New Zealand Still Leads World Cup US Alone in Second
The Americans fired a 9-under 63 at the Taiheiyo Club's Gotemba Course to close within three shots of the lead at 19-under 197. They had a chance to pull even closer at the par-five 18th, but Duval dumped his second shot in the water fronting the green and Woods lipped out his four-foot birdie attempt.
Host Japan, represented by Shigeki Maruyama and Toshi Izawa, kept the home crowd happy by posting a 65 in the shadow of Mount Fuji. They finished with a share of third place at 18-under with Ernie Els and Retief Goosen of South Africa, Angel Cabrera and Eduardo Romero of Argentina, and Thomas Levet and Raphael Jacquelin of France.
The South African, Argentinian and French teams each turned in 63s on a day rife with low scores. Twenty of the 24 teams in the field shot 6-under-par or better.
The Americans, five shots back at the start of the day, vaulted into the mix with 10 birdies in the third round. Woods led the way with six birdies, including four on the inward nine.
'I think we played fairly well today,' said Woods, the top-ranked player in the world. His British Open-winning partner is ranked No. 3.
'It wasn't a great round but we moved up the board and put ourselves in a position to win,' Woods added. 'I just wish I would have made that birdie putt on the 18th because I don't like to finish that way.'
After Duval made the last of his four birdies at the 11th to take his team to 16-under, Woods took control with two straight birdies. He followed an eight-foot putt at 13 with a sensational 9-iron approach to tap-in range at the 14th.
They both hit irons off the tee at the par-4 15th but their bids for accuracy backfired when Duval's drive finished in the left rough and Woods' shot landed in the right fairway bunker. Duval then left his second short of the green and Woods sent his approach from the sand over the putting surface.
Although Woods threaded the needle between some trees with his punch third shot, his ball rolled 20 feet past the hole and his par try caught the edge of the cup and spun out. Duval had a chance to save the day but missed his putt for par after chipping to six feet.
The U.S. regrouped right away, with Woods birdieing the 16th with a six-footer before knocking his tee shot at the par-3 17th to 10 feet then rolling in the putt to get to 19-under par.
Campbell, No. 30 in the world, took the Kiwis to 20-under with a six-foot birdie at the 13th. The unheralded Smail, a regular on the Australasian Tour with experience playing Japanese courses, got into the act by holing a birdie putt from off the edge of the 14th green.
Campbell missed birdie attempts from eight and 10 feet down the stretch but two-putted from 15 feet at the last for a closing birdie.
'It will be a big thrill tomorrow to play with Duval and Woods,' said Campbell, who finished third behind Woods at the Johnnie Walker Classic in Thailand a year ago Monday and second to him at the TPC of Europe in May.
New Zealand is in position to win its first ever World Cup title, while the U.S. is chasing its third straight Cup and 24th overall since the event's inception in 1953.
Els and Goosen, a duo with three U.S. Open titles between them, is seeking a third victory in this event for South Africa. Els, who captured the 1996 World Cup with Wayne Westner, drew his team within four shots of the lead Saturday with a short eagle putt at the 18th hole.
Romero drained a lengthy eagle putt at No. 18 to move Argentina into third place, as well, while Welshmen Phillip Price and Mark Mouland shot a 62 for a share of 17-under 199 with Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain (65), Thomas Bjorn and Soren Hansen of Denmark (65), and Andrew Coltart and Dean Robertson of Scotland (66).
Robertson chipped in for birdie at the 15th to lift Scotland to 18-under but he and Coltart ran into trouble at the next hole and were lucky to come away with a bogey. Robertson had an opportunity to make up for the bad hole but missed a four-footer for birdie at the 17th.
The Norwegian tandem of Per Haugsrud and Henrik Bjornstad fashioned an 11-under-par 61 -- the low round of the tournament -- to jump into a tie for 11th with England (63), Australia (64) and Ireland (64) at 16-under 200.
Click Here for Full-Field Scores From the WGC-EMC World Cup
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.