Tour players' lives just as real as ours

By Rex HoggardMay 23, 2017, 8:57 pm

FORT WORTH, Texas – These guys don’t have bad days at the office, at least not in the traditional sense.

Sure, PGA Tour players will make bogeys, miss cuts and regularly come up short playing a game that takes far more than it ever gives, but when a play-for-pay type punches the metaphorical time clock at the end of the day they are still playing golf for a living – it’s a reality check that’s almost universally acknowledged.

But it’s because their worlds are filled with occupational rainbows and unicorns that there’s a tendency to ignore the most basic elements of human existence. Every life, even one lived between the ropes playing for millions in prize money, is filled with peaks and valleys.

As easy at it may be to overlook the obvious, life can be just a messy for a Tour player as it is for anyone else.

On Sunday following his fourth Tour victory at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Billy Horschel hinted as much, talking of “his own challenges” that made this triumph that much more special. He didn’t give any specifics. It wasn’t his place.

But less than 24 hours later while playing in a charity event, Horschel’s wife, Brittany, texted him a “statement” she wanted to post on social media.

“I called her and I said, ‘We don't need to do this.’ She said, ‘No, I'm ready. I'm ready to share our story and start helping people,’” Horschel said.

Brittany Horschel posted the statement on Twitter, explaining that she was suffering from alcoholism and spent roughly two months undergoing treatment last year at a center in south Florida.

“Billy had to take on the 100 percent responsibility of taking care of our then-1 1/2 year old daughter, moving us into our new home, competing on Tour and God only knows what else and what all went through that man’s head during that time,” Brittany Horschel wrote. “He silently battled through, with support from family and close friends, a very sad, scary and trying time.”

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During the timeframe Brittany Horschel was undergoing treatment, her husband posted just a single top-10 finish on Tour and slid to 71st on the season-long points list before an August rally propelled him to the third playoff stop.

Horschel’s victory on Sunday at the Nelson was his first on Tour in more than two years, but none of that, he will tell you, had anything to do with his wife’s battle with alcoholism.

“That's not the reason why I haven't played well for the last year,” he said on Tuesday at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational. “That's not a reason at all. But it's something that's on my mind, something I think about on a constant basis.”

The way Horschel sees things, how someone deals with success isn’t nearly as telling as how they handle adversity, although for those watching from outside the fish bowl the latter more often than not gets overlooked.

Late last summer, Ryan Palmer’s wife, Jennifer, was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer and she had surgery six weeks later. Like it is for many, Palmer’s job became an outlet, an escape from reality, but it was always fleeting.

“I get those four, five hours of just [caddie James Edmondson] and I playing golf. I was able to spend five hours a day not thinking about anything else,” Palmer said. “That helps relieve stress and pressures, but then afterwards you get home and it’s back to reality and everything.”

According to Palmer, Jennifer is doing “great,” and is scheduled to have her chemotherapy ports removed in August. “All is good,” he smiled on Tuesday.

Palmer – who didn’t play last fall so he could be at home with his wife while see underwent therapy – was on a similar emotional rollercoaster two years ago when his father, Charles, died in a traffic accident just before the playoffs, and when he showed up at Colonial for last year’s Dean & DeLuca Invitational the loss was still weighing on him.

“Last year’s Colonial was the first time he wasn’t there and this is his favorite tournament of the year,” Palmer said. “It was a special week. I had a chance to win and for the first time he wasn’t here.”

It’s often too easy to forget that the players who appear so in control on Sunday afternoons vying for trophies deal with the same emotions as those who watch their accomplishments.

For the likes of Horschel or Palmer, a bad day at the office may be relative compared with those who endure a more traditional workweek, but off the golf course the often-harsh realities of life are no different.

“My wife is one year sober,” said Horschel with more than a touch of pride in his voice. “The journey is not over. It'll never be over. But we're on the right path, and every day we have challenges, just like everyone else in the world. We're no different.”

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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.