Can Rickie and Rory provide a rivalry?

By Jason SobelMay 8, 2012, 10:36 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – You can root for Rory McIlroy, the precocious, big-hitting major champion who currently stands at No. 1 on golf’s world ranking. You can root for Rickie Fowler, the self-taught, brightly dressed trendsetter who claimed his first career PGA Tour win at Quail Hollow last weekend.

Or here’s a novel concept: You can root for both.

Over the first baker’s dozen years of Tiger Woods’ professional career, his prominence dominated the game’s landscape. During the past few seasons, parity has reigned supreme, with no player collecting more than two victories in 2011 and only one with multiple titles so far this year.

Missing from this transitioning of eras is a true rivalry within the game, one which many observers believe could be forged between the ultra-talented 23-year-olds who squared off as part of the Wells Fargo Championship playoff.


Video: McIlroy's news conference at The Players

Video: Fowler's news conference at The Players


Unlike most rivalries – Republican vs. Democrat; Yankees vs. Red Sox; Road Runner vs. Wile E. Coyote – neither side needs to be chosen over the other, because the end goal is the rivalry itself.

It’s something which has been lacking amongst the highest ranks of elite professional golf for nearly two decades. Oh, sure. Maybe Woods and Phil Mickelson could have been considered a rivalry – or, for different spells, Woods and David Duval or Ernie Els or Vijay Singh – but there hasn’t been a real me-against-you, mano-a-mano, head-to-head rivalry since the days of persimmon woods and balata balls.

McIlroy and Fowler may provide the latest, greatest opportunity for a rivalry within the game, but they hardly offer a slam-dunk, no-doubt-about-it lock for the future. The current field depths have produced more parity than ever, with a bevy of young, talented players all vying for prime position amongst the game’s best.

“There's a lot of really good young players right now, and to count any one of them out of a rivalry would be somewhat unfair to them,” Fowler said Tuesday in advance of The Players Championship. “The game is in a really good state right now with the amount of good, young players that have come out lately, and the guys that are between the ages of 20 and 30 – if I wanted to or had a list, I could go down and name off 10 to 20 guys between Rory and I to Keegan [Bradley] to Dustin [Johnson] to a guy like Jason Day.”

And therein lies a major Catch-22. The game is cultivating so many young stars (a positive result) that it’s nearly impossible to cultivate specific rivalries (a negative result).

Even so, there’s more than a steady groundswell of support for McIlroy and Fowler to break away from the crowd and produce a two-man competitive balance that harkens back to those of previous generations.

“It would be nice if a few people separated themselves from the rest,” McIlroy opined. “Hopefully I will be in that group at one stage. I just think it shows how good the guys are now. But it's the finest of margins – that's what it takes to win out here.”

His friend and fellow competitor mirrors that assessment.

“I definitely think it is good for the game right now with the amount of guys that are bouncing back and forth and the amount of guys that are winning,” Fowler added. “I don't think there's one person in particular that's dominating. Obviously between Luke [Donald] and Rory, they've been playing very well over the last year.

“You're seeing a lot of guys winning, and the kind of fluctuation in rankings. But I definitely think it is beneficial for the game, for guys like Tiger, Phil, Rory, Luke to be playing at their best; and whether that creates a three-, four- or five-person rivalry at the top, or if it comes back to one person dominating, I'm not opposed to either situation.”

With a half-dozen professional victories and a dominant triumph at last year’s U.S. Open, McIlroy still maintains a large advantage over Fowler – or any other would-be rival from the young 20-something set.

That doesn’t mean we can’t root for those rivalries to develop, to be forged on the grandest stages this season and next season and for years to come.

If you don’t want to see it happen, well, there’s at least one main character in this ongoing tale who disagrees with that notion.

“For me,” McIlroy said, “if I was a golf fan, I'd like to see a rivalry.”

He’s not alone. Now we just have to hope it happens.

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Like father like son: Bring Your Child to Work Day

By Jay CoffinApril 26, 2018, 7:51 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Today is Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day at Golf Channel, where everything is fun and games until your child promptly says something that embarrasses you beyond belief. It’s only happened six times today. So far.

My daughter, 12, is in middle school and feels like she’s too big for this sort of shindig. But my son Brady, 11, was all in. The deal was that he could spend the day with me, I’d take him to McDonald’s for lunch, but he had to write a golf story of some sort for GolfChannel.com.

Here is his unedited work, in all its glory:

By BRADY COFFIN

My name is Brady Coffin and I play golf. I started at the age of 4 years old. My two favorite golfers are Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods. They are really good golfers and every time I watch them they always give me tips.

My dad Jay Coffin is the best editor of Golf Channel and always gave me tips when I first put the golf club in my hand. I had my very first par in Hilton Head when I was 7 years old. I am on the Drive, Chip and Putt commercial and I was in a movie where I played a young Ben Hogan. My favorite golf course is Royal Blue in the Bahamas.

I have won many golf tournaments and I am going to play in another tournament next month. I have made a couple of birdies. I am going to play in the PGA Junior League this summer.

At the Golf Channel I get to meet new people and play many games. One of the amazing people I met was Mr. Damon Hack. He is on the Morning Drive show and was very nice to me. Damon has been playing golf for 25 years and his favorite golfer growing up was Tiger Woods.

He loves working at Golf Channel.

“It gives me the opportunity to talk and write about the sport that I love. It’s a sport that I can play with my boys. It’s a sport that I can watch on television. It’s a sport that teaches great life lessons. I couldn’t ask for a better job,” Damon said to me.

(P.S. I will be better than Jordan Spieth.)

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Not the 'prettiest' 65, but Duval, Furyk will take it

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 7:44 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Wearing a polo instead of a dress shirt, working with a caddie and not a producer, David Duval exited the scoring tent, walked toward the group of reporters waiting for him after their 65 and grumbled to teammate Jim Furyk, “The damn media.”

Duval was joking – we think – since he now is one of us on the dark side, a successful and respected TV analyst, after an injury-shortened career in which he battled Tiger Woods, rose to world No. 1, won a major and then experienced such a miserable slump that it drove him into an entirely new line of work.

Now 46, Duval doesn’t play much anymore, only 11 events in the past four years. His last made cut was in July 2015. Earlier this year, he teed it up at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but only because he and his wife, Susie, enjoy the vibe there. Competitively, he knew he didn’t stand a chance. He had moved back to Colorado, worked two out of the three weeks, and then couldn’t practice the other week because the weather didn’t cooperate. Not surprisingly, he shot three consecutive rounds of 76 or worse.

And that could have been the extent of his season (save for his annual appearance at The Open), but he was drawn to the idea of the team format at the Zurich, to the idea of playing with Jim Furyk, with whom he’s been friends for the past 32 years, dating to their days in junior golf. So Duval reached out, asking the U.S. Ryder Cup captain if he wanted to team up, for old times’ sake.

“This was about being with a friend, reuniting, having our wives together for a few days,” said Duval, who estimated that he’s played more than 100 practice rounds with Furyk over the years. “Expectation-wise, I don’t know what they are for me. I don’t get to participate out here and compete.”


Full-field scores from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos


But Duval took this start seriously. He almost never travels with his clubs, but he brought them to the Masters, working with his old coach, Puggy Blackmon, between TV appearances and bouncing between Augusta Country Club and Augusta University’s practice facility.

Without any on-camera work since then, he’s spent the past two weeks grinding, even bringing Blackmon to New Orleans for a range session, just like most of the other pros in the field.

“It’s like a normal preparation,” he said. “Maybe not as much as it would be for a typical player, but a lot more than I’ve been able to do in the past.”

Duval has no intentions of diving back into competitive golf full-time, but working as an analyst has given him a new perspective on the game he loves.

“When you don’t play a lot and you don’t have that opportunity, you feel like you have to play perfectly,” he said. “Being on the other side of the desk, you see how many crappy golf shots really, truly get hit, and it’s like, look, you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to hit more good ones than bad ones and go from there.”

That also sums up his and Furyk’s opening round here at the Zurich.

Furyk joked before the event that they’re the rustiest team in the field, but playing best ball, they remained steady in a driving rainstorm, then ran off seven birdies to shoot 65 and sit in the top 10 when they finished their round.

“It wasn’t necessarily the prettiest,” Duval said, “but it was solid. It wasn’t like we had 36 looks at birdie.”

“We ham-and-egged it really good today,” Furyk added. “We got pretty much one of the best scores we could have out of the round.”

The second round could be a different story, of course, with alternate shot. It’s a more nerve-wracking format – especially for two aging warriors without many competitive reps this year – and they figure to find some unusual parts of TPC Louisiana.

But that’s a worry for Friday, because Duval was in the mood to savor his four birdies, his team score of 65 and his ideal start to a work week with his longtime friend.

“I think it was good,” he said, breaking into a wry smile, “especially for me.”

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Finau lifts team to opening 62 on improving ankle

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 6:24 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Tony Finau continues to thrive on his injured ankle.

Playing for the first time since the Masters, where he tied for 10th despite a high-ankle sprain, Finau matched partner Daniel Summerhays with six birdies to shoot a combined 10-under 62 in fourballs Thursday at the Zurich Classic.

Finau still isn’t 100 percent – he said he's closer to 70 percent – even after two weeks of rest and physical therapy. During that time he worked with doctors at the University of Utah Orthopedic Center and also the training staff with the Utah Jazz. Before the Zurich, he had played only nine holes.


Full-field scores from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos


“Sometimes simplicity is huge in this game,” he said. “There is not a lot of thoughts in my swing in the first place, so there can’t be that many thoughts when you don’t practice. It served me well today.”

Partnering with Summerhays, his fellow Utah resident and a friend for more than a decade, they combined to make 12 birdies during an opening round that left them only two shots back of the early lead.

Asked afterward how his ankle felt, Finau said: “Feeling a lot better after that 62. A great remedy for something hurting is some good golf.”  

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Woods commits to Wells Fargo and The Players

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 26, 2018, 6:07 pm

Tiger Woods will tee it up each of the next two weeks, having officially committed to both the Wells Fargo Championship and The Players.

Woods' commitment to next week's event in Charlotte was confirmed by multiple Golf Channel sources and first reported during Thursday's "Golf Central."

The 42-year-old later took to Twitter to formally announce that he is ready for another back-to-back stretch:

Woods has not played since a T-32 finish earlier this month at the Masters. A winner at Quail Hollow in 2007, Woods has not made the cut there since a fourth-place showing in 2009 and has not played Wells Fargo since 2012. He missed last year's PGA Championship at Quail Hollow because of injury.

Woods' return to The Players will mark his first trip to TPC Sawgrass since 2015. He won on the Stadium Course in both 2001 and 2013. This will be Woods' second back-to-back of the season, having missed the cut at the Genesis Open before finishing 12th the following week at the Honda Classic.

After starting the year ranked No. 656 in the world, Woods is up to No. 91 in the latest world rankings. He recorded three straight top-12 finishes during the Florida swing, including a runner-up finish alongside Patrick Reed at the Valspar Championship and a T-5 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.