Gainey, Wagner lead at low-scoring Greenbrier

By Associated PressJuly 4, 2013, 11:47 pm

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – The mustache is gone, and for one round at least, Johnson Wagner also didn't have to deal with playing bad golf.

Wagner and Tommy Gainey each shot an 8-under 62 on Thursday to share a two-stroke lead after the first round of The Greenbrier Classic.

Webb Simpson and Jin Park were close behind after 64s. Daniel Summerhays, Tag Ridings, Steven Bowditch and 50-year-old Neal Lancaster were another shot back.

Players were able to lift, clean and place their balls Thursday after rain fell prior to the start of play.


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Gainey and Wagner had bogey-free rounds in the morning. Wagner was 8 under after 12 holes but finished with six consecutive pars. Both could use a good week – Gainey is 125th in season Tour winnings, while Wagner ranks 148th.

Wagner doesn't have a top-10 finish this year and the three-time Tour champion hasn't won since the 2012 Sony Open. In his last seven tournaments, he's missed six cuts and withdrew from the Memorial.

''The last couple of months have been really hard,'' Wagner said. ''I just haven't been much fun to be around. It's just been tough. Nobody likes to be bad at what they do, especially golfers.''

A product of Virginia Tech – which is less than two hours from the Old White TPC course – Wagner chipped in for eagle on the par-5 12th, then finished with six straight pars.

''I've been disappointed with 76s and 79s the last month, so I'm very happy to be disappointed with a 62 today,'' said Wagner, who shaved his well-talked-about mustache in a nod to his wife for their seventh wedding anniversary on Monday.

''I didn't get her a gift. So I thought maybe surprising her with a clean lip would suffice,'' he said.

The mustache will return at some point.

''I love irritating my wife too much to let it go for too long,'' he said.

Gainey's first PGA Tour victory came last fall at The McGladrey Classic, but like Wagner he has missed more cuts than he's made this year.

Nicknamed ''Two Gloves'' for wearing gloves on both hands, Gainey had a serious talk with his wife, two other family members and his agent in the past month to try to figure out how to turn around his bad fortunes. Gainey said he had stopped having fun on the course.

''I had gotten away from that and I'm trying to get back into that now,'' he said. ''I felt like I knew what was going on. I was putting too much pressure on myself.''

Not Thursday, when he missed just one fairway with a new driver in his bag.

''Hitting out of the rough is no fun,'' Gainey said. ''Trust me, I've been doing it for the past three years.''

Wagner admitted he had thoughts of shooting 59. Gainey knows what it's like to flirt with the magic number, which only five players have attained in official PGA Tour events. He shot 60 in the McGladrey Classic's final round.

At the inaugural Greenbrier Classic in 2010, Stuart Appleby shot 59 in the final round to win at 22 under. With favorable scoring conditions this week, there's already talk about surpassing that. On Thursday, the top eight scores produced just nine total bogeys.

''I believe you can get to at least 20 (under) this week,'' Gainey said. ''It depends on how much rain we get and how much softer this course gets.''

Lancaster's lone PGA Tour win came at the 1994 Byron Nelson Classic. He's won $83,000 in five Champions Tour events this year. With an early second-round tee time, he knew where he was heading after Thursday's round.

''To bed. Fifty-year-old guys don't want to play golf at 7:20 in the morning,'' he said.

Among those at 2 under were Bill Haas, coming off a win at Congressional last week, and Ryan Palmer, whose caddie is New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton.

Phil Mickelson, playing for the first time since finishing second to Justin Rose at the U.S. Open, struggled to a 74. His tee shot on the par-5 17th landed in Howard's Creek and he three-putted for triple bogey. He also had five bogeys and four birdies.

A similar round on Friday would mean his third missed cut of the year and the third consecutive time he's failed to advance to weekend play at this event.

''I don't know what it is,'' Mickelson said. ''I felt like I was playing really well heading in here. I don't play this course well. I don't know what the reasoning is. It's just given me problems the last few years.''

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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.

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."


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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."

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Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 10:33 pm

After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.

La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.

"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."

Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.

The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.

"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."