Karlsson stays out front at FedEx St. Jude Classic

By Associated PressJune 11, 2011, 10:19 pm

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Robert Karlsson shot a 2-under 68 Saturday to remain atop the leaderboard through three rounds at the St. Jude Classic.

Karlsson looked ready to run away from the field, leading by as much as five strokes on the back nine. But the Swede closed with his only bogeys of the day on the final two holes, dropping to 11 under and one stroke ahead of Harrison Frazar.

Frazar said he thought Karlsson was in total control of the tournament so he focused only on playing. He got hot and birdied three of his final four holes to finish with a 64 that got him to 10 under. That included rolling in a 42-footer for birdie on No. 18.

John Merrick (67) is third, followed by Retief Goosen, who turned in the best 18-hole score this week at TPC Southwind before being matched by Frazar. Fredrik Jacobson (68) and Keegan Bradley (70) are tied for fifth.

The 41-year-old Karlsson is in his first full year on the PGA Tour after earning an exemption by finishing in the top 125 on the money list with 11 events in 2010. That included a second-place finish here a year ago, when he lost a four-hole playoff to Lee Westwood in his best showing yet on the tour.

He is trying to become the seventh first-time winner on tour this year and the first player to win his first title in Memphis since Dicky Pride in 1994.

But Karlsson is no stranger to closing out tournaments. He has won 11 times on the European Tour and has yet shoot over par on this course in seven rounds.

“Robert looks like he’s not going to fall back,” Goosen said. “Playing really solid. Need to get another round like this in tomorrow to get a chance to catch him.”

Of course, Goosen made his remarks before Karlsson’s final two holes.

Karlsson was leading by four until he bogeyed No. 17 after sticking his approach into a greenside bunker. He blasted out to 14 feet and just missed the par putt. Frazar finished up on 18 with his big birdie putt, and Karlsson’s second shot on the final hole landed well right of the green.

With water on the other side, Karlsson’s chip bounced once and stopped in the longer grass short of the green. Trying to save par, he came up 2 feet short and settled for a bogey that trimmed his lead to a mere stroke.

The TPC Southwind has been playing fairly tough for everyone but Karlsson, with the Champion Bermuda greens baked enough from temperatures in the mid-90s to make them almost crusty.

The 6-foot-5 Karlsson posted pars on his first two holes and put distance between himself and playing partners Colt Knost and Bradley almost immediately.

Merrick gave chase with three straight birdies, his third moving him to 8 under and just a stroke behind Karlsson. That was the closest anyone else got until the end of the round.

Karlsson got his first birdie with a 3-footer on the par-5 No. 3 and birdied No. 4 to push his lead back to three at 11 under. He rolled in a 35-footer for birdie on the par-4 No. 6 for a four-stroke lead that was the biggest this week until Merrick bogeyed No. 7 to make it five.

With the lead, Karlsson just methodically worked his way around the course. He two-putted from 41 feet on No. 10, knocking down a 6-footer for par. He two-putted from 36 feet on the par-3 No. 14.

Karlsson managed to birdie even when he missed a couple fairways. He needed a drop after a ruling from an official when his tee shot on No. 15 landed near a drain right of the fairway 111 yards from the pin. Karlsson stuck his shot within 7 feet and rolled in the putt to reach 13 under.

Frazar had seven birdies with a lone bogey. He was rolling at the end of his day, sinking a 13-foot birdie on No. 15, a 6-footer on No. 16 and his long one on 18. He is seeking his first tour win as well.

DIVOTS: If Karlsson wins, he would become the first player since Ryuji Imada at the AT&T Classic to lose in a playoff, then win the same event the next year, which he did in 2007 and 2008. Phil Mickelson also finished second in a playoff at the Northern Trust Open in 2007 and won that event in 2008. … After 83 players made the 36-hole cut, the field was cut again Saturday to the low 70 and ties, leaving 11 out of Sunday’s final round.

 

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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.

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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."


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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."