Lingmerth steps into starring role at Memorial

By Rex HoggardJune 8, 2015, 12:15 am

DUBLIN, Ohio – On Saturday Tiger Woods needed 85 strokes to round Muirfield Village, his highest card on Tour in 1,158 career rounds, and Phil Mickelson was only slightly better with a 78.

A week ago, world No. 1 Rory McIlroy opened his week with an 80 at the Irish Open.

It has been, in historically relevant terms, a seismic shift in professional golf’s paradigm of influence the last few days, but before the cats and dogs start moving into a shared walk-up together it’s worth revisiting the concept that parity is the new predictability on the game’s top shelf.

McIlroy is still the undisputed alpha male, Mickelson has shown signs of late life in recent starts with his runner-up showing at the Masters and a tie for fourth at the Wells Fargo Championship, and Woods . . . well, let’s just say he certainly seems committed to the process.

But the days of prolonged dominance appear to be on an indefinite hiatus. Chalk doesn’t do it anymore like it did when Woods was in his prime and winning 33 percent of his Tour starts like he did when he was with Hank Haney. Now, the house has the advantage.

No? How many of you took the prop bet that a rookie named Zac Blair would lap Woods by 15 strokes in Round 3 at the Memorial?

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Perhaps David Lingmerth – the last man standing on Sunday at Muirfield Village after enduring the longest playoff in Memorial history for his first PGA Tour title – isn’t the new normal, but he represents a collective face that transcends his position in the Official World Golf Ranking (212th) and his relative experience.

You might remember Lingmerth as a member of Woods’ supporting cast back at The Players in 2013 when he leveraged a 54-hole lead into a runner-up showing.

As competitive fate would have it, it was at TPC Sawgrass, on the adjacent Valley Course, where he regained his Tour card last fall after dropping out of the top 125 in FedEx Cup points, but the 2014-15 season was shaping up to be a similar struggle.

In 26 starts this season he’d missed as many cuts (nine) as he’d made (nine) and his best finish was a tie for 13th place at the other legend’s major, the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

But on Sunday at Jack’s Place, little-known Lingmerth was better than Woods, by 29 strokes for those counting at home, better than Mickelson and finally, after flatlining himself through three playoff holes in even par, better than Justin Rose.

“I've been in a few playoffs; you win some, you lose some. But I didn't feel that it was my turn to lose this time,” said Lingmerth, who closed with a 69 to force overtime.

Rose began the final day three strokes clear of the field, faded three shots out of the top spot with an opening nine of 38 and retook a share of the top spot alongside Lingmerth with an 11-footer for birdie at the penultimate hole.

The Englishman secured his spot in the playoff with a nervy up-and-down from short of the 18th green after hitting a spectator with his approach shot and moments later rekindled that magic with a 19-footer for par to extend the overtime.

But the magic ran out when Rose, a seven-time Tour winner, pushed his drive well right at the 10th hole, the third playoff stop, and misplayed his second shot from a bad lie over the green on his way to a bogey.

“I hit pretty much as good a shot as I could hit from the lie,” said Rose, who bogeyed two of his first four holes and admitted to feeling “uncomfortable” for much of the day. “I just tried to dig out a 3-wood. I was trying to get it in the left bunker, and I couldn't quite get enough cut on it to get it to the left bunker. But I was pretty much aiming 80 yards left of the green.”

Conversely, the unproven Swede was much more resilient than his resume would suggest, holing a 10-footer at the first playoff frame for par and getting up and down at the second to earn the coveted handshake from Nicklaus.

That he secured his first Tour title against one of the year’s deepest fields and with an assortment of A-list types looming only served to magnify the notion that the line between the headliners and the rest of the herd is razor thin.

Jordan Spieth was the highest-profile player to make a run, carding a day’s-best 65 to finish at 13 under some two hours before the leaders were finished.

On Saturday following a sloppy double bogey-6 on the closing hole for an even-par 72 Spieth opined, “[The] golf gods were not on my side today.” A day later after chipping in twice, for birdie at No. 7 and eagle at the 15th hole, the Masters champion took a slightly different approach.

“They were certainly a little nicer today than they have been. But I would call it kind of evening out over the day,” said Spieth, who has seven top-5 finishes since February. “On a course like this, you're going to get some unlucky breaks more than you will catch good ones just given how tough it is.”

It’s a lesson both Woods and Mickelson learned over the weekend. Lefty’s tie for 65th was his worst finish at the Memorial since 1998, while Tiger’s third-round 85 led to his highest four-round total (302) on the Tour and more then a few questions as he now turns his attention to the U.S. Open.

“The guys that have made [swing] tweaks, you have moments where you go backwards and then you make big, major strides down the road. That's just the way it goes,” Woods said. “You have to look at the big picture. You can't be so myopic with your view and expect to have one magical day or one magical shot and change your whole game. It doesn't work that way.”

It’s similar to the notion that these outings follow the hierarchical script that top players always prevail. Sometimes the lead shoots an 85 and tees off first on Sunday and the supporting cast steals the show.

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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.