Duking it Out in Prattville

By Sports NetworkOctober 31, 2003, 5:00 pm
PRATTVILLE, Ala. -- Ken Duke shot a 6-under 66 on Friday to move into a share of the lead after two rounds of the Nationwide Tour Championship. Duke was joined by Chris Couch at 11-under-par 133, one shot clear of D.J. Brigman.
Chris Tidland had the round of the day on the Senator Course at Capitol Hill with a second-round 64. Tidland finished alongside Doug LaBelle II in a tie for fourth at 9-under-par 135.
Duke, who is currently 42nd on the Nationwide Tour with a chance, albeit slim, to earn his way onto the PGA Tour by the end of the week, picked up his first birdie of the day at the par-5 fifth.
He added a birdie at the par-5 eighth and landed his approach inside three feet for a birdie at the ninth.
Duke continued to plug along on the back side with a 16-foot putt for birdie at the 12th and collected a birdie at the 15th after his second shot stopped eight feet from the cup.
The 34-year-old took the outright lead at the par-5 17th with a tap-in birdie after a long eagle attempt almost found the bottom of the hole.
'I've got a really good rhythm going,' said Duke. 'I've been sick the past week so I'm just going off of momentum right now. I had some good numbers and hit some good shots with the wedge.'
Couch, who won this year's Oregon Classic, dropped his tee shot within eight feet for a birdie at the par-3 seventh and followed that up with a birdie at the very next hole.
The 30-year-old birdied the 10th to reach 9 under and hit his second shot to six feet for a birdie at the par-4 14th.
At the par-5 17th, Couch drained a five-foot putt for his fifth birdie of the day to join Duke atop the leaderboard.
'I was a stress case last year but I can relax this week,' said Couch, who posted a 67 on Friday. 'It was a very stress-free round today. Hopefully I can keep doing this for 36 more holes.'
Brigman had a rocky front side with three birdies and three bogeys but he caught fire around the turn to stay within reach.
The 27-year-old birdied the 10th and added a birdie at the 13th to reach minus-8.
Brigman then birdied the 15th and converted a six-foot putt for a birdie at the 17th.
At the par-4 18th, Brigman had a putt from the same distance to join the leaders but his birdie attempt missed right.
'Obviously there are some really good scores out there,' said Brigman, who shot a 68. 'You're going to have to play pretty darn good on the weekend to win. A lot of guys want it too.'
Bo Van Pelt and Jason Dufner shared sixth place at 8-under-par 136.
First-round leader Zach Johnson managed an even-par 72 to join Jess Daley and Tjaart van der Walt at 7-under-par 137.
Wes Short was one shot further back at 6-under-par 138.
The top 20 on the money list after the Nationwide Tour money list will earn their PGA Tour cards. Those who finish from 21-55 will secure their playing position on the Nationwide Tour in 2004.
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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.