Janzen Leaps Into Match Play Field
Coming into this year, Janzen was ranked 106th in the world with just 10 top-10 finishes since capturing the USGA's flagship event by one shot over Payne Stewart nearly four years ago.
He missed the cut in his first start of the season last month at the Bob Hope Classic. But the 37-year-old Janzen posted a tie for fourth at the Phoenix Open, a tie for third at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and a tie for 11th Sunday at the Buick Invitational to move up to 63rd in the weekly golf rankings.
Janzen, whose first U.S. Open title came by two strokes over Stewart at Baltusrol in 1993, has never made it past the second round in his two match-play appearances.
The top 64 players in the world as of Monday determined the original field for the Match Play Championship, the first World Golf Championships event of 2002, although some tweaking has already been necessary with No. 23 Jose Coceres of Argentina and No. 24 Thomas Bjorn of Denmark withdrawing due to injuries.
That means 11-time PGA Tour winner John Cook, the world's 65th-ranked player, and European Tour veteran Peter O'Malley of Australia, currently No. 66, will get to tee it up when the first-round matches get under way Feb. 20th.
The way the field is set now, O'Malley would draw top-ranked Tiger Woods in the opening round. However, Scotland's Colin Montgomerie, who was forced to pull out of last month's Johnnie Walker Classic after aggravating an old back injury, hasn't committed to the tournament and may not want to jeopardize his health with the Masters on the horizon.
Should Monty opt out and barring any further withdraws, No. 67 Bob May would grab the final seed, setting up a rematch of the 2000 PGA Championship playoff between May and Woods.
Woods hopes to be rested for whomever he has to meet on the first day of the Match Play Championship. The six-time major winner decided to withdraw from this week's Nissan Open in an effort to shake the flu-like symptoms he's battled the last two weeks.
The match play tournament is the only one of the four World Golf Championships events that Woods hasn't won. He has captured all three NEC Invitationals that have been held since 1999, won the American Express Championship in 1999, and joined forces with David Duval to win the EMC2 World Cup for the United States in 2000.
Phil Mickelson, who returned from a five-month hiatus to win the Bob Hope Classic three weeks ago, remained No. 2 in the world rankings and will therefore get the second seed at La Costa.
The next seven players also held their spots from last week. The third-ranked Duval was followed by Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els, David Toms, Retief Goosen, Davis Love III and Vijay Singh.
Phoenix Open champion Chris DiMarco moved up one spot to 10th, the highest position of his career. He supplanted Ireland's Padraig Harrington, who slipped to 11th.
Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland, a surprising 4 and 3 winner over Woods in the match-play finals two years ago, climbed one spot to 12th in an exchange of places with Canada's Mike Weir this week.
Clarke was seeded 19th when he beat the top-seeded Woods in 2000. Jim Furyk and Germany's Bernhard Langer stayed put in 14th and 15th, respectively, while Scott Verplank rose one place to 16th and Bob Estes three places to 17th. Kenny Perry, Japan's Toshi Izawa and Montgomerie rounded out the top 20.
Estes, a two-time winner in 2001, finished alongside Woods in fifth place at the Buick Invitational. So did South African Rory Sabbatini, who vaulted 11 spots to 61st and will make his first appearance in a WGC event.
Dudley Hart and Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez were the only players to drop out of the top 64. Hart fell from 64th to 68th and Jimenez from 63rd to 70th.
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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
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
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
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.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
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.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
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.