Webb charges to another Founders Cup win

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2014, 2:51 am

PHOENIX – Karrie Webb is inspired playing the JTBC Founders Cup in a way no other player is.

She might be the only woman who teed it up at Wildfire Golf Club who received a pep talk on the weekend from one of the four living founders of the tour.

Webb got a phone call Friday night from Louise Suggs, her spitfire voice informing Webb that she needed to shoot 64 to win this event for the second time in its four-year history.

“She says, `Hey Karrie, it’s Louise,’” Webb said in her best gravelly voiced imitation of her friend and mentor. “She always starts the conversation that way.”

Webb didn’t deliver what Suggs wanted on Saturday, but she did one better on Sunday. Webb shot 9-under-par 63 to charge from six shots back.

“I made it up to Louise,” Webb said. “It’s meant a lot that I’ve had such a great relationship with her. She’s a character. She’s got great stories, and she’s always leaving me voice messages.”

Webb first met Suggs after she won the Titleholders in 1996. Webb won $190,000, which rivaled the U.S. Women’s Open as the biggest checks in women’s golf. Suggs was there to congratulate Webb after.

“I want you to know you just made more in one week than I made my entire career,” Suggs told Webb.

There was mutual admiration, and the seed of a friendship planted.

“Karrie has one of the best swings in golf,” said Marilynn Smith, an LPGA founder who watched Sunday’s finish with fellow founder Shirley Spork and pioneer Renee Powell from a special stage behind the 18th green. “Her swing reminds me of Louise Suggs, the rhythm, the balance, the timing.”

Webb won the inaugural Founders Cup in 2011, and it seemed preordained. Nobody appreciates more what the founders and pioneers did paving the way for the today’s players.

“I’ve watched the way Karrie is with the older players, with the founders, and there’s a lot that the younger players can learn from her,” said Stacy Lewis, who tied for second. “Karrie is somebody I’ve always looked to for how to do things the right way. She does that, and it’s probably why she’s playing well here this week. She gets it. She gets what this week is about.”

Webb, 39, is already a Hall of Famer. Her victory was the 41st LPGA title of her career, moving her into 10th place on the tour’s all-time winner’s list. She’s in historic company, now tied with Babe Zaharias, one of the LPGA’s 13 founders and maybe its greatest athlete.

“I just love the feeling of this event,” Webb said.

After claiming the $225,000 first-place check, Webb thanked LPGA commissioner Mike Whan for creating the tournament, which he designed to honor the game’s founding members and pioneers in a way that “pays it forward” to the future of the women’s game. Webb then told the fans at the trophy ceremony that she was donating $25,000 of her winnings to “The Founders Film,” a documentary being made about the 13 women who founded the LPGA. She also announced she was donating $25,000 to LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, the charity beneficiary of the event.

“They interviewed me for the documentary this week,” Webb said. “After, I asked them when they thought it was going to be finished. They said it all depended on the funding and that they only had about 10 percent of the total funding needed.”

Webb wants to see that movie made, and as LPGA pros learned again Sunday, it’s difficult to stop her when she really wants something.

Four seasons ago, Webb started the final round here at Wildfire Golf Club six shots back but mounted a charge to win by a shot.

At Sunday’s start this year, Webb was six shots back again. Playing the back nine, she was still six back.

At the 10th tee, Webb started wondering what it might take to win. She thought shooting 29 would give her a chance, but she didn’t even tell her caddie what she was thinking.

“I thought it would sound ridiculous,” Webb said.

Webb birdied six of the last eight holes. She buried a 20-foot birdie at the last to take the outright lead, but then she had to wait two hours to find out if it would hold up.

Four players ended up teeing it up at the 18th needing birdies to tie Webb.

Azahara Munoz and Amy Yang missed their chances. Behind them, Mirim Lee missed her chance. Finally, Lydia Ko, with the last chance to force a playoff, missed her 40-foot birdie chance.

“It’s just sort of one of those things that snowballed into a great back nine,” Webb said.

A persevering back-nine charge that honored the spirit of the founders.

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Rahm, with blinders on, within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

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Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.

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Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.

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“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. 

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Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:53 pm

SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

“I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.

“I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”

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On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”

Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”

Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.

“We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.” 

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Tiger grouped with Reed, Hoffman at Torrey Pines

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:35 pm

SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods will make his 2018 debut alongside Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman.

The threesome will go off Torrey Pines’ South Course at 1:40 p.m. ET Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open. They begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday on the North Course.

Woods is an eight-time winner at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open, but he hasn’t broken 70 in his last seven rounds on either course. Last year, he shot rounds of 76-72 to miss the cut.

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Reed, who has grown close to Woods after being in his pod during the past two international team competitions, is coming off a missed cut last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Hoffman, a San Diego native, has only two top-10s in 20 career starts at Torrey.

Other featured groups for the first two rounds include:

• Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker: 1:30 p.m. Thursday off South 1, 12:20 p.m. Friday off North 10

• Rickie Fowler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele: 12:30 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:30 p.m. Friday off South 1

• Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama: 12:40 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:40 p.m. Friday off South 1