Twenty players within 4 shots of Memorial lead

By Ryan Reiterman June 5, 2016, 1:04 am

DUBLIN, Ohio - It will be a mad dash to the finish at the Memorial Tournament.

Literally.

Officials moved up tee times for Sunday’s final round because of the threat of afternoon storms, and a whopping 20 players are within four shots of the lead held by Matt Kuchar, William McGirt and Gary Woodland at 14 under par.

The Memorial 20 includes major champions (Webb Simpson, Phil Mickelson), bombers (Dustin Johnson, J.B. Holmes, Woodland), plodders (Soren Kjeldsen, Jon Curran), former Memorial champions (Kuchar, K.J. Choi) and a notable member at Muirfield Village (world No. 1 Jason Day).

Players will tee off from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in threesomes off Nos. 1 and 10 in what will likely be a wild Sunday. The greens at Muirfield Village were already soft from daily rain and no wind, and the putting surfaces will be even mushier for the final round after storms came through Saturday afternoon and delayed the third round with eight players still on the course.

Even Rory McIlroy, who is five strokes back, isn’t out of it.

“It just makes you focus more,” said Adam Hadwin - who is one back - on the bunched leaderboard. “You know that one shot means so much. It can be the difference of first and seventh right now. So it's just a matter of getting into every shot, knowing every shot matters.”


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Players are usually giddy when conditions are soft, but several contenders plan on staying patient in the final round instead of firing at every pin.

“You just have to tell yourself on this golf course there's four par 5s. They're usually all reachable,” Simpson said after a 6-under 66. “You've just got to be patient. I was only 1 under through seven holes, missed a couple of short opportunities for birdie, but I just hung in there, made a good putt at 8, eagled 9, and all of a sudden, I was kind of right back into it.”

The fairways are generous at Muirfield Village, but the rough was already thick before Saturday’s rain, water comes into play on 11 holes and getting up and down after missing the green is no bargain.

Kuchar learned there are other surprises lurking around the course, too. His tee shot on the par-3 fourth was tracking toward the pin, but his ball landed just short of the green and hit a sprinkler head. It shot up in the air and down to the bottom of a hill leading to his second of five bogeys on the day. 

“I told my caddie after that, I said, these things tend to even out, but we're due for some good breaks,” Kuchar said after a 2-under 70. “That was clearly a very bad break.”

The 2013 Memorial winner responded with seven birdies as he tries to win for the first time since the 2014 RBC Heritage. It couldn’t come at a better place. In addition to his five top-10s in 11 starts, Kuchar is a combined 68 under par at this event since 2009, 35 shots better than Johnson.

Kuchar shares the lead with the McGirt - who shot an 8-under 64 and is still looking for his first win - and Woodland, a two-time Tour winner who has made only one bogey all week and leads the field in scrambling (15-for-16).

“Hopefully, the rain stays away and we can go out there and make more birdies,” Woodland said. “I'm feeling pretty confident about where my game is. I've been playing well for a while, and it's starting to come together.”

Rookie Emiliano Grillo had a chance to finish with the lead, but after the rain delay he made a double bogey at the par-4 17th and finished at 13 under along with Johnson, Hadwin and Curran.

“On 17, I was ready to hit, and the official told me not to hit, and then they waited a minute to blow the horn,” Grillo said. “So I'm kind of pissed about that, but it is what it is.”

Grillo won the Web.com Tour Championship and his first PGA Tour title in back-to-back weeks in October. Outside of T-17s at Bay Hill and the Masters, it’s been a struggle since then for the 23-year-old from Argentina. Still, with a win this week, Grillo would join Jordan Spieth as the only players under the age of 23 with multiple PGA Tour wins.

Grillo got off to a bad start at his first Memorial before the tournament even started. He tweeted earlier this week he ordered an Arnold Palmer in the clubhouse at Jack Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village.

Fortunately, the Golden Bear didn’t mind.

“We’re not going to give him a two-shot penalty,” Nicklaus joked on Saturday’s telecast.

Kuchar’s bogey on 18 and Grillo’s double on 17 made work a little easier for the rest of the contenders.

Day will have plenty of support from the fans since he spends his off weeks playing social rounds at Muirfield Village. A birdie at 18 Saturday would have given him a share of the lead, but he chunked a pitch shot after his ball landed by its pitch mark and Day closed with a deflating double bogey.

He’s only three back as he eyes his fourth win of the year at a place where, despite his local knowledge, he has yet to finish in the top 10. The good news is his record wasn’t stellar at Bay Hill and The Players, and, well, we saw how that turned out.

“I'm just trying to prove myself that I can play around golf courses that I haven't typically played well in the past,” Day said. “That's what I'm going to try and go with into tomorrow's round with that mentality that I can do it. Hopefully, that's enough.”

 

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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.