Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry battled into the twilight on Sunday to settle this year’s CareerBuilder Challenge at the TPC Stadium Course at PGA West. Rahm came away with the victory by making birdie on the fourth playoff hole. The overtime drama featured the two players matching each other with quality shot after quality shot. It was excellent entertainment.
Adding to the fun were signs that both Rahm and Landry were sharing a few light-hearted moments together during their dual. I believe it clearly reflected well on the current spirit of the game. Competition with respect and a perspective that nothing happening on the course is a matter of life and death is refreshing.
The win was important of course. Victory for Landry would have been his first on tour and come with all of the usual invitations to more elite events, not the least of which would be this year’s Masters. And, there was the small matter of a $424,800 difference in purse money to sort out.
PGA Tour legend Curtis Strange, however, is apparently not a fan of the comradery shown on camera between Rahm and Landry.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?
— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Those of us of a certain age remember the intensity that many of the top players would bring to the course back in the day. Strange was a player that always seemed to have his game-face on so to speak. I can’t recall seeing too many moments of lightness when Nicklaus was coming down the stretch. And certainly, Tiger Woods isn’t exactly known for cutting it up with his competitors when the tournament is on the line. But there are plenty of examples of players that did like to keep things a bit light when they played. Lee Trevino was famous for his constant stream of jokes while still performing as one of the game’s greats. Fuzzy Zoeller also comes to mind with his famous towel-waving act aimed at Greg Norman during their duel for the 1984 U.S. Open. Not everyone on Tour played with a killer instinct even back in Strange’s prime.
Many of today’s top stars like to keep it light on Tour because they came up through the Junior ranks together and have remained good friends off of the course. And, for the most part, this friendly competition seems to be being well received by the fans. Watching Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth stick around the 18th green to watch their friend Justin Thomas win his PGA Championship last year is one of the lasting highlights of the entire tournament. I certainly wouldn’t accuse those three of not being committed professionals looking for victories on Tour. Perhaps Mr. Strange would.
The implication by Strange in his Tweet is clear. By keeping things friendly on the course the players were not taking winning the CareerBuilder Challenge seriously enough. He’s welcome to his preferred style. If he feels silent intensity gains him an advantage, to see his opponent as an enemy to be conquered, then he has every right to do that. But Mr. Strange, with all due respect to his accomplished career, needs to let today’s players figure out what works best for them and just enjoy the show for what it is.