D. Johnson's bunker mishap unlikely to be repeated

By Rex HoggardAugust 11, 2015, 9:42 pm

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Of the more than 1,000 bunkers that dot the landscape in this corner of Wisconsin farmland there will be no confusion.

The ubiquitous collections of sand and soil are now and will be for the foreseeable future hazards.

Call it the Dustin Johnson accord, but in fairness to the forlorn bomber he was hardly the only player to confuse one of Whistling Strait’s bunkers for a parking lot. He was just the one who did so at the most crucial moment during the 2010 PGA Championship.

Just as they did in 2010 and 2004, PGA of America officials have put the full press on this week to assure there is no sequel this time around, posting memos throughout the locker room that read: “All areas of the course that were designed and built as bunkers, filled with sand, will be played as bunkers (hazards).”

Each week PGA Tour players are issued similar “local rules” sheets and each week, like clockwork and taxes, they ignore them. Consider it the byproduct of being a professional who has played thousands of tournaments and, yes, even complacency.

The difference this time is players in the PGA field don’t need a reminder, gentle or otherwise, to know the road to defeat is littered with honest mistakes.

“I’ve seen a couple of messages,” Rickie Fowler said before allowing a slight grin. “Whether it’s through the locker room, social media. I’ve been told everything, all sandy areas are bunkers.”

PGA Championship: Full-field tee times

It’s a familiarity born from a truly tragic tale, at least in the competitive sense.

Clinging to a one-stroke lead DJ pushed his tee shot into the gallery right of the 18th fairway on Sunday at the 2010 PGA, and during the tumult to clear the crowd away from his golf ball he grounded his club not once but twice.

The ensuing two-stroke penalty dropped Johnson out of the playoff, which was won by Martin Kaymer, and into major championship lore alongside the likes of Roberto De Vicenzo.

Johnson’s name became a verb, as in don’t pull a Johnson, and his plight became a cautionary tale for would-be major winners everywhere.

But the closing and confused moments of the ’10 PGA are about more than a momentary lapse in judgment or better communication.

Officials with the PGA posted similarly clear memos around the property in 2010 and that did little to change the outcome. No, the problem five years ago were the assembled masses, many of whom were sitting, eating, drinking and otherwise reveling in the “Johnson bunker.”

“The hard part was Dustin's situation, when there's that many people,” said Bubba Watson, who finished second to Kaymer in 2010 at Whistling Straits.

“With 20,000 people probably following him at that moment or on that hole at that moment where he was, you can't tell what the ground is. When they're all huddled around your ball. It's an innocent mistake ... If I was in that situation it could have happened to me the same way.”

A new infrastructure plan for this year’s championship will help alleviate some of the confusion that led to Johnson’s two-stroke penalty.

Officials repositioned many grandstands and corporate tents for this year’s championship to improve the viewing experience for fans.

“We have built more grandstands on the golf course itself as well as bringing many parts of the championship infrastructure onto the golf course with views of golf holes or Lake Michigan,” said PGA chief championships officer Kerry Haigh. “As part of these spectator improvements, we have had to build over a few of the over 1,000 bunkers.”

Included in that build out is a structure that partially covers the bunker Johnson found in 2010, but as Haigh further explained, “There still remains a lot of bunkers not covered and in play.”

Players can thank the Wisconsin masses, who have made the Midwest stop one the best-attended PGA Championships, for at least partial relief, but mostly they can thank Johnson.

For all the memos and warnings and gentle reminders, it will be Johnson’s fateful finish that likely keeps anyone else from making the same mistake.

It may not be his name etched into the Wanamaker Trophy, but at least there is some solace that Johnson has become a cautionary tale worth remembering.

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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.