still young in these majors. He’s 26, and he’s coming off a thumb injury that’s allowed him to play just three events since he won the Accenture Match Play Championship back in February. He actually closed well Sunday, but he was too far back to start. His 68 was good for a tie for fourth, his fifth finish of fourth or better in majors.

“I can’t look at these finishes as frustrating,” Day said. “I look at what I need to do to get better, to win the next time around. I’ve only gained experience. Stuff like this is very valuable. There is something pushing me to finish well in the majors, and some point along the line, I’ll play well and win one.”

Or maybe more than one, these “nearly men” hope, if Kaymer will let them. 

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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.