Despite absences, Barclays boasts bevy of storylines

By Rex HoggardAugust 29, 2015, 11:31 pm

EDISON, N.J. – No world No. 1 (Jordan Spieth), no new world No. 1 (Rory McIlroy) and no former world No. 1 (Tiger Woods), and yet Sunday’s final round at The Barclays will get underway with more subplots than a J.K. Rowling novel.

Despite a week virtually devoid of anything that your average golf fan would consider a compelling reason to pay attention – with Spieth gone after missing the cut, McIlroy on the shelf to rest his mending ankle, and Woods out of the playoffs – the options for would-be headlines evolved into a surprisingly long list Saturday.

Jason Day, two weeks removed from his major moment at Whistling Straits, moved into a share of the lead with South Korea’s Sangmoon Bae following matching 63s on Day 3 from the two front-runners.

One can imagine International Presidents Cup captain Nick Price will be watching the final-round action unfold with an eye toward this year’s matches in South Korea. If only a Day-Bae pairing in October would take something less than an international accord.

Bae is scheduled to report for his mandatory 21 months of military service next month after losing a legal challenge last month in South Korea. Without a significant policy change, his participation in the matches doesn’t seem likely.

“I'm not sure if Mr. Nick Price is going to pick me. I'm definitely going to go back [to Korea] after the FedEx Cup,” said Bae, who is currently 25th on the International Presidents Cup point list but can move into the top 10 automatic qualifiers with a victory on Sunday. “[Military service is] mandatory in Korea. I have a little mixed emotion. I have to go and I have only a few tournaments, and I will play really hard and work really hard.”

By comparison, Day’s week has been drama-free, or at least as drama-free as things get for the Australian. On Wednesday, he withdrew from the pro-am with back spasms but said this most recent ailment is a “non-issue.”

“It’s a little tight but when you have back spasms and everything kind of locks up, it’s kind of a granted that it’s going to be tight over the week,” said Day, who moved to 11 under with an eagle at the par-5 16th hole and will tee off in the final group on Sunday for his second consecutive tournament.


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Day will be the favorite at an event that has endured a surprising lack of star power. Joining Spieth, McIlroy and Woods in the absentee column this weekend, Sergio Garcia is skipping the first two playoff stops and Rickie Fowler missed the cut at Plainfield.

But if Day is set to carry the marquee on Sunday, Ryan Palmer will be the sentimental favorite. Less than two weeks after his father, Butch, died in an auto accident in Texas, Palmer began the playoffs with admittedly lowered expectations; but after progressively-better rounds of 69-67-65, he's now within two strokes of the lead.

Palmer, whose father died on Aug. 18 and regularly traveled with him to tournaments, said being on the golf course this week has provided a measure of sanctuary for him.

“When he talks about it with you guys (the media) it’s therapeutic,” said Palmer’s caddie, James Edmondson. “Tomorrow is going to be a unique day, but he has the right mind to do something special. It’s really cool what he’s done with the circumstances.”

Add to that potpourri of possible stories in the annual playoffs point chase. As is the case each year during the PGA Tour’s postseason, Sunday leaderboards will transcend the normal urgency of winner-take-all, as players vie to keep their playoff hopes alive.

With a start next week at the Deutsche Bank Championship hanging in the balance, there is a list of surprisingly familiar players who will tee off on Sunday for what is essentially an 18-hole qualifier.

Lee Westwood carded his second-consecutive 73 on Saturday to move into a tie for 70th place, and he is currently projected to finish 116th on the FedEx Cup point list (the top 100 advance to TPC Boston). Vijay Singh, a stroke better than Westwood at 2 over, is projected 120th, while Stewart Cink, who is tied for 26th this week, is currently inside the Boston bubble (projected at 87th).

Hudson Swafford, who began the tournament as this week’s bubble boy at 100th on the list, is tied for 26th and projected inside the cut at 80th. Playing his first postseason, he doesn't seem to be overwhelmed by the moment.

“This is everything to gain, nothing to lose,” Swafford said. “The way I look at it, I have a job next year and I can’t go backwards.”

Officials at The Barclays could have embraced a similar outlook after being dealt a less-than-ideal hand with the absence of so many top players this weekend, and the leaderboard has produced surprisingly compelling options.

From the continued clutch play of Day to the heartwarming efforts of Palmer, The Barclays is turning out better than one would have thought.

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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


FALLING

Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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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.