THE GOLF GUIDE

El Niño in Singapore; Don Juan Rahm; Fleetwood not Mac; and Tiger Watch: 2018. It’s your weekly golf report

John Rahm could be a force this year. PGATour.com

El Niño in Singapore

There were quite a few tournaments going on this weekend in the world of golf, with Spain prevailing in two of them. First was the newly acquired Callaway golfer, Sergio Garcia. In his first tournament of 2018 (and playing the newly minted Callaway Rogue driver), Sergio produced a win at the Singapore Open. Now, before you go off and put all your money on the fiery Spaniard; the Singapore Open is an Asian Tour event. That’s not to say the win means nothing, but most of the big players were playing elsewhere in the world. That being said, it’s still a great start for the defending Masters champion. He played well in tough scoring conditions; and despite his past issues, putted well. To be hoisting any world trophy is a good thing.

Don Juan Rahm

The more impressive win this weekend was the young Spaniard John Rahm’s win at the CareerBuilder Challenge. The tournament format was a touch different than most, with it being a Pro-Am style event. The event was played on three different courses, with the cut coming on Saturday instead of the normal Friday cut. Rahm opened up with a career-best 62 on the La Quinta course (notably the easiest of the three.) This situated him very well to enter Sunday’s final round at the Stadium Course only two shots off the lead, and in the penultimate group. He shot a closing round 67 to gain the lead at 22-under. Andrew Landry started Sunday with the lead, but came to the last hole needing birdie to force a playoff with Rahm. Landry converted birdie on the 72nd hole, but Rahm prevailed on the fourth playoff hole as Landry failed to convert his 11-foot birdie putt. With his second career win on the PGA Tour, Rahm vaulted himself up to #2 on the OWGR, passing the likes of Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. He will go into the coming tournament, The Farmers Insurance Open, as the defending champ; and will have a chance to take over as No. 1 in the world with a win. Many in the golfing world (including the very knowledgeable Joel Blank), are predicting a very big year for Rahm. He is playing well to start and looks poised for a big season. He will definitely be a favorite at each tournament he enters. 

Fleetwood keeps his “Dreams” alive

The other big tournament this past week was on the other side of the planet in Abu Dhabi. This European Tour event is a popular one with players. Quite a few big names teed it up, including Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, and Rory McIlroy. However, the one to lift the trophy at the end of the week was Tommy Fleetwood. He’s an Englishman, with a few credentials in the States; but a staple on the European Tour and reigning Race to Dubai champion. He entered the back nine on Sunday a full five shots behind the leader. That’s when he decided to turn on the afterburners. A closing-nine 30 saw Fleetwood successfully defend his title. The other positive to come out of Abu Dhabi was the performance of Rory McIlroy. He entered Sunday contending for the lead, but a wayward day off the tee box en route to a final round 70 landed him at 18-under for a T3 finish. The poor Sunday aside, Rory showed flashes of his brilliance all week. In his first event back from a long layoff (due to injury and self-admitted poor play), he shined brightly with plenty of great golf shots. Rory will garner a lot of attention this year as he is a perennial favorite at every tournament.

Tiger Watch: 2018

It’s officially upon us ladies and gentlemen. The week has arrived where we will get to see a fully healthy Tiger Woods back in action. What should we expect from Tiger? Will he win again? Let’s start with the expectations. I don’t think anyone inside the ropes expects Tiger to compete for a win (except maybe Tiger.) However, his performance is important. Not only to the fans at the Farmers, but also for the golfing world as a whole. Tiger has always stood by his statement that he would not tee it up in a tournament if he didn’t feel like he had a chance to win. There’s no reason to expect he has wavered in that stance. Meaning, as long as he is playing well, we will get to see more Tiger playing golf. Like I’ve said before, that is better for everyone. However, let’s temper our expectations a bit right out of the gate. He hasn’t played in a sanctioned PGA Tour event since the Farmers Insurance Open this time last year. He failed to make the cut at that tournament and later withdrew (citing injury) from his next outing. I think it’s safe to say that Tiger is the healthiest he has been since 2013 when he won five times. He was swinging well and athletically in the Bahamas at the Hero World Challenge (his own tournament), where he finished ninth in a field of eighteen. It’s probably smart not to expect him to contend. Torrey Pines is a big course that requires length and precision. His short game is still in question, and has looked “hurky-jerky” at times. That could prove to be his undoing this week. Needless to say, Tiger knows his way around Torrey Pines very well, having won there an amazing eight times as a professional. I expect him to make the cut, and land somewhere in the top 40. However, you can guarantee that if he is anywhere near the first page of the leaderboard, it will be a circus of “what-ifs” the entire weekend. He will have to contend with the defending champ (and most recent winner) John Rahm, as well as Phil Mickelson, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler. Come Monday, we will all know a little more about his game, and so will he. The difference this year, he will be evaluating his play without the aid of a swing coach for the first time in his career. Tiger knows plenty about his golf swing, but sometimes analyzing yourself is tough. Trust me, I occasionally evaluate my swing only to be shocked I put the ball anywhere near the green. Self-instruction aside, this weekend will be a good measuring stick for Tiger. I know I’m rooting for him to play well, and hopefully reclaim some of that Tiger magic.

 

 

 

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The Texans should swing for the fences. Composite image by Jack Brame.

With each passing day, the Deshaun drama thickens. It's progressed to Mayor Sylvester Turner tweeting, basically humbling himself to Deshaun.

A city that a few short weeks ago offered up mega star power across the board, has now seen James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and George Springer all depart for a variety of reasons. The impact of Deshaun leaving would be irreversible guaranteeing the Texans resting comfortably in the bottom of the AFC South for the next decade, wallowing in futility.

The saga will only intensify in two weeks should Patrick Mahomes collect another Lombard Trophy. As 2017 draft class contemporaries, Deshaun is comparing his career to #15. Another ring would place Mahomes up 2-0 in that discussion with Watson.

Perhaps the Texans should take a play from the Oilers playbook and inquire on Dabo Swinney. In the pursuit of securing the services of Warren Moon, the Oilers made a power play and secured the services of Moon's former CFL coach, Hugh Campbell. I've attended several luncheons and engagements in which Deshaun served as the keynote speaker. In many of those venues, a short video presentation would include personal greetings and feel good overtures directed to Deshaun from Dabo. The end result was Deshaun lighting up like a Christmas tree. There's a viable relationship in place there.

At the end of the day, Deshaun is a competitor. Losing DeAndre Hopkins was a major loss, but not to the degree that you might think. Deshaun still went out and threw for over 4,000 yards this season, and with a sub-par supporting cast, even pulling guys off of the practice squad in late December contests to fill out the receiving corps. The issue for Watson is trust, and culture. Hence, the recent headlines surrounding the Jets as a future home make very little sense. The Jets in 4 of their last 5 seasons have had double-digit losing seasons. Until the recent resurgence of the Browns, the Jets far and away have held the title of the "laughingstock" of the NFL.

The biggest challenge for the Texans is who could persuade Deshaun to stay? Could team President Jamey Rootes calm down the noise? It certainly won't come from Texans Ring of Honor recipient Andre Johnson. If I were Cal McNair, I would place a call to 105 Sikes Hall in Clemson, SC and ask for Dabo's office. That's as good of a place to start as any other.

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