Crane still on top at St. Jude; play stopped again

By Associated PressJune 8, 2014, 12:44 am

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Ben Crane has waited so long to contend for another PGA Tour title that being patient through weather delays is no problem at all.

Staying atop the leaderboard into the third round helps.

Crane went more than 28 hours between competitive shots because of weather delays, and he was at 13 under with a four-stroke lead through six holes Saturday when another storm stopped play again at the St. Jude Classic.

''What an opportunity I have,'' Crane said. ''Certainly at the beginning of the week I never thought I would have been here, so I'll just try to go home, relax, get some food in me and sleep as fast as I can because we got to come back out at 7 a.m. and restart tomorrow.''

Troy Merritt, a group ahead of Crane, was at 9 under, with playing partner Peter Malnati at 8 under. Billy Horschel, Retief Goosen and Camilo Villegas were 7 under on their front nines.

Phil Mickelson, who hasn't won in 19 straight events dating to the British Open, had pars on each of his first nine holes and was at 5 under. He's one of many players using the event to tune up for the U.S. Open next week at Pinehurst.

Play stopped at 6:49 p.m. with officials hoping to have the leaders tee off for the final round by 9:10 a.m. Sunday, if they can avoid a fog delay like the one that delayed the start of play for an hour Saturday morning.

A storm Thursday forced 60 players to wrap up the first round Friday, and only 32 finished the second before two delays, the second for a thunderstorm that left water standing in fairways, bunkers and cart paths. The third round finally started at 3 p.m. with threesomes going off both tees. At least fans got to stick around all of Saturday afternoon after being sent home early the past two days.


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Crane didn't tee off until 4:50 p.m. Saturday after finishing up his second round at 12:18 p.m. Friday.

But this is Crane's 300th career PGA Tour start, even though his last win was in 2011 at the McGladrey Classic. Crane said he can't remember playing with a lead this late in a tournament, it's been so long.

He is putting well here this week, and he birdied his first hole to go to 13 under for the tournament as he rolled in a nearly 19-footer on the par-4 first. After hitting his approach into the rough behind the green on No. 2, Crane made a 12-footer to save par.

''Those are kind of critical putts right now, kind of keep the momentum going,'' Crane said.

Merritt, who did not make a start on tour in 2012 or 2013 and missed his first six cuts this year, is the closest to Crane.

''Anything can happen on the final day when we've seen six-shot leads falter on the last day,'' Merritt said. ''If you can stay within a couple shots, that would be great. Anything can happen on Sunday on the PGA Tour.''

Mickelson tied for 49th last week in the Memorial following a visit from FBI agents and lingering questions about an insider-trading investigation. He never teed off at all Friday with the horn blowing for the second time with him at the No. 1 tee.

He said he couldn't hit his irons close enough or his putts in his second round. He started bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie, though he birdied Nos. 14 and 15 to get to 5 under. He rolled in a 16-footer to save par on the par-5 16th and wasn't happy at missing a birdie opportunity with the pin at the front of the green.

''I had a chance to get up and down,'' Mickelson said. ''I think if I had birdied 16 I might have gotten one more with a little bit of momentum. ... I'm certainly not that far back, but I do need to get off to a quick start. I got to get a good front nine here this third round and get off to a fast start.''

Divots: Local favorite John Daly was among 71 making the cut at even par. Defending champ Harris English missed the cut along with Patrick Reed, Lee Westwood and David Toms, a two-time champ here. ... David Duval withdrew after seven holes in his second round. He was at 7 over for the tournament. He was the 10th to withdraw since this event started.

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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.


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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.

@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.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."