Randall's Rant: LPGA missed golden opportunity

By Randall MellMay 1, 2017, 4:53 pm

Revving the engine in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the way back to work Monday.

A Blown Chance . . .

The LPGA had a chance to win over some new fans with an expanded audience tuning in to Golf Channel to see the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout go to extra holes, but the playoff didn’t pay off that way.

In fact, it might have been a turn-off.

With Golf Channel splitting coverage between the LPGA playoff and the Zurich Classic’s re-start after a weather delay, a larger PGA Tour audience got a chance to see Haru Nomura take on Cristie Kerr.

If you were reading social media, it was a blown opportunity.

Nomura won the playoff with a brilliant second shot on the sixth extra hole, and Kerr was brilliant herself in overcoming a five-shot deficit in blustery, tough conditions on the back nine to force the playoff, but that’s not what most golf fans on social media were talking about. All they seemed to be talking about was the aggravating, snail pace of the playoff and the monotony of seeing the same questionably designed hole being played over and over again.

Even Golf Channel’s Judy Rankin weighed in on the pace-of-lay issue:

“I have great respect for Cristie Kerr, but she is really taking a long time. It almost feels like she is slow playing (Nomura). Cristie doesn’t take this long all the time, and I’m not sure it’s helping her ...

“I’m not trying to say anything harsh about Cristie, because I think a lot about her professionalism, but she is almost slow playing herself.”

The winds and the nature of the 18th hole’s design didn’t help Kerr, with the hard slope of the fairway funneling good drives down into the same spot in the tree line on the right, requiring extra thought for second shots. Even layups from there ended up in challenging positions.

It also didn’t help Kerr and Nomura that lessons the tour learned at Kingsmill five years ago weren’t applied, with the 18th hole at the Texas Shootout used exclusively for the playoff. Jiyai Shin took on Paula Creamer at Kingsmill in a monotonous “overtime” there with the 18th hole being played nine times before Shin ultimately prevailed.

Kerr nearly became the first American to win back-to-back events since Stacy Lewis did it three years ago. Nomura won for the third time in 14 months, but, unfortunately, too much fan focus was elsewhere.

Are you kidding me? . . .

The PGA Tour decides to take its toughest stand against slow play in 22 years, and it decides to do so during the staging of its first two-man team event in 36 years?

The tour hit the team of Brian Campbell and Miguel Angel Carballo with a one-shot penalty for slow play in the first round of the Zurich Classic, during foursomes play. They did so with Campbell and Carballo playing with a couple PGA Section pros who were struggling.

First, the PGA Tour ought to be hit with a slow play penalty for waiting 22 years to follow up on the penalty it gave Glen Day. The Tour also ought to get hit with a violation of Rule 20-7c, playing from the wrong spot, because it was the wrong place and wrong time to take any meaningful stand. It makes it feel like maybe tour rules are applied according to your rank in tour life.

Booyah on team golf . . .

The PGA Tour’s team event at the Zurich Classic worked so well, we want more.

The team dynamic worked great for TV, with the added emotion and energy radiating through the screen to living rooms. It seemed like there were more high fives, fist bumps and extra fist pumps in play. All the extra fun these teams were having made for more viewing fun.

More please!

Personally, I love Alan Shipnuck of Sports Illustrated’s idea, a team Skins Game, with a combination of players putting in their own money and the PGA Tour matching it. Now that would be a blast to watch.

Love the fast tracking . . .

LPGA Hall of Famer Karrie Webb would have liked an even stronger reaction from the USGA and R&A last week than just their “naked eye” and “reasonable judgment” renderings after the ANA Inspiration debacle, but she loved the idea that more is coming and that maybe even more “fast tracking” of rule decisions is coming.

She further liked that the committee the USGA and R&A formed to further study TV viewer interventions includes the PGA Tour, European Tour, PGA of America, LPGA and Ladies European Tour members.

“Obviously, in the past, something like Lexi Thompson’s incident wouldn’t have taken three weeks to make rule changes,” Webb said. “It would have taken years. There’s progress being made there, and the fact that they’ve formed a committee ... hopefully, some good things will come out of that.”

Amen to all of that!

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x