Stewart knocks out McCoy in battle of top-5 players

By Ryan LavnerAugust 20, 2015, 12:25 am

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – That groan you heard here Wednesday was from two of the top five amateurs in the world who were matched up in the Round of 64 at the U.S. Amateur.

So much for a first-round cakewalk. 

Lee McCoy and Hunter Stewart are ranked Nos. 4 and 5 in the world, respectively, but they just so happened to earn the Nos. 4 and 61 seeds out of stroke-play qualifying at Olympia Fields.

It’s believed to be the first time that two top-five amateurs squared off so early in the Amateur.

“The reaction was what you’d expect,” McCoy said with a smile, “and the challenge is to fight letting yourself do that. My attitude was that if you’re going to try and win the U.S. Amateur, you’re going to have to beat somebody good. Might as well beat them in the Round of 64.”

If only it were so easy.

On a day when the wind consistently blew 20 mph and Olympia Fields’ North Course played even longer after heavy rain, Stewart made six birdies in 16 holes – one of the best rounds of the week, on either course here – and left McCoy wondering what else he could have done.

“You can’t stop a guy from making birdie,” McCoy said. “You can just try to make it on top of him. I did a couple of times, but that was just an incredible round of golf.” 

Medalist ousted in first round | British Open star taken the distance

After trailing early in the match, Stewart, a first-team All-American who graduated from Vanderbilt last spring, ran off five birdies in a seven-hole stretch to build a comfortable lead. He won the match, 3 and 2.   

“It’s never fun to play a guy who has been a teammate in the past or is going to be a teammate with you again,” Stewart said. “I wouldn’t want to play any of those guys. They’re a tough match.”

“We have pretty similar games – hit a lot of fairways and greens and just kind of dink it around and annoy people,” McCoy said. “That’s an advantage I would have had over pretty much every other guy in the field, just being able to hit a ton of fairways and drive a guy nuts when you’re sitting there looking at 15 feet for birdie on every hole. But Hunter was looking at 6 feet for birdie on half of them. … Sometimes there’s nothing you can do but just sit there and take it.”

Both McCoy and Stewart have already been named to the U.S. Walker Cup team.

This performance should give captain Spider Miller plenty to think about when he considers potential partnerships for Royal Lytham. 

“I’m glad he’s on our side and not the other side,” McCoy said. “We can just annoy people hitting fairways. We can set each other up so good in alternate shot. If he plays like that, and I play like I did today, we will not lose. I bet everything I have – which isn’t much – on it.” 

Stewart needed to advance out of an 18-for-10 playoff just to make match play, and when he saw the bracket come out, he thought: “Well, I better bring it.” 

“It was either show up or go home,” he said. “I feel like we bring the best out of each other. He kind of brought it out of me today. He raised the energy level and I got in a flow out there." 

Stewart clinched his Walker Cup spot by winning the prestigious Northeast Amateur earlier in the summer. He hasn’t played much since. He took off eight days after that victory and then finished fifth at the Players Amateur, which was more a product of course knowledge than good form. After another planned break, he showed up rusty at the Western Amateur and missed the cut, an event that he considers a tuneup for the U.S. Am and next month’s Walker Cup.

Why all of the time off?

When Stewart was in school, he always shelved the clubs in late October, after the team’s final event in Florida. Now, with a pro career looming, he needs to stay fresh until the rest of the year, or at least until Dec. 15, the final day of Q-School.

McCoy, meanwhile, is staying at Georgia for his senior season, and he’ll be glad not to see Stewart in black and gold anymore.

Stewart had a two-shot lead heading into the final round of a college event at Pebble Beach. McCoy thought that he’d caught him on the last day, playing the first seven holes in 4 under par, but his mood changed when he asked a volunteer for Stewart’s status. Turns out he had just made the turn in 5 under. Stewart eventually won by two. 

Two weeks later, McCoy edged Stewart for a win in Tennessee, and the duo went head-to-head a few more times at the SEC Championship and NCAAs. 

And who knows? They might team up in a few weeks at the Walker Cup. 

"The good thing about golf is that you rarely go head to head,” McCoy said. “Most of the time it’s in college, and he’s done with college. Whether he has my number or not, I don’t know, but we’re not going to find out anymore. We’re done. I will very rarely play him again unless it’s five years from now on Tour. 

“And the good news then is if Hunter clips me in a Tour event, I’m still going to go home with 700 grand. It’s a little better than a plane ticket home.”

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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.