Traffic jammed behind Quicken leaders

By Rex HoggardAugust 1, 2015, 11:37 pm

GAINESVILLE, Va. – When Troy Merritt completed his record-setting round of 61 he figured his 14-under-par total would leave him squarely back in the pack by the time dusk settled over Robert Trent Jones Golf Club.

“Decent chance,” he figured when he completed his round just as the day’s last group was heading out at the Quicken Loans National.

Little did he know a light breeze and intense humidity would combine with Saturday pressure to create a leaderboard as crowed as the Capital Beltway at rush hour.

All told, the final five groups and the top 10 players heading into Round 3 posted an average of 70, nine strokes worse than Merritt’s masterpiece that left the 29-year-old tied with Kevin Chappell and a stroke clear of Rickie Fowler.

It was not exactly the afternoon scoring many expected at a spongy layout that had yielded plenty of birdies, not to mention holes-in-one, for the first two and a half days. The result will be a busy landscape for Sunday’s final turn with a dozen players within four strokes of the lead.

“Somebody will do it early and post a number,” said Charles Howell III, who loomed just two back at 12 under after a 67. “You have to stay at it on this golf course and especially if it’s fairly calm tomorrow like it was today. You got to make birdies.”


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Welcome to the East Coast version of the Bob Hope Classic where one-way traffic (up the leaderboard) is the only requirement.

One of those early risers on Sunday who will need to claw his way back up the leaderboard is tournament host Tiger Woods, who failed to hit a fairway until the eighth hole on Saturday and scrambled his way to a 74 that didn’t look nearly that good.

After turning in 1 over par Woods made a mess of the par-3 12th for double bogey and added another bogey at the 14th before finally making his first birdie of the day at No. 16. For a player who appeared inspired by two sub-70 rounds to begin his week it was another setback in his journey back to competitiveness.

“I saw a lot of [Round 4 hole location] dots out there for tomorrow. They’re in pretty easy spots. Shoot one of those 61s out there,” said Woods, who needs a victory this week to qualify for next week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, otherwise the PGA Championship may be his last start of the 2014-15 season.

Fowler won’t need to be nearly as perfect as he continues to establish himself as a regular contender. Despite three bogeys, The Players champion signed for a 68 and continues to make good on his promise to start winning more events.

Following last season, when he became the first player to finish inside the top 5 in all four major championships, Fowler committed to taking the next step this year with more trophies. His near-flawless finish at TPC Sawgrass in May was an impressive start and he added another “W” last month by winning the European Tour’s Scottish Open.

“It would have been nice to get a win in the majors last year. With making history and that top 5 in all four majors it's going to be special to look back on, but winning is a lot better than finishing top 5,” Fowler said earlier this week.

While Fowler will be the clear fan favorite on Sunday it will likely be Justin Rose who may have the competitive edge. Although this year’s Quicken Loans National is being held at a new venue, the Englishman has proven himself adept wherever this event is played.

In 2010, he won Tiger’s tournament at Aronimink Golf Club near Philadelphia; last year he collected his second Quicken Loans title at Congressional. It’s worth pointing out he won last year after starting the final round three shots out of the lead, the same place where he will begin Sunday.

“I’ve won tournaments from four back before and it’s going to take something very low for me. It’s out there, probably 63 tomorrow,” said Rose, who moved into contention with a 65 after a late-afternoon putting session with his short-game coach on Friday. 

It was a common theme at an uncommonly low-scoring event. In the eight-year history of the Quicken Loans, just twice (2009 and 2011) has the winning score made it to 13 under. Thanks to Merritt’s early move on Saturday and Chappell’s workmanlike 67 that benchmark has already been eclipsed.

It all sets the stage for a very different final round from what players and fans have come to expect at the Washington, D.C. area stop.

“You’ve got to keep the pedal down tomorrow,” Howell said.

And you also have to remember this is not your normal Quicken Loans National.

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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.