Couples set to defend Mississippi Gulf Classic title

By Associated PressMarch 21, 2013, 7:41 pm

SAUCIER, Miss. – Fred Couples returns this week to defend his title at the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic, and he'll have plenty of competition when the tournament starts on Friday.

This year's field includes Champions Tour rookies Rocco Mediate, Steve Elkington and Bart Bryant, along with several others who have had success at Fallen Oak in the recent past, including perennial contenders Jeff Sluman and David Frost.

The three-round tournament starts on Friday.

Frost and Mediate already have victories this season. Mediate became just the 16th player in Champions Tour history to win in his debut, finishing first at the Allianz Championship in February. The two are in the same threesome for Friday's first round. Mediate said he hopes Frost's presence will inspire a quick start.

The 50-year-old said one of the biggest adjustments in switching from the PGA Tour to the Champions Tour is events have just three rounds instead of four.

''If the pedal is not down on Friday, you will not win the golf tournament, period. You will not even do well in the golf tournament,'' Mediate said. ''You have to be ready to go. ... You've got to come out firing fast.''

Mediate is sure to be a crowd favorite at Fallen Oak. The affable veteran is a six-time PGA Tour winner, but maybe best known for losing on the first sudden-death hole after an 18-hole playoff against Tiger Woods in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

The weather may make Fallen Oak play more difficult this weekend. The forecast calls for bouts of rain and wind, especially on Friday and Saturday.

Mediate said the course was in very good condition during Wednesday's practice round and had heard good – and honest – reviews of the 7,054-yard Fallen Oak coming into the week.

''It's one of our (tour's) hardest and one of our longest, so I'm intrigued by that,'' Mediate said.

Couples won the tournament last year after making a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole to break a tie with Michael Allen. Couples led by two strokes with four holes to play, but bogeyed the 15th hole and had trouble on the 17th, before a flawless final hole for the victory.

It was Couples' seventh career victory and first since the 2011 AT&T Championship.

The 53-year-old has had a good start this season, finishing in the top five in both events he's played, including second in last week's Toshiba Classic.

The hottest player on the Champions Tour is Bernhard Langer, who is also in the Fallen Oak field. Langer has finished in the top three in all three events he's played this season and has finished in the top 10 in seven of his last 10 events dating back to last season.

The tournament's 2011 champion, Tom Lehman, withdrew earlier this week because of a knee injury.

This year's tournament has a $1.6 million purse, with the winner earning $240,000.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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.

@tommyfleetwood_1

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.