World of possibilities awaits Woods and co. Sunday at Doral

By Rex HoggardMarch 8, 2014, 11:59 pm

DORAL, Fla. – Night meet day.

From the cruelty of Friday’s gale to the rare south Florida calm that greeted players for Saturday’s third turn around the Gil Hanse redesign at Doral, the tale of two days was etched across many faces as Round 3 yielded three times as many scores in the red compared to Friday.

“Last night I felt beat, the guys felt beat up. There were a lot of guys downstairs (at the hotel) last night having a beer,” smiled Jimmy Walker, who was 10 strokes better on Saturday (67) than he was on Friday (77) on his way to a tie for ninth.

What awaits for Sunday’s final lap could go either way, although the field would gladly take another breezy walk around the brand new and beefy Blue Monster. Tiger Woods certainly would.

The world No. 1 carded a stress-free 66 and appears poised to complete his first PGA Tour Sunday round of the year. Of course, that’s if his ailing back, which prompted him to withdraw from last week’s Honda Classic, cooperates.

When Woods walked off the course he was one stroke off the lead thanks to a Saturday surge and will begin Round 4 three strokes behind Patrick Reed in his quest to win his second consecutive WGC-Cadillac Championship.

Strangely, if Woods goes on to win his fifth PGA Tour title at Doral – two World Golf Championships and two Ford Championships – it may be Friday’s 73, a round that included three water balls, and not his Saturday rally that lifts him to the winner’s circle.

“It was nice to get back in the tournament again,” said Woods, who is tied for fourth at 1 under. “I held it together yesterday, a long day, a long, tough day and that gave me a chance today. I figured if I just get back to even par for the tournament I’ll be right there and I did one better.”

Count Woods among the large group that hopes we’ve seen the last of the various faces of the new Doral. When asked to characterize the rebuilt Blue Monster many figured the only comparison would be to a major championship venue, but even that doesn’t exactly fit the mold.

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“I can't remember the conditions changing so much, where the wind was blowing 20, 30 (mph) and then you get an absolute perfect day like we had today,” said Jason Dufner, who is tied for second place with Hunter Mahan at 2 under. “Usually when it's firm and fast and tough, you expect it for the whole week.”

And Hanse’s handiwork has provided a major-like leaderboard, complete with names like Woods, Johnson (both Zach and Dustin are tied for sixth at even par), Dufner, Mahan and Reed . . . that would be Patrick Reed.

If Reed’s name doesn’t exactly fit the star billing one would expect from a World Golf Championship consider that the soon-to-be father and former Monday miracle worker has won twice in his last 13 Tour starts, hasn’t missed a cut since the Open in October and is currently 13th on the U.S. Ryder Cup points  list.

If U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson is unfamiliar with the second-year Tour player he should start getting to know the 23-year-old. Reed carded a third-round 69 to move to 4 under par, two shots clear of Mahan and Dufner, and he is already 2-for-3 in his young career turning 54-hole leads into trophies.

But then those previous two victories - the 2013 Wyndham Championship and 2014 Humana Challenge - didn’t come against the world’s best, and on Sunday the weight of the game’s entire marquee will be bearing down on him.

“To me it’s another golf tournament. Of course, it’s a World Golf Championship event and there’s a lot on the line, but at the same time I have to treat every round, every event like it’s just a normal event and a normal round of golf,” said Reed, whose wife, Justine, is due with the couple’s first child, a girl, on May 26.

Sunday, however, promises to be a new test for Reed. If, as many players have said this week, Doral is playing to major championship standards, then Reed, who has never played a Grand Slam event, will likely be faced with an entirely new set of challenges.

Just ask Dufner, who has won a major and is treating this week no differently. “It’s a tough course, man,” he figured. “Head down, on to the next hole.”

He’s just hoping that next round is more like the one he enjoyed on Saturday and not that Round 2 tempest.

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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.