Merritt leads RBC Heritage by 3; Spieth 5 back

By Associated PressApril 18, 2015, 11:07 pm

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. - Troy Merritt shot a 2-under 69 on Saturday to take a three-stroke lead into the final round of the RBC Heritage, while defending champion Matt Kuchar and Masters winner Jordan Spieth stayed within reach.

A day after tying the course record with a 61 to build a four-stroke advantage at Harbour Town, Merritt had four birdies and a double bogey to reach 14-under 199.

Kuchar, Brendon Todd and Kevin Kisner were tied for second.

Todd made the big move with a 63, the day's lowest round. Kisner shot 67, and Kuchar 68.

Jim Furyk led a group another stroke behind after a 68, with Spieth five shots back, also following a 68. Spieth believes he can shoot even lower Sunday to chase a second straight jacket, this one tartan.

Brice Garnett and Branden Grace were tied with Furyk in fifth. Garnett shot 65, and Grace 66. Bo Van Pelt was 9 under along with Spieth after a 67.


RBC Heritage: Articles, videos and photos


The pack of seven players at 8 under included 2013 RBC Heritage winner Graeme McDowell, past British Open champ Louis Oosthuizen and former world No. 1 Luke Donald.

Spieth thrilled the gallery with his bounce-back 62 on Friday and it was a full house around the first tee when the 21-year-old Texan got started. But Spieth played more like he did in Thursday's opening 74 than in the second round, fighting to put shots close and make putts on the way to 68.

Still, it was Spieth's 18th time breaking par in his past 19 rounds, a monthlong run of success that included the Valspar Championship title, seconds at Texas and Houston and that record-tying Masters win from last week where he matched Tiger Woods' mark of 18 under from 1997.

And the fans continued to celebrate that accomplishment, shouting and applauding Spieth wherever he walked. One more round and Spieth can get some rest: He's not playing the Zurich Open next week.

Spieth isn't counting out his chances of another round like Friday's. ''There's a low one out there and I think it's certainly possible'' to win, he said.

Only Bernhard Langer in 1985 followed a Masters win with success at the RBC Heritage.

Merritt had one-upped Spieth's round Friday with a 61 to tie the tournament's course record set in 1994 by David Frost. It moved Merritt to the top of the leaderboard and looked like it might give him a strong jump start to keep things going Saturday.

And Merritt opened with birdies on the second and third holes to move to 14 under. But a double bogey on the par-4 eighth hole bounced him back down. Merritt eventually regained that edge with a birdie on the ninth hole and on the par-3 14th hole after knocking his tee shot within 4 feet. He made pars the rest of the way and will take to the course Sunday seeking his first career PGA Tour victory.

Kuchar overcame a double-bogey 5 on the seventh hole to keep within reach of playing partner Merritt.

Todd, nine strokes behind when his round began, got his run going with five birdies on the front nine to quietly move up. By the time he chipped in from 70 feet out on the 18th hole, Todd had moved into solo second place with only Merritt in front.

Todd, last year's Byron Nelson Championship winner, has struggled to take that next step forward this year. He hadn't finished better than 23rd in his past four events and missed the cut at last week's Masters after shooting 80-71.

Todd said he struggled with his putting coming in and was glad to see his short game heating up to post his lowest round on the PGA Tour since shooting 63 in the second round of the Humana Challenge in January 2014. ''Maybe it's just coming a little bit early this year,'' he said.

Divots: Threat of rain Sunday had the tournament organizers moving up tee times. Groups of three will go off the first and 10th tees between 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. ... Tom Watson was first on the course Saturday and his five birdies on the first 14 holes had the 65-year-old thinking he might shoot his age. But Watson had bogeys on two of the final four holes to finish with a 69. ... Two-time RBC Heritage champion Boo Weekley shot a 77 on Saturday, his highest round ever in 35 career rounds at Harbour Town.

Getty Images

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.

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.