Watson on brink of another milestone

By Al TaysJune 28, 2015, 1:36 am

He speaks of “not having the tools in the toolbox I used to have,” but somehow, Tom Watson still manages to make do. Now here he is, at age 65, on the precipice of yet another amazing accomplishment.

With one round to go in the U.S. Senior Open, Watson is just one shot off the lead. Bernhard Langer, who has established himself as one of the best Champions Tour players ever, and Jeff Maggert stand in front of him, and seven other players, including Champions Tour stalwarts Kenny Perry and Colin Montgomerie, are tied with him, so nothing is likely to come easy for Watson at Del Paso Country Club in Sacramento.

But Watson has never shied away from challenges. Anybody else old enough to remember when he had the reputation of being a choker? That ugly tag came courtesy of his not being able to close after holding the 54-hole lead in the 1974 U.S. Open (the infamous “Massacre at Winged Foot”) and the 36-hole lead in the 1975 U.S. Open at Medinah, where he shot 67-68 on Thursday and Friday, 78-77 on Saturday and Sunday.

Watson put that image to rest when he broke through to win his first major, the 1975 Open Championship, where he beat Australian Jack Newton in an 18-hole playoff at Carnoustie. It was the first of Watson’s eight majors, which ranks sixth on the all-time list, and five Open Championships, which makes him one of four runners-up to Harry Vardon’s six titles. Watson birdied the 72nd hole to force the playoff, then benefited the following day when Newton bogeyed the final hole to lose by a stroke.

Langer, Maggert share U.S. Senior Open lead | Scores

Watson will be best remembered, of course, for his “Duel in the Sun” victory over Jack Nicklaus at Turnberry in 1977. Both golfers went 68-70 in the first two rounds. Nicklaus turned up the heat in the final two, going 65-66. It wasn’t enough. Watson went 65-65.

As hard as that major was to top, Watson almost did just that 32 years later at the same course. At the age of 59, he tied for the lead after 72 holes with Stewart Cink. Had he been able to get up and down for par after his second shot went over the 72nd green, he would have had his sixth Open Championship title. That miss seemed to deflate him. In the four-hole playoff that followed – his 1975 Open victory was the Championship’s final 18-hole playoff – he lost to Cink by six strokes.

Now Watson is looking ahead to his final Open Championship, next month at St. Andrews. He has won the Open on five different courses, but never at the home of golf. He shared the 54-hole lead in 1978, but closed with a 78. In 1984 he was tied for the lead with two holes to play, but bogeyed the 17th and lost as Seve Ballesteros birdied the 18th.

But first, there’s this little matter of the U.S. Senior Open. It’s a title Watson has never won. If he does, he would become the oldest winner of the event, the oldest to win a senior major and the oldest to win on the Champions Tour.

He’s not thinking in those terms, though.

''To hit a shot under pressure that's really a good golf shot is why I'm out here,'' he told reporters on Friday. ''That's what I like to do. And when I get to the point where I can't do it or I can't do it often enough to really satisfy myself, then I won't be out here.''

Those of us who love the game, who love to watch the game’s greats, are fortunate that day has not yet arrived.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.