Major feel to Cherry Hills on first day of BMW

By Randall MellSeptember 5, 2014, 12:48 am

CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. – Rory McIlroy felt a little bit like he was playing in a major championship.

That doesn’t bode well for the rest of the field here at the BMW Championship.

With British Open and PGA Championship titles won earlier this year, McIlroy’s game is honed for stern tests. That’s what Cherry Hills offered Thursday in the third leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

With a 3-under-par 67, McIlroy grabbed a share of the lead in the suspended first round. He’s among three players out front, with nine players yet to finish the round. Play was halted late in the day because of the threat of bad weather.

“It's playing a little bit like a U.S. Open,” said McIlroy. “I wouldn't say it's quite as difficult as that, but it's thick rough, especially around the greens, and firm greens. That's what they need to keep the scoring the way it is.”

Though it has been 29 years since Cherry Hills hosted a PGA Championship, and 54 years since it hosted a U.S. Open, McIlroy fully understood how the venue’s defenses make par a good score, even as short as the course has become over the years because of technological advances. He wasn’t alone thinking that.

Phil Mickelson, who won the U.S. Amateur here in 1990, said Cherry Hills’ defenses remind him of how players made their scores at the Masters when he was first coming into the professional game.

“Actually, it reminds me of Augusta in the early ‘90s, where the course played very short, but the greens were the defenses,” said Mickelson, who opened with a 70. “The greens were very fast, very firm and very difficult to get the ball close. I think that was the defense of the golf course.”

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Jordan Spieth and Gary Woodland share the first-round lead with McIlroy.

Martin Kaymer, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson are among nine players a shot back. Stenson was among players still on the course when play was halted. He has just one hole left to play. The first round will resume at 11 a.m. local time with the second round scheduled to begin at 11:20 a.m.

Chris Kirk, the FedEx Cup points leader, opened with a 71.

Patrick Reed, an American Ryder Cup team member, shot 77.

Cherry Hills is a par 70 set up at 7,352 yards. With the course at a mile-high elevation, it plays even shorter than that.

“Though it’s not very long, it’s very, very brutal,” Garcia said.

Spieth was more than happy with his 67.

“It seemed like Cherry Hills here and the Tour didn’t want us going too low,” Spieth said.

McIlroy, No. 2 in FedEx Cup points behind Kirk, wants to head to the Tour Championship at East Lake next week in the best position possible to claim the $10 million FedEx Cup jackpot that barely eluded him two years ago. That’s why he was kicking himself for the two bogeys he made coming home Thursday.

At 5 under through 15 holes, with sole possession of the lead, McIlroy didn’t have a blemish on his scorecard until making back-to-back bogeys. He couldn’t get up and down from bunkers at No. 7 and No. 8, his 16th and 17th holes of the day.

“A little frustrated coming off the course,” McIlroy said. “I feel like I should have been better than what I finished. A sloppy bogey or two out there.”

McIlroy won a pair of FedEx Cup playoff events in 2012, but the big jackpot eluded him when Brandt Snedeker took it, winning the Tour Championship. McIlroy finished second in FedEx Cup points that year and says the disappointment of playing so well in the playoffs but falling short adds some fuel to his tank this year.

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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.