More Money Better Date Bring Top Players

By Associated PressJune 6, 2007, 4:00 pm
Stanford St. Jude ChampionshipMEMPHIS, Tenn. -- More cash and a date the week before the U.S. Open have done more for the Stanford St. Jude Championship than an easy golf course and lots of history ever could.
 
Six of the top 12 players in the world are in Memphis, led by fourth-ranked Adam Scott and No. 6 Vijay Singh, to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the tournament, an event that had been lucky recently if one of the top 20 showed up.
 
This is the first visit for Scott, along with Retief Goosen, Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington.
 
The field would have been even stronger if Phil Mickelson, who missed the cut in his only other visit in 2001, hadn't withdrawn to heal a sore wrist for the Open.
 
New sponsor Stanford Financial Group committed to upgrading the event by boosting the purse by $800,000 to $6 million, with $1.08 million to the winner. Stanford replaced FedEx Corp., which now sponsors the tour's new season-long points competition and playoff.
 
David Toms, who won here in 2003 and 2004 and will try to make his 12th straight cut at the TPC Southwind, said Wednesday he's glad some top players decided to play in Memphis this year.
 
'I know the players are excited about it and look forward to having a good week. I think that was their goal, just to upgrade what has always been here, a tournament that has been around for a long time and put their stamp on it,' Toms said.
 
'I think they've done a good job.'
 
Attracting top talent didn't used to be a problem for a tournament that started in 1958 and is outranked in terms of service by only a handful of tournaments and the majors.
 
Entertainer Danny Thomas was a big draw when he lent his name to help raise money for his St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. President Gerald Ford had a hole-in-one at the event then played at Cordova in 1977 as a prelude to Al Geiberger making tour history days later with his 59.
 
But the tournament, which moved to the TPC Southwind in 1989, struggled with a reputation as birdie heaven.
 
John Cook won at 26 under in 1996 and Toms went 20 under in 2003. The schedule didn't help either as the event bounced around between the sweltering months of June and August, making it an easy decision to skip Memphis.
 
The forecast isn't much better now, with temperatures in the low 90s expected through Sunday.
 
But TPC Southwind is a different course after a redesign that followed Toms' victory in 2004 at 16 under. Par was trimmed to 70 from 71 by changing the par-5 fifth to a 485-yard par-4 as part of adding more than 200 yards to stretch it out to 7,244. The greens also were switched from bent to Bermuda grass
 
'I might get a little impatient on the golf course knowing that I used to birdie this hole all the time,' Toms said.
 
Jeff Maggert ended a personal seven-year victory drought by winning here last year at 9 under, and the course ranked only behind Winged Foot -- site of the 2006 U.S. Open -- as the toughest on tour last year.
 
Maggert said that tougher reputation and not the timely spot in the schedule attracted the stronger field.
 
'You're always going to get some good players coming a week before a major tournament because they like to prepare. But certainly when you have a golf course that's difficult and tests your game, I think you draw a lot more players,' Maggert said.
 
Maggert will try to become the only golfer not named Tiger Woods to defend his title successfully this year. Maggert said he now is fully recovered from a broken rib and tied for 12th at Colonial two weeks ago.
 
'It took a while to get my competitiveness back, and I feel good now. There are no excuses now,' he said.
 
That is why Geoff Ogilvy, who heads to Oakmont as the defending U.S. Open champ, came to Memphis for only his fourth visit. He is hoping to prepare under tournament pressure conditions despite not making the cut here between 2002 and 2004.
 
'You can't replicate playing with nerves and under pressure at home on the range, and out here you can. Nothing is going to replicate next week. It's an incredible place, it's very different and very hard,' Ogilvy said.
 
Divots:
Local favorite John Daly, who hasn't missed playing here since 1997, is here on a sponsor's exemption even though he hasn't finished five of those. He has withdrawn twice since finishing seventh in 2001. ... Toms has not missed a cut at this course since 1994 when he shot consecutive 74s. He skipped in 1995. The tournament record for consecutive cuts made is 14 straight by Gene Littler (1958-1971). ... Loren Roberts, who lives nearby and is now on the Champions Tour, will tie Lou Graham's record by playing here for the 24th time. He had been tied with Littler, John Mahaffey and Mason Rudolph at 23. Roberts won the Champions Tour event last week in Florida.
 
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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 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."

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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.

    @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.