Scott looks to shut the door at Bay Hill in Round 4

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2014, 11:39 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Be it a coronation or collision course, Adam Scott simultaneously added a level of intrigue to the upcoming Masters and a dollop of suspense heading into what was shaping up to be a victory lap on Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Unlike his swing, silver screen looks and financial portfolio, Scott’s Saturday wasn’t picture perfect like it had been for his first two trips around Arnie’s place. The Australian bogeyed his opening hole, just his fourth misstep of the week, and added another at the fifth.

Before Scott reached the halfway hut his seemingly insurmountable lead had been trimmed from a touchdown (seven strokes) to start the day to a single shot.

The tournament, and the tantalizing prospect of overtaking Tiger Woods atop the World Golf Ranking before the year’s first major championship in a fortnight, which seemed a foregone conclusion, finally had a measure of drama.

Scott, however, would birdie Nos. 6, 10, 13, 15 and 16 for a 1-under 71 and a field goal advantage over a resurgent Keegan Bradley heading into Sunday’s finale.

The world No. 2, 3 up and cruising is not the best-case scenario for Bradley, et al, but at least the pack has a reason to consider a second option.

“I like the underdog role,” said Bradley, whose 66 tied for the round of the day with Matt Every and put him in the hunt for his first title since the 2012 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

It wasn’t Mercer stunning Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but given the alternative Bradley will take what he can get.

“My goal was to go out and cut into the lead. I like being in this position,” said Bradley, who will be paired with Scott on Sunday. “I knew Adam wouldn’t come back to me. I knew I had to shoot a really low number today.”

It may take another really low number and some help from Scott to deny him his 11th Tour title.

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Even on his worst day of the week, Scott hit 12 of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens in regulation. The difference on Day 3 was his putter (31 putts) and a golf course that had played like the softer side of Bay Hill for the first 36 holes.

And if the defending Masters champion was disturbed by his suddenly sloppy play he wasn’t letting on. If anything, Scott figured to use his door-opening 71 as a reason to improve.

For too long, Scott figured, he’s let victory chances slide and now, in the self-described prime of his career, he has no plans to go quietly into any more Sunday nights without a trophy.

“I’m hungry to win,” he said. “I just don’t think you get the chance that much, because there are so many guys playing well. If I only win one tournament in the peak time in my career it’s no different than the rest of my career so far.

“I’ve got to start closing at a better rate.”

This from a player who has collected four international titles in the last 12 months, including 2 of 3 during his victory lap through Australia last fall, and established himself as the game’s most consistent player.

As if that wasn’t enough, Scott also has experience on his side. Of the six players within five strokes of the lead only Bradley and Chesson Hadley (T-5), who claimed his first Big League title at the opposite-field Puerto Rico Open earlier this year, have won on Tour.

Still, for an event devoid of drama for much of the first 36 – that is other than Kevin Na’s run in with father time and a few overly expressive fans on Friday (In an aside, when asked on Saturday if he drives fast, Na replied, “Oh, I drive fast. I have a Lamborghini.”) – the alternative would be a Sunday sans any excitement.

On Saturday, Bradley, with an assist from Scott, breathed life into an event that had the forlorn look of a boat race when the Australian opened with a course-record-tying 62 on Friday.

But on Sunday Bradley & Co. will likely need more help from Scott – another slow start, more missed opportunities, more daylight – to make a game out of it, and for a player who in another life was considered by some too soft, those types of gifts no longer seem realistic.

“My mindset is to go out there and put the foot down early, unlike today, and extend the lead and make it very difficult for anyone to catch me,” Scott said.

It’s not over at Bay Hill, but it’s very close.

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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.