Player of the Year? Spieth has support of peers

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2015, 8:54 pm

ATLANTA – The people have spoken.

The message was delivered loudly, in fact, and with virtually no ambiguity in what is essentially a mandate between tradition and change, more of the same or something new, to keep with the election-season theme.

“Two majors. It trumps all else,” Rory McIlroy said when asked his thoughts on the ongoing Player of the Year debate between Jordan Spieth and Jason Day.

“Majors. Majors are big,” echoed Rickie Fowler.

Even Day, whose torrid run through the twilight of the 2014-15 season with four victories in his last six starts turned what had been a foregone conclusion into a curious debate, conceded a point that comes down to simple math.

“I still think it's Jordan. Everyone knows that here,” the Australian said when asked who should be the Player of the Year if he’s able to win the FedEx Cup.

For the players who represent the electorate in the Player of the Year race Spieth’s two major victories, and to a lesser extent his runner-up showing at the PGA Championship and tie for fourth at the Open Championship, are the ultimate arbiter.

“I feel like you got to go on majors and Jordan has been the best player in those tournaments this year,” McIlroy said.

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There are outliers, those who view the current golf landscape in more macro terms and look beyond golf’s four biggest events and drill down into a system that attempts to quantify season-long success.

“If Jason Day wins the FedEx Cup he is the Player of the Year. To win the FedEx Cup you’ve had to win one of the [playoff] events,” Jason Bohn said at last month’s Barclays, which Day won by six strokes. “I think the FedEx Cup is a big determiner in our Player of the Year. It’s phenomenal the way Jordan Spieth has played in the majors, but you have to finish it off.”

Henrik Stenson was not as sure but still squarely on the fence, “Someone with the first letter of ‘J’ will win it,” he joked. “I would still wait until this week is over before I would put my final vote on that. It comes down to what happens this week.”

But as the Tour inches toward election day - voting will begin as soon as officials can electronically distribute the ballots after Sunday’s final round and ends on Oct. 1 at 5 p.m. ET - those types of esoteric opinions seem to be in short supply.

In a wildly unscientific poll of a dozen players this week at East Lake, Spieth is a heavy favorite to claim the Jack Nicklaus Award. Exit polling on Sunday may provide a different view if Day were to roll to his third postseason victory and the ultimate walk-off, but on the eve of the year’s final event the voting public has made up its mind.

This is neither an indictment of Day’s inspired play the last few weeks nor of Spieth’s performance outside of the Grand Slam bubble as much as it is an indication of where the Tour currently finds itself.

As hard as the Tour has tried to make the playoffs something more than the sum of its parts, the current Player of the Year conversation is as clear an indication as any that time is still marked one major at a time.

In the nine years since the Tour began its playoff experiment the importance of the postseason has steadily grown as evidenced by, if nothing else, participation.

With few exceptions, most notably Sergio Garcia’s decision to skip this year’s first two playoff events, players have supported the postseason with their feet, as the great communicator Ronald Reagan once opined.

Look no further than Tiger Woods’ decision last month to play the Wyndham Championship for the first time in his career in a last-minute effort to qualify for the playoffs as your paradigm of importance.

Its relative importance, however, remains well behind that of a major. Despite the lure of $10 million and a five-year Tour exemption, players didn’t grow up practicing 5-footers dreaming of one day hoisting the FedEx Cup.

“It takes a long time,” Tour commissioner Tim Finchem conceded. “The Players, in my view, took 25 years to get to where you can say it’s established.”

If Day wins the season-long lottery ticket and Spieth does go on to collect the Nicklaus hardware it won’t be the first time the rank and file has made the distinction between a good season highlighted by a timely run and a truly great year.

Last season McIlroy won the Player of the Year Award for the second time after winning the Open Championship and PGA Championship but not the FedEx Cup, or even a playoff event for that matter.

In 2008, Padraig Harrington didn’t even qualify to advance to the Tour Championship but collected the POY trophy after winning that season’s Open Championship and PGA.

Just three times in the playoff era, and not since 2010, has the FedEx Cup champion also won the Player of the Year Award.

There’s nothing wrong with the FedEx Cup that a few decades of history can’t fix. Nor is there anything wrong with acknowledging that while Day is having a memorable season Spieth has already had an unforgettable year

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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.