Knox, McDowell ready for Monday in Mexico

By Will GrayNovember 16, 2015, 1:28 am

PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – A sprint to the finish between a pair of Europeans looms at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.

With heavy rains washing out much of Sunday's action, 27 players will return to El Camaleon on Monday to put a cap on the penultimate event of the wraparound season’s fall slate.

In one corner stands Graeme McDowell, an established champion eager to close a disappointing year on a high note. Across from him is Russell Knox, a winner just last week whose whirlwind travel has left him running on fumes, but running hot nonetheless.

The pair share the top spot at 19 under, two shots clear of Jason Bohn with less than six holes to go. Both began the day three shots behind leader Derek Fathauer, but they opened their final rounds with six birdies apiece and no bogeys.

By virtue of his position on the course, Knox may have a slight edge. McDowell has already played the par-5 13th, one of the easiest holes on the course, and faces a stern test on the par-4 14th. Knox will return to a short pitch shot on No. 13, with a great chance to get up-and-down for birdie and become the first player this week to reach 20 under.

Playing for the fifth straight week in his fourth different country, Knox is proof that momentum can travel.

“I know maybe when I get home I’ll have a physical breakdown and sleep for days, but I feel fine,” Knox said. “I can certainly play five more holes.”

Knox was a relatively unheralded player for the last two years on the PGA Tour, but he broke through last week in China for his first career win at the WGC-HSBC Champions. The confidence he gained from outlasting a strong field has been on display this week, where he is 18 under for his last 48 holes following an opening-round 70.

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“At least I know I can do it. I’m in a great position, obviously,” he said. “I’m the only person up there that won last week, so I can really freewheel it tomorrow. I can’t wait to give it another try.”

To capture his second trophy in as many weeks, though, Knox will have to pull clear of McDowell, who is looking for his first piece of hardware in nearly three years.

Having finally figured out the opening hole at El Camaleon, where he made par Sunday after playing it in 5 over across the first three days, McDowell now has an opportunity to punch his ticket to the Masters – an invite Knox clinched a week ago.

“It’s a bit of a shootout so you’ve just got to keep sort of the pedal down tomorrow morning and try and shoot a score,” McDowell said. “We’ll regroup and get out there tomorrow morning and see how we can finish the day.”

With soft conditions yielding low scores, McDowell didn’t make his first birdie of the day until No. 5, but that started a run of three straight that brought him back in the mix. After a delay of more than three hours, he returned to the course and played his final five holes 3 under.

“Really just trying to keep it simple on the greens,” he said. “Like I say, been seeing it well and I’ve been knocking some in, and that was a nice way to kind of finish the day with a couple birdies.”

Like McDowell, Knox maintained his strong play after the delay. Following a birdie on No. 11 that gave him the lead, Knox rolled in a 5-foot par save on No. 12 to avoid what would have been just his fourth bogey of the week.

“I hate making bogeys more than I love making birdies, I think,” he said. “The par putt on 12 was huge for me. Then to hit a nice second shot there on 13, to be in great position, was big. I’m really thrilled how I finished the day.”

With Bohn the only player within four shots of the co-leaders, this overtime finale appears ready to be decided between a pair of players moving in opposite directions.

For Knox, it’s a chance to quickly validate his breakthrough victory, much like Billy Horschel did during the 2014 FedEx Cup Playoffs, and move further up the world rankings to bolster a potential Ryder Cup bid that was non-existent two weeks ago.

For McDowell, it’s an opportunity to earn the redemption he sought by coming to this event, mired in a year-long slump and in search of inspiration.

His ball-striking has turned around this week at El Camaleon, and his trademark grin has returned. Whether that’s enough to hold off the hottest player on Tour, though, remains to be seen.

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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.