Henley, Kuchar embrace hometown feel of Augusta

By Associated PressApril 8, 2013, 10:43 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Russell Henley's head was on a swivel Monday at Augusta National, scanning the gallery for friends, family or anyone else yelling ''Go Dawgs.''

The former Georgia Bulldog and Peach State native is playing in his first Masters.

He is carrying the hopes of fans cheering for their first home-state champion since Larry Mize won the green jacket in 1987. Henley said he hadn't felt as nervous as he did Monday – and that was just practice.

''The excitement of being here and knowing I'm a contestant is a feeling like I've never had,'' Henley said on Monday.

The 23-year-old attended the tournament, while growing up in Macon. He played the course while at Georgia and won his way into the field with a victory at the Sony Open in January.

He hopes that enjoying the moments early in the week will lead to focused golf, when the tournament starts Thursday.

Henley's not the only one with deep roots in the Georgia pines. Matt Kuchar grew up in Florida but is as beloved by the Augusta National galleries as if he'd been born in the Peach State.

Maybe it's because he played college golf at Georgia Tech or settled on Sea Island.

Most likely it's the way his smile radiated over the course, when he first contended as an amateur in 1998. His tie for 21st was the best finish by an amateur in 20 years.

''There's a lot of connections for me,'' he said. ''It's a special place for sure.''

Should Henley triumph it would mark just the fourth Georgia native to capture the title since the tournament began in 1934. Savannah-born Claude Harmon won in 1948, Gainesville, Ga., native Tommy Aaron in 1973 before Mize – a true hometown favorite from Augusta – rolled in his 140-foot chip on the 11th hole to defeat Greg Norman in a playoff.

''I picked a doozy'' of a tournament to win, Mize said at the time.

Wins by Henley or Kuchar would sit equally as well with Augusta National crowds.

Henley, playing his practice round with two-time Masters champion Tom Watson and amateur Nathan Smith, twirled his driver as he walked the fairway, continually stopping to say hi to well-wishers.

''I heard a lot of 'Go Dawgs.' That was cool. Heard a lot of 'Go Jackets.' Didn't really get that one,'' Henley joked about Georgia's main state rival, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

Kuchar was quick to defend his school, when asked to assess why so many young Georgia Bulldog players such as Henley, Harris English and even defending Masters champion Bubba Watson are excelling on the PGA Tour.

''I'd like to say that Georgia Tech has got about as many alumni out here as possible,'' he said with a smile.

Kuchar fell in love with this event because of the amateur experience conceived by golf's greatest amateur, tournament co-founder Bobby Jones.

Jones, an Atlanta native, designed Augusta National with architect Alister MacKenzie, and the Masters began in 1934. By then, Jones' championship days were past, and he never finished better than 13th in 12 career appearances.

Kuchar felt Jones' aura throughout the grounds 15 years ago in his debut here, from staying in the amateur's only ''Crow's Nest'' clubhouse loft to the amateur dinner and interacting with the gracious Southern galleries.

''You really feel like this tournament is for you, as an amateur,'' Kuchar recalled. ''This is what it's supposed to be. ... Bobby Jones designed it with amateurs in mind, and they couldn't wait to have some amateurs have some real success.''

Kuchar, who qualified as the U.S. Amateur champion, gave everyone a thrill with his week at Augusta National. He was paired with then one-time and defending Masters champion Tiger Woods and wound up the low amateur, a feat he repeated later that year with a tie for 14th at the U.S. Open.

Kuchar has grown with his game and comes in expecting to contend after last year's tie for third.

Henley hopes he makes an immediate mark on Augusta National and fulfills the dream of wearing the green jacket, something he's thought about since learning the game in Macon.

''I've dreamed about playing in this tournament. I've dreamed about winning on the PGA Tour, and I've accomplished both of those,'' Henley said. ''I've got a lot more on the list.''

Henley doesn't want to think too far down Magnolia Lane, though, but can't help imagining victory here. ''It would be very special,'' he said.

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.