Els Takes First-Round Lead at Heineken Classic

By Sports NetworkJanuary 31, 2002, 5:00 pm
Ernie Els fired an 8-under 64 to grab the first-round lead at the Heineken Classic Thursday. The two-time U.S. Open Champion finished with a two-shot lead over Mark Pilkington of Wales.
A pair of Australians in Adam Scott and Peter Lonard and amateur Eddie Lee of New Zealand were joined by the English duo of Nick Faldo and Barry Lane in a tie for third at 5-under 67.
Els began his round on the back nine at the Composite course of the Royal Melbourne Golf Club. The South African birdied the opening par-5 10th before making his only mistake of the day with a bogey on the following hole. He then birdied the par-4 12th to get back in the red.
After back-to-back birdies from the 15th, Els made the turn at 4-under before going on a stretch of four birdies over the first five holes on the inward nine.
'This morning was cool so I felt like the greens were giving us a little bit of feedback if we hit good shots in there and that's what happened,' said Els.
Els, who did not win an event worldwide last year, missed only one green in regulation. His best finish at this event came in 1999 when he joined Lonard and Germany's Bernhard Langer in a tie for second.
'I will play as well as I can this week and see how it goes. I enjoy playing this course and feel really good,' said Els.
Pilkington got off to a rocket start on the front nine with three straight birdies from the first. He added two more birdies to make the turn at 5-under.
He carried his momentum onto the 10th with a birdie to pose a threat to Els' lead. The 23-year-old eventually cooled down coasting at even-par over the final eight holes to close out a flawless 6-under 66.
Faldo used an eagle on the par-5 2nd to go along with four birdies for his 67. His only dropped shot came with a bogey at the par-3 11th.
'I had a bogey when I hit it over the green and hit a bad chip shot. But that was it,' said Faldo. 'Other than that I hit it in play most of the time, into the fairways and hit some good iron shots into the greens and really putted well.'
Defending champion Michael Campbell, who is looking for his third straight Heineken Classic title, had a bogey-free round en route to a 4-under 68. The New Zealander is joined by Australians Craig Perry and Peter O'Malley, England's David Howell, Sweden's Patrik Sjoland, and Marc Farry of France four shots off the lead.
A group of seven players finished tied for 14th, including Greg Norman. The 46-year-old had five birdies and two bogeys for a 3-under 69.
John Daly headed a group of 17 tied at one-under 71. Daly, currently 47th in the latest World Golf Rankings, will need to hold a position inside the top 50 through the Honda Classic, March 7-10, in order to earn an invitation to the Masters in April.
Full-Field Scores from the Heineken Classic
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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.