Woods, McIlroy could headline Frys.com in 2015

By Will GrayOctober 13, 2014, 6:00 pm

NAPA, Calif. – With a new venue and a new tournament host, the Frys.com Open boasted one of the strongest fields of its eight-year history.

Thanks to some lingering paperwork, there’s reason to expect an even stronger gathering next year.

This year marked the Tour’s return to Silverado Resort & Spa for the first time since 1980. The field included Matt Kuchar, Lee Westwood and Hunter Mahan, all of whom made a detour to wine country on the heels of the Ryder Cup in order to fulfill a make-good tied to their appearance in an unofficial event in 2012.

The trio was among eight players who competed in a match-play exhibition in Turkey two years ago, an event played opposite the Frys.com Open and was not sanctioned by either the PGA or European tours.

The players signed releases to participate in the event, and while PGA Tour officials declined to comment on the situation, Frys.com Open president Duke Butler explained that he signed off on the arrangement with a caveat.

“We agreed not to block the releases of those eight players to play in a conflicting event,” Butler told GolfChannel.com on Sunday. “In exchange, those eight players agreed to play in the Frys.com Open at least once in the next three years.”

None of the eight played in 2013, and while Kuchar, Westwood and Mahan fulfilled obligations this year, there are still five players left on the hook. They combine to have won 21 majors: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Webb Simpson and Charl Schwartzel.

A quid-pro-quo arrangement is nothing new on the PGA Tour, and the scenario for the “Turkey Eight” is one that remains fluid. According to Kuchar, it also may be less than binding.

Kuchar was slated to play in the inaugural America’s Golf Cup later this month in Argentina, but when that commitment fell through, he added a stop in Napa – although the Turkey situation did play a role in his decision.

“It’s one of those things where they’d like you to (play the Frys.com),” Kuchar said. “They’d like you to, and understandably. I get it.”

Fresh off a Ryder Cup win and a fan of red wine, Westwood said that he “probably” would have played this week even if he had not played in Turkey and could envision a return in 2015.

“It obviously was one of the factors,” he said. “There was no sort of penalties put on us or anything like that, but it was said that if you’re going to play in Turkey, we would appreciate it if once in the next three years you play Frys as a sort of make-way.”

Mahan’s T-3 finish at Silverado was the best of the three Turkey participants. He was the only one to indicate that he would “probably not” have played this past week without the implications from the Turkey event, citing the short offseason.

“You know beforehand what the deal is going to be,” Mahan said. “You have to sign a release from the PGA Tour to play an event like Turkey. Those are the rules, and those are the same for everybody.”

Whether those rules extend to everybody – even 14-time major champions – remains to be seen.

Woods has a history with this event, having played the Frys.com Open in 2011, when he tied for 30th at CordeValle after an injury-plagued season. While Johnny Miller, co-owner at Silverado and the 2014 tournament honoree, told the San Francisco Chronicle that next year’s event will be “almost like a different tournament” with both Woods and McIlroy competing, Butler didn’t share his level of certainty regarding Woods’ participation.

“Tiger, we wish him full health and a charge back to the top of the leaderboards,” said Butler, who added that tournament officials are optimistic all five remaining players will play in 2015. “We’ll probably know a lot more about Tiger’s participation around June 1 or so.”

The travel and fatigue issues felt by the Turkey trio this past week could be amplified next year for Woods, Simpson and Schwartzel. All three are potential participants in the Presidents Cup which will be played in South Korea in early October.

While the 2014 schedule included off weeks on both sides of the Ryder Cup, the bye weeks in 2015 will come after the Deutsche Bank Championship and the Tour Championship, meaning players would have to go from the Presidents Cup in South Korea directly to San Francisco to kick off the new season.

McIlroy, however, would not be affected by Presidents Cup travel, and is someone who all parties involved expect in the field next year. The Ulsterman verbally committed early to play in this year’s event, but after winning the Open Championship and PGA Championship, he deferred his commitment to 2015 so he could play in this week's PGA Grand Slam of Golf.

“The schedule sets up better for Rory next year,” Butler said. “The Presidents Cup precedes the Frys tournament and the start of the season, and the Dunhill Links Championship, which he likes to play, is two weeks prior to the Frys. In concept, Rory will have the week off prior.”

Three names have been cleared off the list, and five remain. Whether all of them make it to Silverado next year remains to be seen, but signs point to a star-studded kickoff to the 2015 season.

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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.