Harringtons 63 Good for Nissan Lead

By Associated PressFebruary 15, 2007, 5:00 pm
2007 Nissan OpenLOS ANGELES -- Padraig Harrington is a newcomer to the Nissan Open, still not sure when to hit the brakes and when to fire at the flags. He chose the latter Thursday and zoomed past Phil Mickelson and everyone else at Riviera with an 8-under 63.
Harrington opened with three straight birdies. He ran off four in a row after making the turn, and even picked one up on the tough 15th hole when his 5-iron hit the pin and settled 4 feet away.
His only bogey on the back nine came from a three-putt on the par-3 14th, and the Irishman had a reasonable explanation for that.
Sergio Garcia
Sergio Garcia sits just four off the lead in his PGA TOUR debut. (Wire Images)
'At this stage, I'm feeling invincible,' he said. 'I didn't think I was ever not going to make birdie.'
It gave him a three-shot lead over Mickelson, Briny Baird and Pat Perez. Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia and David Howell were among those in the group at 67 on a spectacular day of sunshine and shotmaking on the storied course off Sunset Boulevard.
Six players failed to finish the first round when it was too dark to continue; they will finish Friday morning.
Mickelson is playing for the first time since 2001 at Riviera, where he has never had much success. But coming off a five-shot victory at Pebble Beach where he tied the tournament scoring record, he kept right on rolling with a bogey-free 66. He hit only six fairways, but the rough is negligible this week, and Mickelson wasn't off by much.
His only disappointment was being three shots behind.
'It's a little humbling to shoot what I thought was a good round and then get lapped,' Mickelson said.
The only other time Howell has played Riviera was two years ago, when it took four days to complete 36 holes because of rain. The Englishman found conditions quite different this year, and he was duly impressed -- by Riviera and by Harrington.
'This is a great golf course,' he said. 'And that is a hell of a round.'
Vijay Singh started eagle-birdie, but a couple of late bogeys brought him a 68. Retief Goosen made only seven pars in his round of 71.
Mickelson played with Ernie Els, one of several international stars making their '07 PGA TOUR debut this week. The Big Easy labored to keep the ball in the fairway, but escaped with enough clutch pars -- getting up-and-down from 90 yards on his final hole -- for a 69 that left him pleased, although tongue-tied.
He noted that Mickelson played 'awful,' then quickly corrected himself.
'Awesome. I think that's the word you use,' Els said with a laugh.
For Harrington, call it blissful ignorance. He first saw Riviera a few years ago on his way to the Target World Challenge in December and loved it. But as he looked back over his round, he realized there were nuances to the course that he still hasn't learned, and was thankful he didn't pay for it in the opening round.
He played two practice rounds, and both times hit driver and a 6-iron on the 463-yard second hole, traditionally one of the toughest. But with the fairways running fast and firm, he was stunned to his see his drive land in the narrow neck of the fairway, leaving him only a 9-iron into the green to within 4 feet.
'If I had known I was going to do that, I wouldn't have been hitting my driver off the tee,' he said.
Ditto for the 434-yard fifth hole, where the fairway ends after about 280 yards and drops down a shaggy hill. Harrington's tee shot went 277 yards, leaving him another short iron to 10 feet for birdie.
'There again is a hole that maybe I have to be a little less aggressive on for the rest of the week,' he said.
But it worked out beautifully for him Thursday, although the Irishman is smart enough to pay for attention to the day of the week than the number on his scorecard.
'The good thing about shooting 63 is I'll be able to make some mistakes and still compete in this tournament,' he said.
At this rate, he'll likely find Mickelson along the way.
They were on opposite sides of the golf course in the first round, starting out in crisp morning conditions that made the greens so firm it was difficult to find pitch marks until the sun and temperatures began to rise.
Even though it has been six years since Mickelson has been to Riviera, he still remembers a few tricks. With a back right pin on the short but tricky 10th hole, Mickelson still pounded a driver that landed on the green some 315 yards away and into a back bunker. His logic was to hit beyond the green, because it slopes to the back.
'Where I was, I at least had a chance to stop it,' Mickelson said, and he left himself an 8-footer he made for birdie. 'I haven't played here in (six) years, and it's pretty obvious you've got to get past the hole.'
Someone told him that club officials might restore a ditch that once ran behind the green.
'Well, then, it looks like this one won't be back on the rotation,' Mickelson said, pausing for effect. 'Just kidding.'
It was seven years ago this week that two-time Nissan Open champion Mike Weir first entered the top 50 in the world ranking. He didn't fall out of the top 50 until last week, slipping to No. 51. Weir opened with a 3-over 74 as he continues to struggle while going through swing changes. In four tournaments, he has yet to break 70 in the first round. ... Without wishing ill on his peers, J.J. Henry is holding out hope that someone will withdraw from the Accenture Match Play Championship next week, which would put Henry (at No. 65) in the field. He's more down on himself for missing the last two cuts and falling out of the top 64. ... Ernie Els says he probably won't have a U.S. base for when he plays the PGA TOUR. He sold his house in Orlando, Fla., and had considered moving to South Carolina, but now says he will live off the golf course he is designing in the Bahamas.
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  • Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

    By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

    Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

    With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

    Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

    The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

    Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

    In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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    Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

    By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

    After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

     There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

    It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

    It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

    “The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

    In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

    Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

    Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

    “You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

    Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

    Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

    If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

    For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

    Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

    Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

    While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

    When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

    Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

    After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

    The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

    That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

    The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

    While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

    Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

    Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

    “We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

    The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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    Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

    John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

    That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

    Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

    Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

    Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

    Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

    World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

    Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.