Cook on Fire at Western Open
'I really didn't miss a shot, and made a couple good putts, but I gave myself opportunities almost every single hole, so you're bound to tap a couple in,' said the 44-year-old Cook, who hasn't made a bogey since his first hole on Thursday. 'And I finished up well, so that was a good way to end the day.'
Stuart Appleby roared out of the gate with six straight birdies en route to a 7-under 65, the low round of the day. He finished tied for second at 9-under 135 with Vijay Singh (67) and Buy.Com Tour graduate Jonathan Byrd (68).
'I missed a few very good opportunities the last two days, but I made a couple of nice ones, too,' said Appleby, an Australian who captured the last of his three PGA Tour titles in 1999. 'I probably missed more than I made.'
Appleby's 65 was his best score in 24 career rounds at Cog Hill. His previous best was a 66 in the second round of the 1999 Western Open.
Cook, an 11-time winner, is in the midst of an interesting season, his 23rd on the PGA Tour. He is currently 24th on the money list with a strange mix of six missed cuts and four top-10 finishes in 15 events. Twice he's finished second, most recently at the Memorial. His runner-up showing in Jack's tournament helped earn him a spot in the U.S. Open, where he wound up missing the cut.
This tournament wouldn't seem like the best place for Cook to bounce back. His best showing in his 13 previous Western Open appearances was a tie for 21st in 1997, and he's missed the cut twice in his last three starts at Cog Hill.
Cook faired even worse at the event's prior home, Butler National. During the seven times he played the Oak Brook, Illinois layout between 1980 and '88, Cook never registered a round in the 60s.
'I came here with no expectations,' Cook said. 'Maybe that's the key.'
Cook missed a five-foot par putt on his first hole Thursday, but has made three birdies on each nine since. And while he's hit under 70 percent of his fairways and greens thus far, Cook is No. 1 in the field in putting with only 50 putts taken through two rounds.
On Friday, Cook tied Appleby, Singh and Byrd at 9-under with a pitch to eight feet for birdie at the par-5 15th. Cook birdied the 16th to claim the outright lead, then padded his cushion by knocking a 6-iron four feet behind the hole to set up a closing three at the par-4 home hole.
Singh's name near the top of the leaderboard is a familiar site at Cog Hill. The two-time major winner from Fiji has four top-10s in the Western Open since 1996, including a runner-up finish behind Joe Durant in '98.
'For some reason I play well when I come over here,' he said. 'I like the golf course, I like the way it's set up. You have to maneuver the ball a lot over here, and for some reason I do well.'
Byrd followed up a bogey at 14 with an eagle at the 15th, where he set up his chip-in with a 6-iron that landed pin high in the thick rough.
'I was only 15 steps from the hole, and I had a kind of into-the-grain, grassy lie,' said the 24-year-old Clemson grad. 'Made good contact and it just came out perfect and trickled into the edge.'
Robert Allenby, who won the 2000 Western Open in a playoff with Nick Price, shot a 67 to tie for fifth with Durant (68), Neal Lancaster (68), Scott Verplank (69), Jerry Kelly (69) and Bob Estes (70) at eight-under.
Rocco Mediate (68), Paul Gow (68) and 2001 runner-up Davis Love III (70) finished four shots off the pace. First-round leader David Gossett (73) was part of a five-way tie at minus 6.
Last year's winner Scott Hoch turned in rounds of 72-72 to miss the cut by one stroke. He became the third defending champion in the last four years to miss the cut.
Full-field scores from the Advil Western Open
Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas
Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.
Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.
Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.
McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.
Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?
Memo to the golf gods:
If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?
Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?
It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.
With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.
It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.
We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.
We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.
Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.
Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line. Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.
We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors.
In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.
While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.
Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.
Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.
Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.
While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.
Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.
So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?
McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever
With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.
The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.
Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.
"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."
McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.
But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.
"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."
What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire
Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.
Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft
Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft
Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft
Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x