Winsday Hot List: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Win McMurryMarch 20, 2013, 1:00 pm

The King shines in the Sunshine State this week as several top players pay homage to Arnold Palmer at the last stop of the Florida swing. A streak is on the line and so is the No. 1 ranking, but many players who have made the Orlando, Fla., area home will be jockeying for the prestigious title – handed out by the man himself – on their own turf. We have you covered with golf’s hottest topics online, on-air and on the course.

1. Stacy Lewis: She rightly takes the No. 1 spot in our rankings this week, capturing the top spot in the world rankings with her scorching come-from-behind victory at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup. Lewis is only the second American to claim the honor since the rankings began in 2006 (Cristie Kerr held the position for five weeks in 2010). Lewis also earned Player of the Year in 2012, becoming the first American to do so since Beth Daniel in 1994.


2. American dominance: You have to applaud the red, white and blue. To go along with Lewis’ accomplishment, Americans have won every event played on the PGA Tour this season. The hot streak is at 12, so will it be lucky or unlucky No. 13 this week?


3. King for a Day: As Arnold Palmer holds court this week, Lamkin, the grip company he’s been affiliated with for more than 60 years, kicks off a sweepstakes where one lucky winner will win a VIP trip for two to meet the King in his hometown; play golf at his home course; and win a set of Callaway clubs, Lamkin grips and autographed Arnold Palmer memorabilia. Enter at www.meetarnoldpalmer.com.


4. The First Tee of Central Florida: And speaking of Palmer, he’s making even more dreams come true in central Florida. With a $200,000 donation to The First Tee of Central Florida, he established the Arnold Palmer Scholarship Fund, which will help provide educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values, promote healthy choices through the game and ensure that no child ever gets turned away for an inability to pay.


5. Tiger and Lindsey: It’s official. And Facebook official at that! Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn confirmed that the two have been dating for a couple months. They published professional photos of the two of them together (wearing their sponsor’s logos, nonetheless) and asked for their privacy. Now professional photos for an engagement announcement are somewhat the norm these days, but for a dating announcement, that’s new to me. Perhaps social “engagements” attended by the two of them together are in the near future.


6. World ranks: Not only is Woods making headlines with his relationship, but this week’s defending champion can regain the No. 1 ranking with another win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He hasn’t held the top position since October 2010, 29 months ago.


7. Nona Blue: Perhaps the main man in Woods' way to the top at Bay Hill is local resident Graeme McDowell, who has donned blue competing against Woods in the Tavistock Cup for Lake Nona, while Woods has dressed in both Isleworth red and Albany pink. McDowell, who was runner-up to Woods last year at this event, opened a restaurant and bar this past weekend, just outside the gates to his Lake Nona home. If you’re in town, this would be the “who’s who” spot for celebrating victories and drinking away sorrows.


8. Jordan Speith: In just four PGA Tour starts this year, the 19-year-old earned special temporary exempt status for the remainder of 2013 with two top-10 finishes – a T-7 last week in Tampa and a T-2 in Puerto Rico. He joins an elite group of players who have earned their card without advancing through Q-School or the Web.com Tour, including Justin Leonard, Gary Hallberg, Scott Verplank, Phil MickelsonRyan MooreBud Cauley and Woods.


9. South African Golf: We’ve given a nod to the Americans, so it’s only right to acknowledge the other country producing a notable number of winners this season. South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel won the Alfred Dunhill Championship, followed by fellow countryman Louis Oosthuizen, who picked up the title at the Volvo Golf Champions. Other South African winners include Richard Sterne, Darren Fichardt, Dawie Van Der Walt and last week’s champion, Thomas Aiken.


10. Doubling up in the Carolinas: In South Carolina, Hilton Head’s Harbour Town Golf Links, home of the RBC Heritage, will undergo construction for a new clubhouse. Demolition will begin after the 2014 Heritage and is to be completed by the 2015 tournament. And in North Carolina, Greensboro’s Sedgefield Country Club, site of the Wyndham Championship, will merge with Cardinal Golf and Country Club to create one brand, the Sedgefield Country Club’s Ross Course and Dye Course. The merger will make it the only private club in the nation with both a Donald Ross and a Pete Dye course. It will also feature both Bermuda and bent grass greens, so members can have ideal putting conditions year-round.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Ortiz leads LAAC through 54; Niemann, Gana one back

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 8:15 pm

Mexico's Alvaro Ortiz shot a 1-under 70 Monday to take the 54-hole lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship in Chile.

At 4 under for the week, he leads by one over over Argentina's Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Chile's Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann, and Guatemala's Dnaiel Gurtner.

Ortiz is the younger brother of three-time Web.com winner Carlos. Alvaro, a senior at Arkansas, finished tied for third at the LAAC in 2016 and lost in a three-way playoff last year that included Niemann and Gana, the champion.

Ortiz shared the 54-hole lead with Gana last year and they will once again play in the final group on Tuesday, along with Gurtner, a redshirt junior at TCU.

“Literally, I've been thinking about [winning] all year long," Ortiz said Monday. "Yes, I am a very emotional player, but tomorrow I want to go out calm and with a lot of patience. I don't want the emotions to get the better of me. What I've learned this past year, especially in the tournaments I’ve played for my university, is that I have become more mature and that I have learned how to control myself on the inside on the golf course.”

In the group behind, Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who is poised to turn professional, unless of course he walks away with the title.

“I feel a lot of motivation at the moment, especially because I am the only player in the field that shot seven under (during the second round), and I am actually just one shot off the lead," he said. "So I believe that tomorrow I can shoot another very low round."

Tuesday's winner will earn an invitation to this year's Masters and exemptions into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, and final qualifying for The Open.