Dufner shares CareerBuilder lead; Mickelson 4 back

By Associated PressJanuary 22, 2016, 2:14 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. - Phil Mickelson returned from a long layoff with a big mid-round run. PGA West's TPC Stadium Course came back strong, too, Thursday in the CareerBuilder Challenge.

The 45-year-old Mickelson opened with a 4-under 68 at La Quinta Country Club in his first start since the Presidents Cup in October, playing a seven-hole stretch in 6 under.

"I've had a lot of time off," Mickelson said. "It was fun to get back into the swing of it. We had a beautiful day here. Weather's spectacular. Golf course was great. I had a good solid round."

Lefty holed out for eagle on the par-4 eighth with a shot that spun back 15 feet, chipped in on the next hole for a front-nine 31 and added another birdie on 11. He three-putted for par on the par-5 13th and made two late bogeys to fall four strokes behind leaders Jason Dufner, Jerry Kelly, Jeff Overton and Anirban Lahiri.

The round was Mickelson's first since splitting with swing coach Butch Harmon to work with Andrew Getson. The 2002 and 2004 champion is winless since the 2013 British Open.

"I felt good with my game," Mickelson said. "I didn't feel like I was fighting it. I was able to kind of let it go. I didn't hit a lot of shots really close, I just hit it kind of OK. Didn't putt great. But I had a couple shots that I holed out."


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The Stadium Course had a stroke average of 71.825 in perfect scoring conditions in the Pete Dye-designed layout's first round in the event since it was dropped from the rotation after its 1987 debut. The course finally got another chance this year out of necessity when PGA West's Palmer and Nicklaus private layouts dropped out.

Adam Hadwin had the best round on the Stadium Course with a 66. Only four players in the top 31 on the leaderboard played the course, with Ryan Palmer, Rhein Gibson and Si Woo Kim shooting 67.

"You give me 68, I probably would have walked away and not played today," Hadwin said. "So, 66 bogey-free is a fantastic start."

The Canadian birdied the par-5 16th, avoiding the 20-foot deep bunker on the left side of the green, and finished with pars on the island-green 17th and water-guarded 18th.

"I played Q-school here, so I got a pretty good feeling the way the golf courses play," Hadwin said.

Dufner and Overton opened on PGA West's Nicklaus Tournament Course. Kelly and Lahiri played at La Quinta, the lone holdover. La Quinta had a stroke average of 69.596, and the Nicklaus Tournament Course was at 69.424.

The 49-year-old Kelly had two eagles at La Quinta. He missed birdie putts on the final three holes, the first a 5-footer.

"In the past, this has been the tough golf course," Kelly said. "So, it was strange just how the mindset changes when this becomes the so-called easier one and you have to get it."

The Nicklaus Tournament Course is being used for the first time in the event. Overton had bad memories about the course from the PGA Tour's qualifying tournament.

"I had very kind of sour vibes coming into this place, because I really like the ones we played last couple years," Overton said. "I think I wound up playing 11 tournaments in a row my first year on Tour and had to come back to Q-school. I played here and I was so tired and hit it so bad. ... I just remember playing really awful."

Dufner prepared for the courses before traveling to Hawaii for the Sony Open.

"I came out before I went to Sony and played these golf courses, both of them, twice," Dufner said.

Lahiri, from India, played last week in Malaysia in the EurAsia Cup matches.

"Obviously, still feeling all the travel from coming from Asia, but really happy with the way I hit the ball," Lahiri said. "I don't think I missed a green all day."

Defending champion Bill Haas had a 66 at La Quinta. He eagled the par-4 first hole.

"Ball-striking, I think I left a lot of room for improvement, which is a good sign," said Haas, also the 2010 winner.

DIVOTS: CareerBuilder is in its first year as the title sponsor of the event long called the Bob Hope Classic, taking over for Humana. ... Patrick Reed, the 2014 winner, had a 69 at La Quinta. ... Stuart Appleby withdrew because of a back injury. Brice Garnett took his place and shot a 78 on the Nicklaus layout.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.