At Lewis' homecoming party, Choi takes the cake

By Randall MellJune 29, 2015, 3:05 am

Na Yeon Choi’s fantastic finish spoiled another Sunday for Stacy Lewis.

Choi spoiled a big party for the Razorback nation at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, too.

With Lewis poised to end a year-long victory drought, Choi stole the closing moments. Choi did so with a pair of unforgettable 8-irons in front of thousands of Lewis’ fans in the shadow of the University of Arkansas, where Lewis played collegiately and is still beloved.

With a one-shot lead at the 17th tee, Lewis looked like she was going to close out her first victory since winning in front of all her fans in this event at Pinnacle Country Club a year ago. Lewis stuck her approach to 6 feet, sending a roar through the large grandstand there. She looked totally in charge, but in dizzying fashion Choi quickly changed everything.

Playing behind Lewis, Choi holed out from 145 yards with an 8-iron for eagle at the 16th.

“I thought it was going to be good, but I didn't expect it would go in,” Choi said. “Unfortunately, I couldn't see the ball going in. I just heard a lot of screaming around the green.”

Up ahead, Lewis suddenly needed to make her short birdie chance to tie Choi, but Lewis missed.

The turn of events was jarring. Instead of walking off the 17th two shots ahead, Lewis was one shot down.

And then Choi turned up the heat some more with Lewis leaving the 17th. Choi stepped up to the tee there and plucked her 8-iron from her bag again. And she nearly holed out with it again, leaving her tee shot from 148 yards inches short. She tapped in for birdie to take a two-shot lead.

“My putting was, like, not good,” said Choi, who took 33 putts in the final round. “I realized I could win without putting.”

Lewis didn’t know Choi had holed out at the 16th, but when she was playing the 18th tee she learned she was two behind and needed an eagle. After splitting that last fairway, Lewis didn’t go for the green with her second shot. She laid up.

“I knew I needed to make eagle there and just didn’t quite get the drive down there to do that,” Lewis said. “We had about 212 yards to carry the bunker, and I just felt with that wind off the lie I couldn't get it over the bunker. I could get it on the front right part of the green, but it didn't really do me any good. I thought the best opportunity to do something was to lay up.”

After laying up, Lewis missed the 18th green. She pulled a wedge into a bunker. She made bogey from there, finishing three shots back and tied for third.

It was Choi’s second victory this season. She won the season-opening Coates Golf Championship and now heads to the U.S. Women’s Open in two weeks as one of the favorites. Choi won the U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run in 2012.

Lewis has had so many close calls since winning the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship a year ago. She has finished second five times. She lost in a playoff to Brittany Lincicome back in April in the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration. She lost a dramatic duel to Hyo Joo Kim at the Founders Cup in March.

“When somebody holes out, it's one of those things that it's kind of meant to be,” Lewis said.

It has been a year of almosts for Lewis. She left Arkansas trying to make the best of almost winning again.

“It's tough, but, honestly, it's been a few weeks since I've been in this position, a few months, really, so you can't be too upset,” Lewis said.

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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.