Day on fire after 61-63 start at BMW Championship

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 18, 2015, 11:03 pm

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – After watching another 329-yard blast, another sky-high 3-iron and another long-range bomb, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler did the only thing they could do in that situation.


A day that began with a 59 watch ended with Jason Day slamming home a 42-foot eagle putt on the last to turn another elite tournament into a boat race.

Day’s second-round 63 tied the PGA Tour’s 36-hole scoring record (18-under 124), put him five shots clear of the field at the BMW Championship, and left even the world’s No. 2-ranked player struggling to comprehend what he just witnessed.

“It’s an incredible display of golf,” Spieth said Friday. “He’s hitting it the longest, the straightest and he’s putting the best. It sounds a lot like when people told me Tiger (Woods) was in his prime.”

That’s not hyperbole, either.

Day is looking for his third win in his last four starts, and fourth in his last six.

He is 97 under par over his last seven events.

He matched the Tour’s 36-hole scoring mark – and also made two bogeys.

And he has made birdie or eagle on a mind-boggling 33.7 percent of his holes played since the PGA began.

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“I feel like I’m in the zone,” he said.

The old adage that it’s hard to back up a low round with another good one apparently doesn’t apply to Day.

Yes, Conway Farms played easy because of heavy overnight rain and preferred lies, but Day still managed the second-best score in the second round. Through two rounds here, he is averaging a tournament-best 321 yards off the tee while ranking third in putting.

Every Tour-caliber player is capable of lighting up a leaderboard for a few weeks. The stars seem capable of sustaining that momentum for longer, whether it was Rory McIlroy in late 2012 or ’14, Henrik Stenson in summer ’13, or Spieth for the past six months.

They know what Day is experiencing. They know it’s glorious. And they know it’s fleeting.

“It feels like you give yourself a chance for birdie on every hole,” McIlroy said. “If everything is on, then that’s what happens. It’s nice to get on those runs, and inevitably it’s going to come to an end at some point, unless your name is Tiger Woods, but you can keep it going for a while.”

Said Stenson: “When a player gets in good shape with his game and mentally you can ride that wave and keep on being in the mix week-in and week-out, it’s a great feeling when you’re there, and that’s what you’re striving for when you’re not.”

McIlroy’s play is predicated on how he drives the ball. Stenson’s depends on his iron play. Spieth’s greatest asset, of course, is his short game.

“When we were in a groove,” Spieth said, “I just felt so good with my putter. I was keeping myself in it. I was hitting good wedges, but my putter was doing the talking.

“Jason’s is as well, but he’s also hitting it the farthest and straightest off the tee. He’s not missing many shots at all.”

Indeed, the scary thing about Day is that when he’s on, he drives it like McIlroy, stripes it like Stenson and rolls it like Spieth.

Spieth, who has been grouped with Day 12 times since May – including in the final round of last month’s PGA – said that the Aussie’s two rounds here were “the best two consecutive rounds I’ve seen.”

Day’s start at the BMW is four shots better than any opening 36-hole score this season, though many would consider Spieth’s 64-66 run at Augusta to be the best this year.

“I would compare it to that level of blackout,” Spieth said. “You just don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t care, and you’re just going to keep doing it, and that was amazing.”

That kind of sublime play can have a demoralizing effect. In the featured group of Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the FedEx Cup, Spieth (11 under) and Fowler (7 under) have played well, yet their combined total would only tie Day’s through 36 holes.

“You think it can help you because you can feed off of it … but it’s tough to play with,” Spieth said. “You feel like there’s nothing you can do. You try and get a little too aggressive on the greens when you don’t feel like you’re doing anything wrong, and I’m not doing anything wrong. Eleven under is stout for two rounds, but the fact that I could double that and probably not win, well, we may as well just try and double it and see what happens.”

Day understands the dynamics at play, and how his locked-in driver and red-hot putter can push his competitors outside their comfort levels, how it can exasperate them.

When Spieth made a hole-in-one Thursday to finally steal the honors on the next tee, Day still ran in a 30-footer on top of him.

On the 18th hole Friday, Spieth piped a 264-yard 3-wood, over water, to 7 feet.

“One of the best shots I’ve hit in competition in my life,” he would say later, but Day walked up to his ball some 40 yards ahead, ripped at a 3-iron and then drained the ensuing 43-footer to match Spieth’s 3.

Fowler told Spieth that the putt would drop for a closing eagle, because of course it would. All they could do afterward was shake their heads and laugh at the absurdity of it all.

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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.