Haas, Hoffman lead in Houston; Phil three back

By Associated PressApril 4, 2014, 12:09 am

HUMBLE, Texas – On Thursday, Phil Mickelson did more than prove to just himself that he's ready for next week's Masters.

The five-time major winner showed to everyone that he's fully recovered from last week's muscle pull and likely to be a factor in this week's Houston Open, as well.

Without so much as a practice round this week at the 7,441-yard Golf Club of Houston, Mickelson opened with a 4-under par 68 and was among the leaders following Thursday's opening round.

The bogey-free performance was a far cry from last week when Mickelson was forced to withdraw during the third round in San Antonio after pulling a muscle in his right side

''I'm surprised because I was worried about the Masters,'' Mickelson said. ''I was certainly worried about Houston, but it healed a lot quicker. I felt great today; didn't feel any pain or discomfort and didn't even think about it.''


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Mickelson is three shots back of first-round co-leaders Bill Haas and Charley Hoffman, who both finished at 7 under. Haas had five birdies on his back nine, while Hoffman needed just 27 putts to earn a share of the lead.

Keegan Bradley, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Erik Compton and Jim Renner are at 6 under. Ten players are at 5 under.

Of the 144 players in the field, 113 finished at even par or under on an overcast and occasionally misty day.

''The greens are absolutely perfect,'' Haas said. ''I think the scores are reflective on that. They were a little slower, but part of that, too, is the weather. It was like a little dewy mist out there all day, which played a part in the speed of the greens.''

Mickelson and Bradley were part of a threesome with Webb Simpson, who also finished 4 under. All three players in the group navigated the course without a bogey in their morning rounds.

Former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, playing in the afternoon and one of the five top-10 players in the world in the tournament, finished with a 2-under 70.

Mickelson has won the Masters three times, the latest coming in 2010, but his status was in doubt following last week's injury.

The left-hander, however, underwent treatment in the days following his departure from San Antonio - along with fitting in two days of light practice at Augusta National - and appeared in top ball-striking form on Thursday.

''One of the things I really worked on hard today was staying focused on each shot,'' Mickelson said. ''I needed to play here this week and really challenge myself in that regard to give myself the best chance for next week.''

Opening on the back nine at the former Redstone Golf Club, which was renamed the Gold Club of Houston following an ownership change, Mickelson was bogey free despite needing 31 putts.

He made the turn at 2 under following a 16-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th, and he birdied both of the par 5s on his back nine to put himself squarely in contention. Mickelson won the Houston Open in 2011, and the course's Masters-like setup - including slick greens and tight rough - is a key reason he's returned every year since.

''He was striking it, he was hitting it long and great,'' Bradley said of Mickelson. ''He seems like he was feeling a lot better today than he was in San Antonio.''

Kuchar, who finished tied for fourth at last week's Texas Open, had three straight birdies in the middle of his round on Thursday - highlighted by a 47-foot birdie putt on the 445-yard par-4 second hole.

World No. 10 Dustin Johnson withdrew following an opening 8-over par 80.

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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.