Tiger-Perez dust-up is why some pros stay quiet

By Will GrayFebruary 24, 2017, 10:01 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Walk past the scoring area or across the range at PGA National, and you’ll hear the usual discussion fodder. Guys catching up, swapping stories, and sharing travel plans.

But this week, there’s also the specter of two professionals not even in the field who have managed to spark a fair amount of chatter.

Pat Perez spoke at length about the injured Tiger Woods during his radio show Tuesday evening, but the story didn’t gain traction until the opening round of the Honda Classic was well underway. It remained in the spotlight the following day, as Perez continued to seek opportunities to clarify his on-air remarks.

There are several nuanced variables related to those specific comments, notable among them the notion that Perez may have used an inappropriate tone to share an otherwise acceptable opinion. But there is no getting around the fact that Perez has faced an avalanche of criticism in the days since, culminating with his Instagram post that claimed his comments were taken out of context.

Granted, some of those critics sped past the part of his rant where he lauded Woods’ accomplishments, and others pointed to Perez’s own playing record as if to disqualify him from holding – or sharing – an opinion.

It’s a story whose whispers were felt through the halls at PGA National, and yet another reminder for players that, in an age where controversy is sometimes just a tweet away, lending voice to a personal view can sometimes do more harm than good.

“When you say certain things, I think you’ve got to figure out if you’re saying something to create controversy, or are you saying something that is actually a great point that no one’s ever made before,” said Billy Horschel. “I think you run the risk sometimes of saying something just to be heard. I think people don’t like that, and they criticize you for that.”

Horschel is not one to shy away from sharing an opinion, and he faced his own barrage of scrutiny for his critique of course conditions during the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. Horschel said he knew at the time that his comments would create some blowback, and he prepared accordingly.

“I felt like I needed to stand up and say something, and that’s why I said what I said,” he said. “I think it comes with the territory. When you’re in the public eye, you have to understand that people are going to criticize you. They’re going to think certain things you do are wrong or right, and you’re not going to win everyone over.”

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Brendan Steele admitted to discussing the Perez-Woods situation with his playing partners during the second round at Honda, and he believes that Tour players are often viewed through a different lens than those in other sports.

“I think golf is such a buttoned-up sport that anytime you share an opinion that’s maybe not favorable of anything, people freak out about it,” Steele said. “I think it definitely gets over the top. In other sports, there’s guys talking trash all the time, dogging somebody’s play. In golf, you don’t really do that, so I think there’s a little more criticism out here just because of the nature of the game, and kind of what the PGA Tour represents. But I think it’s a little bit unfair, for sure.”

That “nature” stems from a collection of individual contractors who realize the success of one leads to the success of all. Bigger superstars make for bigger stages and larger purses, a reality never more evident than in the last 20 years, when Woods put the sport on his back and lifted it to unprecedented heights.

It all creates a unique dynamic where players will critique course setup or organizational decisions, but will rarely step out and discuss a peer like Perez did earlier in the week.

“I definitely don’t share any opinions or thoughts about other players. I don’t think that’s ever really a smart thing to do other than just really positive things,” Steele said. “The USGA I will smash anytime I want, because I feel that’s my right. But that’s really the only time you can get a true, true opinion out of me.”

Boo Weekley unleashed his outspoken southern twang two years ago in criticizing the Tour’s wraparound schedule, but like Steele he stops short when it comes to friendly fire.

“I don’t talk about players,” Weekley said. “Ain’t none of my business what they do. If they wanna act stupid, let them act stupid. That’s their business.”

Perhaps that’s the line, then, where Perez stepped out of bounds with his comments. But the sensitivity level of society as a whole is ratcheting up, not down, and what once passed as a suitable opinion may someday soon be viewed as over the edge.

After all, Rory McIlroy felt compelled to tweet a note Friday afternoon, as the Perez firestorm raged on, simply to explain that the act of playing a round of golf with the president was not part of a larger political statement.

These can be tricky times for athletes in the public eye, and the mores guiding what is acceptable are ever-changing. It creates a situation where players who aren’t ready to defend each tweet or take may be better served to keep them to themselves.

“If I feel comfortable with what I’m going to say, then I’m saying it,” Horschel said. “I know it’s going to rub some people the wrong way, but certain things need to be said at certain times. Other things need to be not said.”

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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.