What golfers are really thankful for in 2016

By Ryan LavnerNovember 24, 2016, 2:00 pm

Welcome, everybody. Gather ’round the table, stop making googly eyes at the pumpkin pie, and pay attention.

Twenty of the biggest names in the game have revealed what they’re really thankful for this year (even if they’d never admit it publicly, of course):

Jordan Spieth: The Masters.

Yeah, it spoiled his year, but the Golden Child was bound to encounter some adversity eventually, so why not when he’s 22 and hungry?

Tiger Woods: The Ryder Cup.

Bored out of his mind as he recovered from a third back surgery, he treated his assistant-captain role with the seriousness of a cabinet meeting. Or a "Call of Duty" session.

Lydia Ko: Ariya Jutanugarn.

Complacency won’t be an issue anymore for the 19-year-old with 14 LPGA titles. She now has a new, imposing rival.

Phil Mickelson: Andrew Getson.

It was clear early this year that Lefty had made a smart move turning to the little-known swing coach. At 46, Phil is rejuvenated.

Mike Davis: Dustin Johnson.

DJ won the U.S. Open in spite of the USGA’s various blunders, sparing Davis and the rest of the blue blazers from Armageddon.

Tim Finchem: Peace and quiet.

Now he only has to answer calls from a 904 area code if he feels like it.

Rory McIlroy: Phil Kenyon.

Whether the English coach eventually turns Rory into an above-average putter remains to be seen, but the early returns – especially after his debacle on the greens at the PGA – are encouraging.

Bernhard Langer: Senior golf.

Not including any endorsement money or Schwab Cup bonuses, the ageless wonder has nearly $21 million in earnings on the senior circuit – or twice what he made during a long career on the PGA Tour.

Henrik Stenson: Pete Cowen.

Stenson’s swing (and part-time life) coach brought him back from the professional abyss – twice – and turned him into a ball-striking machine who reached the pinnacle of the sport.

Bryson DeChambeau: The Golfing Machine. And Epsom salts.

They’re part of the revolution.

Paul Casey, Russell Knox and Alex Noren: Ryder Cup politics.

Maybe this trio wouldn’t have swung the cup in Europe’s favor. But they look better every time someone at least asks the question.

Diana Murphy: There’s always next year.

Because this year was really, really embarrassing.

Andrew Johnston: American golf fans.

Without them, Beef is merely the 85th-best golfer in the world who is overweight and has a bird-nest beard.

Jim Furyk: His dad.

Frustrated with his game, Furyk called the only swing coach he’s ever had, his father Mike. The next day, he shot the first 58 in Tour history.

Dustin Johnson: TrackMan.

For the first time in his career, he tried to dial in his wedges, using the launch monitor to track his distances so he could capitalize on all of those massive drives. It paid off.

Davis Love III: Mickelson and Patrick Reed.

Mickelson, the mastermind behind the U.S. team, and Reed, the heart and soul, took the massive target off Love’s back and put it squarely on their chest.

Rickie Fowler: Short-term memories.

So, about that Big 5 thing ...

Jason Day: Four months off.

One of these years the most complete golfer in the game will be injury- and drama-free … right?

International Golf Federation: Big-name Olympic winners.

Would there be the same level of optimism surrounding the Summer Games had, say, Marcus Fraser and Haru Nomura won gold medals in a rout? Of course not.

Michelle Wie: Her American peers.

Hey, at least almost all of the other U.S. women’s golfers were awful this year, too.

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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.