Westwood feeling right at home at Honda

By Randall MellMarch 3, 2013, 1:17 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Lee Westwood didn’t take long fitting in here in his new hometown.

The tee sheets at the Honda Classic might identify him as being from Worksop, England, but when he stepped to the 17th tee in the Bear Trap late Saturday afternoon he was boisterously welcomed as a Yank.

He was introduced there as Palm Beach Gardens’ own Lee Westwood.

“A bigger cheer goes up than when it’s Worksop, that’s for sure,” Westwood said.

Westwood is making himself at home more quickly than anyone back in England could have imagined. Just five days ago, he moved his family into their new 15,000-square-foot mansion at Old Palm Golf Club just down the road from PGA National’s Champion Course. He moved into position to win his new hometown event with an even-par 70 Saturday in windy, trying conditions.

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At 6-under-par 204, Westwood is just two shots behind the co-leaders, Luke Guthrie and Michael Thompson.

Westwood was asked if winning a PGA Tour event in his new backyard would make it special. He said winning anywhere in the United States would make it special.

“I’ve got 40 career wins and only two in the United States,” Westwood said. “So, I need to try to change that.”

That was one of Westwood’s motivations in moving to the United States. He has 22 European Tour titles, 17 other professional titles around the world, but his only PGA Tour titles came at the Freeport McDermott Classic in ’98 and at the St. Jude Classic in 2010.

Mostly, Westwood wants to win his first major championship, and three of the four majors are played in the United States. With his 40th birthday looming this year (April 24), Westwood made the major commitment to move his wife, Laurae, and their two children to South Florida.

While Westwood worried how his 11-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter would take the news, he was pleasantly surprised by their reaction.

“Do you want to go and live by the sea and the sun by a beach?” Westwood asked them.

“Yeah,” they shouted.

Fourteen builders are still putting the finishing touches on Westwood’s mansion. His new home is just a mile from PGA National. Westwood has been driving his children to school this week.

“It’s nice to go home and sleep in your own bed, and sort of do the things you normally do,” Westwood said. “I’ve never had a chance to do that before because there has never been a tournament so close to my home in England.”

Westwood sold his home back in Worksop. He believed moving to the United States would help him win the big events he wants to win.

“I’ve been looking to move for a couple of years, just getting frustrated with the weather and winters in England, not being able to work as hard as I would like, really feeling too rusty,” Westwood said. “I wanted to come and live in the sunshine.”

South Florida has become a hot spot for Tour pros. Tiger Woods lives on Jupiter Island. Rory McIlroy moved to Palm Beach Gardens two months ago. Luke Donald, Dustin Johnson, Keegan Bradley and Rickie Fowler all have places down here.

“He sounds like he loves it here,” said Mike Kerr, Westwood’s caddie.

Westwood is considered one of the game’s best ball strikers, and he showed it, navigating his way around that difficult back nine at PGA National in Saturday’s blustery conditions. His even-par round felt better with just eight players breaking par in the third round.

Basically, Westwood fought his way back from a rough front nine. With back-to-back bogeys at the eighth and ninth, Westwood dropped back in the chase. He got himself into a tie for third with birdies at the 14th and 17th holes on a bogey-free back nine.

“It was a strong performance,” Kerr said. “He handled the wind and hit some very good shots.”

Westwood closed his round with a good par save at the last. Trying to reach the par-5 closing hole in two, he blew his shot over the right edge of the green and into the water. He was able to take a greenside drop and got up and down.

“I normally get a bit of stick for not having a short game, but I’ve chipped in twice this week and had a lot of sand saves and a lot of scrambling, like you need to do around this golf course. Maybe I'm turning that around.”

Westwood is hoping to turn around his record in the United States with a victory and build some momentum on the way to The Masters in six weeks.

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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.