Hoffman leads Simpson by two at RBC Heritage

By Associated PressApril 20, 2013, 10:12 pm

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – Charley Hoffman thought he was through with Harbour Town Golf Links and the RBC Heritage. Turns out, he just wasn't ready as a younger player to handle one of the PGA Tour's trickiest layouts.

Hoffman missed the cut his first time here in 2006, then didn't do much better the next visit, going 72-80 on the weekend in 2009 and took it off his schedule for good. But Hoffman has found a new appreciation and success at Harbour Town that has him 18 holes away from his third career Tour victory.

Hoffman had four birdies his first five holes Saturday to shoot 5-under 66 and take a two-stroke lead at 11 under over U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson.

''I would say I wasn't mature enough to play this golf course,'' Hoffman said Saturday. ''I didn't understand how to play it. I guess I would get frustrated when I hit the fairway and didn't have a shot at the green.''


At a glance: Harbour Town Round 3

Video: Hoffman leads RBC Heritage

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These days, the 36-year-old Hoffman had learned his way around Harbour Town like few others. The renaissance began last year with second-round 65 here that led to an eight-place finish. Hoffman opened play with a 66 Thursday, moved into a three-way tie for the top Friday and took control with his hot start in the third round.

''Yeah, it was definitely the best playing round I've had in a long time,'' he said.

He'll need to have one more to hold off those chasing him down. Simpson, bidding for his first victory since winning the U.S. Open at Olympic Club, finished with a bogey-free 65, tying the lowest round of the tournament.

Kevin Streelman shot a 69 and was alone in third at 8 under.

The round started with 91 players making the cut, tying the Tour high set in 1981 at the Travelers Championship. Jesper Parnevik moved the cut line Saturday morning to 2 over as he missed a 5-footer to complete his rain-delayed second round and opened the door for 21 players to keep playing.

Brendon De Jonge and Graeme McDowell were tied at 7-under par, four shots off the lead. De Jonge shot a 67, and McDowell had a 68.

The last of Hoffman's two career PGA Tour victories came at the 2010 Deutsche Bank Championship. And early on, he threatened to turn the RBC Heritage into a runaway.

He made a 30-footer for birdie at the first to break from a three-way tie with Kevin Streelman and Steve LeBrun, then followed that by getting up and down from about 30 feet on the par-5 second hole. Hoffman was pin high, 12 feet away on the par-3 fourth to move to 9 under and closed his hot start with another up-and-down birdie – this one from 65 feet – on the par-5 fifth.

Hoffman played steadily the rest of the way to maintain his lead – even though he appeared on the verge of cracking several times.

Hoffman saved par from a front bunker on the par-3 seventh hole, then punched a shot between two trees no more than 5 feet apart to make another par on the eighth hole.

Hoffman chipped to 2 feet for another par on the 11th. He rolled in a 12-foot par putt on the next hole to stay out front during Simpson's charge.

Hoffman's final birdie – on the par-5 15th – gave him the two-stroke edge. He made a testy, 12-footer to save par one last time at the famed lighthouse hole, No. 18.

Simpson started three shots out of the lead, birdied three of his first six holes. Two more birdies on the 10th and 11th holes moved him within two shots of Hoffman. Simpson's 15-foot birdie putt on the 15th – Simpson made birdie on all three of Harbour Town's par 5s – drew him closer still. Simpson's 65 matched the lowest round of the tournament, accomplished Thursday by opening-round leader Brian Davis.

Simpson is eager to break through again with a victory. ''I think this year I just haven't gotten in contention enough,'' he said.

Streelman, tied with Hoffman and rookie LeBrun through 36-holes, had consecutive birdies on the 13th and 14th holes to stay in contention. LeBrun held steady with a 71 and was in a group of eight five strokes behind that included Bill Haas.

''I don't have much to lose,'' said Streelman, whose first Tour win came at the Tampa Bay Championships last month. ''I'm going to see what the course can give us.''

Hoffman's steady play capped an odd Saturday at Harbour Town that featured an early start time to conclude the second round, a super-sized field of competitors and a quick turnaround to get the third round in.

Parnevik was about to putt out on the closing lighthouse hole Friday evening when the horn sounded, stopping all play. Soon after his missed putt Saturday morning, Parnevik joked on Twitter, ''Everybody in the field at plus-2, put your envelopes in my locker ...''

One of those was Brandt Snedeker, at No. 5 in the world the highest ranked golfer here and on the verge of missing the weekend after shooting 73-71. Snedeker, who contended for the Masters' title last Sunday, was not spectacular in his bonus round, but did enough with an even-par 71 to hang around Sunday.

One of those who didn't make the tournament's second cut was Parnevik after a 73.

The tournament sent players out in groups of three on the first and 10th tees and that briefly created a backlog – and a scene duplicated at nearly every public course in the country – when the early starters on one side met the late starters on the other. Bo Van Pelt munched on a sandwich as he waited on No. 10 for the final competitors, Nicolas Colsaerts and Casey Wittenberg, to tee off before his group could continue.

DIVOTS: The final round will have 70 players at 2 over par or better – which would've been the number Saturday if not for Parnevik's miss. ... The PGA Tour's records on the cut only go back to 1970, so it's unknown if a tournament before then ever had more than the 91 players at the RBC Heritage make it past a 36-hole cut. ... Former Masters champ Trevor Immelman needed Parnevik's miss to play the third round, then shot a 5-under 66 to move to 3 under. ... James Driscoll had two birdies Saturday and nine for the week, good for a $9,000 donation for One Fund Boston. The Massachusetts native has pledged $1,000 per birdie he makes at the RBC Heritage and the Zurich Classic of New Orleans go to victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. He missed the cut after third-round play.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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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.


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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

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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."


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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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."