Continued rain could work in Internationals' favor

By Rex HoggardOctober 5, 2013, 1:21 am

DUBLIN, Ohio – It seems Mother Nature has had her fill of lopsided Presidents Cups.

Or maybe the old girl just has a soft spot for the Rest of the World. Either way, another weather delay and a foreboding forecast appears to be conspiring in the Internationals' favor at muddy Muirfield Village.

For the second consecutive day play was delayed, this time for two and a half hours, by a storm and eventually called because of darkness with four matches still to be determined.

On Thursday the green and yellow radar blob that inched its way through central Ohio actually resembled the International standard and proved to be a much-needed timeout. Friday’s intermission had a similar impact on the proceedings.

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With the Internationals down in five of six Day 1 matches, captain Nick Price’s crew rallied to finish the day down just 3 ½ to 2 ½, which felt to many in green and yellow like a victory, be it moral or otherwise.

When the horn echoed through Muirfield Village at 3:09 p.m. ET on Friday the U.S. was ahead in three and tied in one other match. By the time darkness descended on the property each team had won a match and the United States was leading in two and trailing two.

First-time captain Price figured it would be a format change – officials began this week’s matches with a fourball session, instead of the traditional foursome session that the Internationals have struggled in – and an infusion of fresh talent (there are seven rookies on the International side) that would be the tonic to wrest his team off a 1-7-1 drought in the biennial matches.

He didn’t count on the weatherman playing the role of the 13th man, but will take everything he can get.

If the forecast holds – there is a 30 percent chance of rain on Saturday and a 50 percent chance on Sunday – officials may be challenged to complete the matches on time.

The second session is scheduled to restart at 7:35 a.m. on Saturday, followed by the third fourball and fourth foursome session in the afternoon, leaving the 12 singles bouts for Sunday, weather permitting.

That schedule would allow officials to finish at roughly 10 minutes before 7 p.m. (sunset is 7:08 p.m.). “That’s in an ideal world, obviously,” said Tour official Steve Carman. And this week has been anything but ideal.

Otherwise, officials would have to consider finishing on Monday or reducing the number of matches. Regulations don’t allow for a reduction in matches like at the 2010 Ryder Cup in Wales when weather delays forced a reduction in the remaining number of foursome matches from eight to six, but if play is not completed by sundown on Monday the team with the most points would be declared a winner.

The latter option could be Price & Co.’s best option.

The Internationals haven’t won a foursome session since Day 1 in 2003, a reality which prompted Price, former International captain Greg Norman and future captain Ernie Els to ask PGA  Tour commissioner Tim Finchem to reduce the number of team matches from 24 to 16.

Finchem balked at the Internationals' request, but Mother Nature may well have the final say.

For the Internationals less is effectively more. The possibility of fewer matches means fewer opportunities for the deeper American squad to take advantage of the Internationals' perceived lack of depth.

“If we have more weather it might happen,” Els said of the possibility of an abbreviated schedule.

It’s not as though umbrellas and standing water spell doom for the Americans, not with Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley picking up where they left off last year at Medinah and Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar picking up a new tradition.

Mickelson, who is feeling so confident he put a driver back in play in competition for the first time in months on Day 2, and Bradley birdied seven of eight holes starting at No. 5, a phenomenal run considering the format, and steamrolled arguably the Internationals' best two-ball of Jason Day and Graham DeLaet, 4 and 3.

Woods and Kuchar were 6 under on the front nine and led Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, 3 up, through 12 holes in their quest to remain undefeated.

But for Price there is opportunity in his team as well as the gray October skies.

Els and rookie standout Brendon de Jonge rolled over Bill Haas and Hunter Mahan; and Adam Scott and his new best friend Hideki Matsuyama were 4 up over Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson through 11 holes.

Depending on the volatile Ohio skies, officials are hoping to get back on schedule on Saturday. If not, the weather could, in theory, help swing the cup in the Internationals' favor for the first time since 1998. Amid the gloom late Friday the possibilities were enough to brighten Price’s mood.

“We are up in (two)  matches, and I think if you consider what's happened in the past in alternate shot, we are certainly very happy to be in that situation,” he said. “I'm not ruling out the chances that we may get another halve or a full point somewhere. So if we can tie this thing up at the end of tomorrow morning's play, that would be absolutely perfect for us.”

And if it continues to storm, well, that would be just fine as well.

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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.