A new season: Can you start if you never stopped?

By Ryan LavnerOctober 14, 2015, 12:16 am

NAPA, Calif. – So, fellas, how’d you spend that 424-hour offseason?

“A wedding and a Royals game,” Robert Streb said.

“Two charity events,” Roberto Castro added.

“[PGA Tour] orientation,” Harold Varner smiled. “Oh, and then I went to Vegas.”

“Didn’t touch a club,” Brooks Koepka shrugged. “Didn’t do anything and relaxed … for all five days of it.”

It’s already time to get back to work.

It’s Year 3 of the wraparound schedule, and it still feels strange.

There were 19 days between the end of the Tour Championship and the beginning of a new PGA Tour season. In between? Oh, not too much … only a Web.com Tour Championship in which 50 PGA Tour cards were handed out, and then a Presidents Cup that featured 17 top-30 players.

“It’s almost comical,” Patrick Rodgers said, “like, ‘How was your offseason?’ It was two weeks.” 

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No two American sports build up to a new season quite like the NFL and MLB, with around-the-clock coverage from the owners’ meetings, free agency, training camp and spring training. When opening night – sorry, Opening Night – finally arrives, it’s practically a national holiday. A whopping 27 million viewers tuned in for the NFL opener.

Here at the Frys.com Open, you can feel a buzz only in the winery tasting room.

Posters around Napa showed Rory McIlroy and the slogan, “It All Starts Now.”

It’s fair to wonder whether that elicits more groans or cheers.

Does this feel like a fresh start?

“Well, it has to,” Streb said, “whether you like it or not.”

Indeed, there’s no going back now.

The Tour may have diluted its product, but it isn’t about to turn away seven sponsors. And besides, players enjoy a $1 million-plus first-place check in all but one of the seven fall events, and they've realized the added benefit of playing more in the fall during a long FedEx Cup season. Last year, for instance, Streb won a fall event, had two other top-10s and eventually played his way into the Tour Championship.

The hard-core golf fans – the ones reading this story on a golf-centric website – likely don’t mind the seemingly never-ending schedule either; it’s more action at the end of a transformative year for the sport. The long-term concern is that those same fans will eventually grow weary of the nonstop global schedule, with upcoming events from California to China to Mexico to Dubai to Thailand. The only time they can exhale – the only time they can even think about missing the sport – is a two-week break before the New Year.

It’s worth noting that this season opener should have had a bit more sizzle.

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy committed to play this year’s event as part of an agreement with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem when he allowed the two stars (and six others) to participate in a lucrative exhibition in Turkey in 2012. Woods will miss the Frys, and the rest of his scheduled events this year, after undergoing back surgery last month. Justin Rose, Webb Simpson and Schwartzel are also in this year’s field, part of the Turkey Eight. Hunter Mahan, Matt Kuchar and Lee Westwood have already honored their commitment within the three-year window.

The Frys field could suffer next year though, when the summer schedule becomes even more condensed and top players will look for weeks off anywhere they can get ’em.

But forget the stars for a moment. The so-called offseason is a particularly quick turnaround for the rookies, some of whom learned only a week and a half ago that they had status this season.

In 2012, when Castro was a newcomer, he had about two months to work on his game, plot a strategy and mentally prepare for the long year ahead.

“We had all of the holidays and a couple of months to think about it,” he recalled. “Then we started on the West Coast and cut our teeth out there. It’s definitely different now.”

Consider the case of Varner, who played in all 25 events on the Web.com circuit and now is in line for five more events this fall. The 25-year-old had eight days to process what is a massive career achievement – and part of that time was spent in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., for rookie orientation.

He said his desire to succeed outweighs any late-season burnout or fatigue.

“I’m ready to go to work,” he said.

That view stands in stark contrast to a top player like Koepka, the Phoenix Open winner who has already logged 23 PGA Tour starts this season. After playing here in Napa, he’ll tee it up at next week’s stop in Vegas, the WGC event in Shanghai, the Race to Dubai overseas and then Woods’ event in the Bahamas.

With his extended break still two months away, he spent his 424-hour PGA Tour offseason doing, well, absolutely nothing.

Is this the start of a new season?

“No,” he said. “This just feels like the continuation of a long year.”

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry