Langer leads seniors in Champions Tour lid-lifter

By Associated PressJanuary 22, 2009, 5:00 pm
Champions TourKAUPULEHU-KONA, Hawaii ' Bernhard Langer has long fought back problems that limit his flexibility and get worse with age, not that any one could tell.
The two-time Masters champion is coming off a three-win season on the Champions Tour. He was the only one to break $2 million and became just the third player in the tours 30-year history to earn both player and rookie of the year honors.
With a full year to get familiarized with the courses, theres big expectations surrounding the German star as the tour opens Friday at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the first of 26 events this season, the fewest since 1985.
I expect because hes a little more comfortable out here, that hes going to be doubly tough to beat, said Jay Haas, runner-up to Langer on the money list.
Langer had 14 top-10 finishes in 20 starts in his first full season on the 50-and-over circuit. He also had a second-place finish at the Senior PGA Championship and a 15th-place tie in the PGA Tours Players Championship, where he was in contention until he closed with a 77.
Langer said the biggest adjustment in his transition from the regular to the senior tour wasnt adjusting to the courses. It was the need to be more aggressive.
Out here, the guys are just going for every pin, Langer said. Theyre hitting driver on every hole almost. Theres no letting up.
On the PGA Tour, the first two rounds is more like getting yourself in position, making cut, being close to the leaders. You dont want to take a chance to get a big number and miss the cut. Out here, its different.
The players will need to be on the attack this weekend at Hualalai, which features generous fairways, a spectacular ocean vista and the tours easiest layout in the last six years with an average score below 70.
Here, the guys run the table here, so youve got to shoot low, Haas said. You got to stay aggressive and keep the pedal down. You cant let up.
Haas, the 2007 player of the year, has a string of nine straight rounds in the 60s at the Mitsubishi, formerly known as the MasterCard Championship, and tied for third last year, fifth in 2007 and third in 06.
Langer said he has enjoyed the camaraderie and competition from the players, many of whom have competed against each other for decades.
Many of us are not here to prove anything. That doesnt mean were not competitive. We are here because we are competitive. Thats what it boils to, he said.
Its a strange dynamic, he said, where the players are all close friends, but once were on the golf course, to try to beat each other brains (in).
The 51-year-old Langer began his 2008 season at Hualalai, where he tied for third with Haas. Last year, Fred Funk birdied the final two holes for a 21-under 195 total, two strokes over Allen Doyle and four better than Haas and Langer.
Funk, recovering from a knee injury, is one of three players who have withdrawn from the winners-only event, leaving just 34 participants. The other sidelined players are Peter Jacobsen (left shoulder) and Scott Hoch (sore left wrist).
Tom Watson and Jerry Pate, however, are returning to action for the first time since their surgeries last year. Watson, who had his left hip replaced in October, is making his first start since August.
Pate, the 2008 Turtle Bay champion, hasnt played since the Senior PGA Championship in May. He had left-shoulder surgery and left-knee surgery in the summer.
Langer, meanwhile, said he feels good most of the time, but hes still bothered by his back that he injured when he was 19 as a member of the German Air Force.
He sustained two stress fractures and bulging disks while marching with a 30-pound sack and a rifle.
And its bad ever since. I just need to live with that. I dont talk about it much, I just get on with it, Langer said.
The injury has left his lower back stiff, which limits his motion in his swing. But hes not complaining.
Overall, Ive been blessed, Langer said. Im still here. Im still swinging.

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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 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.

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    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.


    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    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

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    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."