Masters Turning into the Tiger and Phil Show

By Associated PressApril 3, 2007, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Daybreak at Augusta National brought together the two most prominent figures at the Masters, the first showdown of the week between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
OK, so it was only Tuesday. And it lasted only a split second.
Woods showed up on the first tee and looked back toward the putting green in Mickelson's direction.
Tiger Woods and Mark O
Tiger Woods played with 1998 champion Mark O'Meara Tuesday. (WireImage)
'Let's go,' he said.
He was talking, of course, to Mark O'Meara, who picked up his golf balls and joined his buddy for a practice round.
It is easy to exaggerate the rivalry of Woods and Mickelson, especially at the Masters. Snapshots on late Sunday afternoon the last few years have been Mickelson slipping the green jacket on Woods, or vice versa. And while there are 97 players in this year's tournament, at times it seems as though there are only two.
Woods won in 2001 -- oddly enough, the only time he has played with Mickelson in the final group at the Masters -- and in 2002. Mickelson won his first major at the Masters in 2004. Woods answered with a playoff victory in 2005, Mickelson won in a walk in 2006.
It is reminiscent of the early 1960s, when Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus traded green jackets.
'I hope not,' Mickelson said, 'because that would mean what I don't want it to mean this week.'
Woods is favored to continue the cycle this week based on recent history outside of the Masters. He already has won twice this year, in the Buick Invitational and the CA Championship at Doral, and he is going for his third straight major championship.
The days leading up to the opening round Thursday are mostly about memories, not only of his 12-shot victory 10 years ago when Woods became the youngest Masters champion, but all the putts he missed last year in a desperate attempt to win one for his ailing father, who died three weeks after the tournament.
'Last year was a lot more difficult than I was letting on, because I knew that was the last tournament he was ever going to watch me play,' Woods said. 'I just wanted to win one for his last time, and didn't get it done, and it hurt quite a bit.'
Happier memories come from 10 years ago, when he walked into his father's arms after a watershed moment in golf. Woods obliterated the course and his competition, finishing at 18-under 270, a score that probably won't be touched for a long time considering how much Augusta National has been super-sized since then (from 6,925 yards to 7,445 yards).
Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus saw it coming after a practice round with Woods the year before, Woods' last as an amateur.
'We both marveled at the way he was playing, and how good we thought he was,' Palmer said. 'Let's just be up front about it. He hasn't disappointed us. If he puts his whole life into the future of his game like he has to this point, there's no telling what he might do.'
Mickelson, however, presents a serious obstacle to Woods at Augusta National, if he is not already an equal.
Woods is 2-up in green jackets, but Mickelson has a more consistent record over the last 10 years. Lefty hasn't finished out of the top 10 at the Masters since 1998, while Woods has had three years since that year when he never seriously contended.
Proof for Mickelson came in 2003, his worst season on the PGA TOUR. He still only finished two shots behind.
'It's certainly a course that I feel comfortable on and have played well here, whether I've played well going in or not,' Mickelson said. 'I remember in '03, I was playing terrible and was able to finish third. And when I've entered it playing well, like last year, I've been able to win. It's a course I feel very good on.
'But so does Tiger,' he quickly added. 'He plays this course very well. He's very tough to beat out here.'
It's hard to take inventory of Mickelson's game at this point. He was unstoppable at Pebble Beach, where he missed only one fairway in the final round. He was leading at Riviera until a bogey on the 18th hole, which led to a playoff loss to Charles Howell III.
Mickelson played a practice round two weeks ago and, despite missing putts inside 15 feet on the last three holes, shot 65. He ate lunch, played nine holes in the afternoon and shot 31. But at Doral and Bay Hill, his scoring suffered.
Woods has not been unbeatable in recent weeks. Sure, he won for the third straight year at Torrey Pines (his seventh straight PGA TOUR victory) and for the third straight year at Doral, but his putting cost him at Dubai, Bay Hill and Match Play.
His biggest concern at Augusta National, naturally, is with the flat stick.
'I just have to get the speed of these a little bit better,' he said. 'They have changed every day. Come Thursday, they are always a little bit different. They just turn the vacuums on these greens and suck all the moisture.'
As much as Woods and Mickelson have dominated the Masters this decade (for trivia buffs, it was Mike Weir who interrupted their reign by winning in 2003), they rarely go head-to-head. The only occasion was in 2001, when Woods won by two.
Of the U.S. majors, the Masters has the most players who have won at least three times -- Nicklaus, Palmer, Woods, Gary Player, Nick Faldo, Sam Snead and Jimmy Demaret.
'Once you figure it out, you see the same guys up there at the top of the board,' Woods said. 'Phil has been up there many a times, and once he won a few years ago, all of a sudden it gave him the confidence to do it again last year.'
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    Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

    By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

    Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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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.