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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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Lexi involved in a(nother) rules controversy at LPGA Thailand

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 26, 2018, 2:50 am

Jessica Korda stole the show this week at the Honda LPGA Thailand, winning the star-studded event by four strokes in her first start since undergoing serious jaw surgery to address a significant overbite that led to ailments ranging from facial cramping to headaches to sleep apnea.

But just four strokes behind Korda finished Lexi Thompson, who may have challenged for the win on Sunday if not for another rules controversy during the second round of the event.

Thompson, who was famously assessed two two-stroke penalties last year at the ANA Inspiration that ultimately cost her the title, was hit with another two-stroke penalty on Friday in Thailand after she moved a sign out of her swing path at Siam Country Club.

The 23-year-old mistakenly thought a billboard on the 15th hole was a moveable object, when in fact, the local rule deemed this particular advertisement a "temporary immovable obstruction."

The two-stroke penalty was assesed after the round, where the par she made on the hole became a double bogey and what would have been a 66 ballooned into a 68.

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After Further Review: JT may face serious Ryder Cup heckling

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 26, 2018, 2:09 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Thomas getting heckler thrown out ...

Justin Thomas polished off a playoff win at the Honda Classic despite the efforts of a fan who screamed for his ball to head for a fairway bunker on the 16th hole.

Thomas signaled for the fan to be ejected after striping his tee shot on No. 16, telling him, “Enjoy your day, buddy. You’re done.” It’s the second straight week that Thomas has had issues with fans, having bristled at some of the behavior he encountered while grouped with Tiger Woods at the Genesis Open.

Thomas’ stance is that golf has earned a reputation as a “classy sport” that should place it above jeering and catcalls from the gallery. It’s a view that is as noble as it is unachievable.

As long as tournaments continue to serve alcohol well into the afternoon hours, there will be outlier fans who will look to get a rise out of players with comments before, during or after swings. Thomas was within his right to ask for the fan’s removal, though I’d imagine the European fans planning to attend this year’s Ryder Cup in Paris might take note of the apparent impact the gallery can have on Thomas while in the heat of battle. – Will Gray


On the debate over rolling back the ball ...

The opening salvos in what promises to be one of the most polarizing eras in golf were exchanged this week. First, USGA CEO Mike Davis, via Jack Nicklaus, announced his arrival: “Mike said, ‘We’re getting there [on the distance issue]. We’re going to get there. I need your help when we get there,’” the Golden Bear explained when asked about the growing drumbeat to curtail how far modern players hit the golf ball.

A few days later, former Acushnet CEO Wally Uihlein fired back: “Mike Davis has not told us (Acushnet/Titleist) that he is close and he has not asked us for help if and when he gets there.”

Perhaps this will turn out to be a misunderstanding and the game’s rules makers and manufacturers will all end up on the same sideline, but it doesn’t feel that way right now. Rex Hoggard


On Tiger turning up the notch on his comeback ...

It’s safe to say the Tiger Woods comeback is ahead of schedule. After looking lost with his long game in his first two starts of the year, he led the field in proximity to the hole and third in driving distance. He flighted and shaped shots both directions, seemingly at ease, looking nothing like the player we saw at Torrey and Riviera.

If that form continues at Bay Hill and beyond, this has the potential to be one of the greatest comebacks in golf history.  Ryan Lavner


On Korda's journey from pain to promise ...

Jessica Korda is the leader in the clubhouse for best story of the year in women’s golf. She won her first start of the season Sunday at the Honda LPGA Thailand just a little more than two months after undergoing a complex and painful double-jaw surgery to alleviate headaches caused by her jaw’s alignment.

She did so in record-breaking fashion, shattering tournament scoring records against a star-studded field that included the top six players in the world. If Korda can so quickly overcome the challenges of that daunting offseason, there is no telling what else this determined young American star might achieve this year.  Randall Mell

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List loses playoff, may have gained performance coach

By Randall MellFebruary 26, 2018, 1:52 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Luke List didn’t win in his playoff with Justin Thomas Sunday at the Honda Classic, but he thinks he may have found a pretty good new performance coach.

The guy’s name is “Moose.”

He’s a former Australian rules football player.

Actually, his full name is Brent Stevens, a friend of List’s caddie, who put them on the phone together for the first time last week at the Genesis Open.

List liked a lot of the performance keys Stevens gave him and posted some of the advice in his yardage book, so he could reference them.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


“Effort over result” was one of the ideas List scribbled down.

“I feel like I've got the ability to play at this level,” said List, who was seeking his first victory Sunday at PGA National. “It just hasn't quite happened yet, but the more I think about it, I feel like the worse I do. So I focus on what's in front of me, the effort into the shot. I did a really good job of that this week.”

List said he’s interested in maybe visiting Australia to take Moose’s training to another level.

“He's a very fit dude,” List said. “He's got some clients that he brings down to south of Melbourne, to run the sand dunes,” List said, “and if we keep in contact, which I'm sure we will, I'm going to have to go down there and get my butt kicked.”

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Both in contention, Thomas hears 'crickets' from Woods

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 26, 2018, 1:36 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods has become a friend, confidant and something of an adviser for Justin Thomas.

Whenever Thomas has been in contention in his young career, Woods has often texted him advice or good luck on the eve of the final round.

That wasn’t the case Saturday night after the third round of the Honda Classic.

“Got crickets last night,” Thomas said, laughing.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


That’s because Woods was in contention, too, beginning the final round seven shots off the lead.

“I knew he had one thing in mind, and we both had the same thing in mind,” Thomas said. “I thought that was pretty funny.”

Thomas added that he was “very impressed” with Woods’ 12th-place finish at PGA National.