Offseason wait is 'finally' over at Frys.com Open

By Rex HoggardOctober 9, 2013, 3:54 pm

The long wait is over. Golf is finally back.

It’s been over a fortnight since the PGA Tour held a stroke-play event, and the better part of three days since the best and brightest dueled in the mud at Muirfield Village.

If that’s a tad too snarky for you we’ve come by it honestly. It’s not that the Big Leagues are off and racing again some 18 days after Henrik Stenson hoisted FedEx Cup glory at East Lake. That’s always been the case since the playoff era began in 2007.

Professional golf’s offseason has always lasted about as long as a half-time show at the Super Bowl. The error message this time around is that this week’s Frys.com Open is being billed as an “Opening Day.


Woodland, Blixt, Horschel headline Frys.com featured groups

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If the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, the traditional season opener since 1986, had a soft-opening feel to it, this week’s stop at CordeValle is more like a split-squad spring training bout.

If the field at the Frys.com Open wore jerseys, there would be a lot of 58s and 97s on the tee sheet, fine players all of them but you really shouldn’t expect to see many of them when the Tour hits prime time again next spring.

This isn’t a knock on the Frys.com Open, a quality event with a big purse ($5 million) on a hard and fast golf course, or the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open or McGladrey Classic or OHL Classic at Mayakoba, which will follow the “season opener” into the fall.

By every measure these events are improvements over what they were last season, post-Tour Championship afterthoughts adrift in the fall abyss. Each of the fall events now carry full FedEx Cup points and an invitation to the Masters, upgrades by any measure.

But the competitive reality of the Tour’s new split-calendar schedule will leave these freshly emboldened fall stops with fields that look a lot like the fields they had when they were entrenched in the Tour’s no-man’s land.

This week’s tee sheet in California, for example, doesn’t include a single player from the top 25 in the world ranking and just three – Hideki Matsuyama (No. 30), Jonas Blixt (34) and Billy Horschel (35) – from the top 50.

Officials in Las Vegas, Sea Island, Ga., and Mexico should expect a similar turnout despite the added cachet of full points and dramatically increased purses. Although the Frys.com Open purse remained unchanged, moving under the FedEx Cup umbrella meant the Las Vegas stop (from $4.5 million to $6 million), Sea Island ($4 million to $5.5 million) and Mexico ($3.7 million to $6 million) all had to write bigger checks this time around.

And for what? In the case of the Frys.com Open, three of the top 50 players? By comparison, last year’s field at CordeValle had a similar feel with just two – (Ernie Els (No. 22) and Nicholas Colsaerts (35) – of the world’s top 50 players.

Along with the upgrade of the four fall events – the Sanderson Farms Championship, normally played opposite the Open Championship, will join the fall line-up and kick off the 2014-15 season – the CIMB Classic and WGC-HSBC Champions in Asia also joined the FedEx Cup fold, a move that at least partially explains the weaker fall fields particularly at The McGladrey Classic which will be played the week after the World Golf Championship event in China.

The European Tour’s lucrative four-event Finals Series also begins this month with the BMW Masters in China, which virtually assures the top players from the Continent will not play the Tour’s domestic fall schedule.

But then the move to the split-calendar schedule was never billed as a boom for the fall events. Whatever improvement the fall fields enjoy it is little more than a byproduct of a more profound restructuring that included a new qualifying system and the addition of the Asian events to the circuit’s official portfolio.

From the Tour’s perspective, this year’s sweeping changes had a cascading impact on the overall product if not the fall fields.

“The important thing was the ability to restructure the entire calendar. Once you start going down that road , then you look at utilizing this part of the year to really get the FedEx Cup moving,” Tour commissioner Tim Finchem recently told GolfChannel.com. “Starting with the Frys.com (Open) getting point distribution so when you get to the holidays you’re already getting sports fans early in the winter into what the FedEx Cup is about.

“Now we will have pretty good history getting to the holidays. The holidays are a pretty good promotion platform. We think that will enhance the FedEx Cup.

Whether that equates to better fields for the fall events in future years remains to be seen. But in the short term, this week’s event still feels more like spring training than opening day.

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Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

So was Woods.

DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.


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“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

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With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”


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Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.

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Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.


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“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. 

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Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:53 pm

SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

“I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.

“I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”


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On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”

Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”

Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.

“We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.”