McIlroy, Riley share lead at Memorial

By Associated PressJune 2, 2011, 8:22 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – Rory McIlroy only gets to play three regular PGA Tour events this year. He showed Thursday why the Memorial Tournament was one of them.

On a Muirfield Village course that already ranks among his favorites, McIlroy had a birdie putt on his last eight holes and converted half of them on his way to a 6-under 66 to join Chris Riley in the lead after the first round.

McIlroy hit the ball so pure that he shot 32 on the front nine despite missing three birdie putts inside 8 feet.

“A great way to start the tournament,” McIlroy said.

The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland narrowly made the cut at Wentworth in the BMW PGA Championship and wound up in a tie for 24th. Asked the difference between last week and this week, he replied, “It’s about 30 degrees warmer.”

A tournament known for its sloppy weather has been spectacular, and it showed in the scoring on a well-manicured course.

Chris DiMarco and Josh Teater were at 67, followed by a large group at 68 that included Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Stewart Cink and Rickie Fowler, the runner-up at the Memorial last year.

Fifty-one players in the 120-man field broke par.

Luke Donald, in his debut as the No. 1 player in the world ranking, recovered from a slow start by making four straight birdies toward the end of his round for a 70. He played with Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and four-time major champion Phil Mickelson, who each had a 72. Mickelson did that without making a single birdie on the par 5s.

Riley was in the first group to play in the morning and relied heavily on his putter to take advantage of the smooth greens, although scoring conditions were not much different in the afternoon.

“The less I think, the better I play,” Riley said. “And today, I didn’t have time to think. The pace of play was so good and I didn’t stand around and think about shots. I just played golf.”

This is the last tournament for McIlroy before the U.S. Open, a chance for the No. 6 player in the world to atone for his 80 in the final round that cost him a chance to win The Masters. That collapse hasn’t stayed with him long. He was third the next week in Malaysia, and while he missed the cut while defending his title at Quail Hollow, he reached the quarterfinals of the World Match Play in Spain.

And now, the U.S. Open beckons - along with a chance to win on another stronger course in America.

“This is one of my favorite weeks of the year, one of my favorite courses,” McIlroy said. “I feel as if it really does set up well for me. I like these sort of golf courses, the likes of here and Akron (Firestone) and Quail Hollow. And I’m swinging well, I’m hitting it good and I’m holing a few putts. Hopefully, I can keep it going for the next three days.”

McIlroy likes to play the game through the air, the brand of golf most often seen in America.

But he doesn’t get out as often.

By giving up his PGA Tour membership, he is allowed to play only 10 tournaments. That includes the four majors and three World Golf Championships, with The Players Championship not counting against his number - although McIlroy chose not to play this year.

And that’s probably not going to change soon.

“Even if I did win, I still probably wouldn’t take my card up,” McIlroy said. “As a European and playing in some European events over the summer, like the French Open and the Irish Open, we have a very busy summer of golf. And I felt like after the PGA last year at Whistling Straits, I wanted to take a couple of weeks off just to refresh. You couldn’t really do it. You had a week off and then straight to the (FedEx Cup) playoffs. It was a lot of golf over a short period of time.”

There’s a lot of golf left in this tournament, as McIlroy knows well. And there are plenty of players behind him.

Riley, Teater and DiMarco, who all played in the morning, are all ranked out of the top 250 in the world. Fowler is off to a slow start this year, but he looks right at home at the Memorial. Stricker has never had a top 10 at Muirfield Village in 11 tries, a strange statistic he would like to change. And then there’s Johnson, who feels his game is about where it was last summer, when he nearly won two majors.

Donald has nine consecutive top 10s and is off to a solid start. For the 33-year-old from England, it felt slightly different from other tournaments, just because of the ranking attached to his name.

“It feels good,” Donald said. “I’m excited to be there and looking forward to the challenges. I heard a few ‘No. 1’ shouts and stuff like that, so you feed off that.”

DIVOTS: Nick Watney, the No. 15 player in the world, had to withdraw because of an illness. He was replaced by Kevin Stadler, who didn’t bring his regular caddie with him fearing he might not get in. Stadler turned to Rich Schlaack, who once caddied for Bob Estes and Steve Flesch until retiring years ago. “I’ll lose 20 pounds by the weekend,” Schlaack said. … The tournament is down to 118 players because Derek Lamely withdrew after he was 10 over through 12 holes, and Joost Luiten of the Netherlands was disqualified. … Kenny Perry, a three-time winner at the Memorial, was among four players who shots in the 80s.

Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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.


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."

Getty Images

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

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.

Getty Images

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."