Big Challenge for Stenson Molinari

By Tom AbbottFebruary 6, 2007, 5:00 pm
Editors Note: Tom Abbott is the host of Golf Central UK. He will be filing a bi-weekly column on thegolfchannel.com with news, opinions and his inside knowledge of the European Tour.
 
Stenson King of the Desert Swing
Henrik Stenson
Henrik Stenson has moved inside the top 10 on the Official World Golf Ranking. (WireImage)
Henrik Stenson became the first Swedish player to win the Dubai Desert Classic last week, beating Ernie Els by a shot at the Emirates Golf Club. Im not sure what it is about the Middle East, but it seems to bring out the best in Stensons golf. Last year, he went second, first, seventh through the stretch; this season: eighth, seventh, first. Cast your minds back to this time last year and youll remember that Stenson was all the rage in world golf; some were even predicting him to be the first rookie to win the Masters since Fuzzy Zoeller. However, he struggled to maintain his form and didnt churn out the results midway through the year, only managing to win one more event at the BMW International Open. The big question for Stenson is whether he will change that trend and built on this period instead of letting it become the highlight of his season. One quick side note: Stenson acts as a golf ambassador for the Emirate of Dubai, so they really couldnt ask for a better winner.
 
Peoples Favorite of the Week: Ross Fisher
I played a bit of golf with Ross Fisher when we were juniors back home in Surrey, England. At the time I was playing county golf for Surrey, which is probably not much bigger than the city limits of most major American cities, the team boasted a roster which included, Paul Casey, James Heath, Kieran Staunton, Ross Fisher, Sam Osborne and Zane Scotland - all of whom went on to play on the European Tour. Although Casey stands head and shoulders above the rest at present, Fisher is fast becoming a star. Even back in his junior days The Fish was a huge hitter. Obviously, long driving is just a small part of becoming a top class professional, but Fisher has no doubt raised all parts of his game to be able to compete with the big boys. Last season, Fishers main goal in the early season was to make the BMW Championship at Wentworth, his home course. He did indeed play the event and afterwards his results began to dwindle; it was almost as if the steam had gone out of his year. This season, Fisher and his agent Mark Booker have been able to sit down and plan a much better schedule seeing him play fewer events in an effort to keep the momentum going throughout the year.
 
Hidden Gems
The PGA Merchandise Show took place in Orlando recently, attracting a number of friends from abroad, among whom was Michael ODonnell, the Director of Golf at the Terre Blanche Golf Club just outside Cannes in France. I had the pleasure of visiting the course, which includes a five-star Four Seasons Hotel, last autumn and I must tell you its absolutely magic, with two lay-outs, the Chateaux and the Riou. The former is the tougher, longer lay-out, which although not insight of the coast, affords spectacular views of the Provincial countryside - and when I visited, it was in fabulous shape.
 
I fully expect the course to attract some sort of professional tournament in the not too distant future, and my advice for those of you in Europe would be to take a weekend gateway and live the lap of luxury. For those readers further a field, make a trip to play golf in France; the country offers many hidden gems. I remember playing the French Amateur at Chantilly some years ago, and wondering how a venue that exquisite had disappeared from the French Open rota. Chantilly first hosted its National Open in 1913 and has since played host a further nine times, with Robert De Vicenzo and Nick Faldo on the list of winners. The week I played the Amateur, I was lucky enough to stay at the home of one of the members and my bedroom looked out over the Chateaux, which was illuminated at night. Id leave the shutters open and fall asleep looking at this majestic castle; it was spectacular.
 
Big Challenge for Former U.S. Amateur Champ
Congratulations to Eduardo Molinari, who overcame Gustavo Mendoza at the Columbia Masters on Sunday in a two-hole play-off. Molinari, who youll remember as the 2005 U.S. Amateur champion, has struggled to find his footing in professional golf following his invites to the Open Championship, U.S. Open and the Masters Tournament. He played the Columbia Masters on a sponsor's invite having failed to obtain any status from last years European Tour Qualifying School. Now hell be able to set his schedule on the Challenge Tour this season and no doubt will obtain a handful of starts on the main tour as a sponsor's invite. Molinari collected just over 21,000 euros for his victory last week. As long as he keeps decent form this season and finishes in the top 10 a handful of more times before year's end, he should obtain one of the valuable 20 spots on the main tour that are on offer this year to Challenge Tour graduates.
 
Another Jacklin
Tony Jacklin was spotted at the Columbia Masters last week, but the 1969 Open Champion wasnt playing. Instead, he was carrying the bag of 15-year-old son Sean who was given a sponsor's invite into the tournament. Jacklin senior was a champion of the Bogota Open during his career and still holds the 72-hole scoring record at the club. Despite having dad on the bag, Sean Jacklin struggled in his Challenge Tour debut carding rounds of 86 and 87 to miss the cut.
 
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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.