Donald builds 2-shot lead at RBC Heritage after Rd. 3

By Associated PressApril 19, 2014, 11:29 pm

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – Luke Donald believes he's got the right game on the right course - and is ready to make up for so many near-misses at the RBC Heritage.

Donald had an eagle and six birdies to shoot 66 on Saturday and take a two-stroke lead over John Huh after three rounds at Harbour Town Golf Links. The Englishman has done just about everything on Harbour Town the past five times he's played - except win.

He fell in a playoff to Brandt Snedeker here in 2011, part of a run of four top-3 finishes since at the tricky, Pete Dye design. Now, he'll carry the lead into the final day and is ready to make it stand up on Sunday.


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''If I can go out as relaxed and confident as I was today tomorrow,'' he said. ''If I can control the trajectory (of shots) as well as I did today, then hopefully I'll be sitting here as the winner.''

It has been a long time since Donald has been able to say that.

Once the world's top-ranked golfer, Donald has changed coaches and the transition back to the top has not come as quickly as planned. The last of his five PGA Tour wins came in 2012, his best showing this year was a tie for fourth at the Valspar Championship last month and he was quickly bounced at the Masters after shooting 79-70.

Donald acknowledged he has grown anxious waiting to win again.

''I was the former world No. 1 and was there for a long time and obviously slipped down,'' said Donald, currently 29th. ''But I haven't felt my game had gotten that much worse.''

Certainly not at Harbour Town.

Donald's round got started with a 25-footer for eagle on the par-5 second hold. He added four more on the next six holes. Donald then tied leader Nicholas Thompson with a birdie on the 14th before stretching his lead with a final one by rolling in a 15-foot putt on the par-3 17th.

Donald nearly closed with a flourish when his approach on the closing, lighthouse hole nearly landed in the cup on the fly before bouncing to the edge and settling for par.

Donald's not the longest hitter on tour and said some layouts are dragons he can't slay.

''But this one I feel like I can plot my way around with low wedges,'' he said. ''If you miss greens, you need to be pretty good at the short game. Certainly a course that favors my style of play.''

Huh shot a 68 and was at 6 under.

Major champions Charl Schwartzel (68) and Jim Furyk (71), Nicholas Thompson (68) and Ben Martin (71) were tied for third at 5 under.

Matt Kuchar, ranked sixth in the world, shot 70 as part of a group of five golfers another shot back at 4 under.

Donald's performance capped a long day at soggy Harbour Town, where 65 golfers had to finish the second round before the third could begin with K.J. Choi, Furyk and Ben Martin tied for the lead.

But by midafternoon, the moisture had softened things and competitors were treated to slick greens easily accepting approach shots.

At times, it looked more like a local club shootout than a PGA Tour stop.

Thompson, whose sister Lexi won her first LPGA Tour major at the Kraft Nabisco Championship earlier this month, got things going with five birdies on the front nine to lead at 7 under. But bogeys at the 16th and 18th holes dropped him back into the group at 208.

Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion, was among those with an early start and jumped into the chase with a third-round 68 to move to 5 under. He said the course held up well despite more than 2 1/2 inches of rain that fell here Friday.

Schwartzel has not won on the PGA Tour since his surprising run to the green jacket, when he birdied the final four holes.

''I think if I can continue the ball striking and giving myself chances, I can make a few (birdies) tomorrow and give it a shot,'' he said.

Furyk, the 2010 winner at Harbour Town, made birdie on his second hole to take the lead at 6 under. He failed to build on that hot start, but held on to stay in the hunt.

The craziest day might have belonged to Kuchar, the highest-ranked player competing at Harbour Town after the season's first major. He followed his fifth-place showing at the Masters last week with a strong bogey-free 66 on Thursday to take the lead.

Things went the other way quickly Friday, with Kuchar posting a pair of double bogeys before the rains came and suspended play. Kuchar struggled some more with a bogey on the eighth hole once he restarted Saturday. Then he made four birdies on his back nine to climb back in it.

Kuchar has finished fifth or better in his past three events and has a chance to do it again at Harbour Town.

''To be playing some good golf and be in contention is fun,'' he said. ''I'm excited to have my fourth shot at trying to take a title.''

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Rahm (62) takes early lead at CareerBuilder

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

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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."


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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."