Notes: Kelly eases off accelerator, goes forward

By Associated PressAugust 11, 2011, 11:24 pm

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. - Not everyone likes the changes at Atlanta Athletic Club since the last PGA Championship was held here.

Phil Mickelson, runner-up to winner David Toms in 2001, said the layout used to be a fun, great course. “Now, it’s long and its hard,” he said after an opening 1-over 71 on Thursday. “That’s what it is.”

Architect Rees Jones renovated the course in 2006 for the PGA, and it now measures 7,467 yards, the longest in major championship history for a par 70. Mickelson had no problems with the setup, the playability or the challenge to the world’s best golfers. He wondered, though, how the members would handle the new distances once the tournament left.

And Mickelson didn’t stop there.

He said four par 3s - three of them more than 200 yards long and all but one with water in play - are the perfect example of how course designers have made the game unplayable for the average Joe.

“That guy that redid this one,” Mickelson said, shaking his head. “It’s great for the championship, but it’s not great for the membership.”

Toms, paired with Mickelson like he was 10 years ago, said the course is a different animal than the one he won on in 2001.

“A lot longer, different greens, a lot of fairway bunkers, a lot of fairways are kind of awkward tee shots that we didn’t have last time,” Toms said after his 2-over 72. “It’s a tougher golf course, much tougher.”

Mickelson agreed wholeheartedly. He shot 14-under here in 2001, finishing in the 60s all four rounds. This time, he opened with a bogey on the very birdie-able No. 10 - “I spotted the field two shots right from the start,” he said - and was never below par at any point in the round.

Mickelson had no problems with the AAC’s shortest holes, making four pars. His beef is how regular golfers will manage with the long carries over water and punishing bunkers waiting behind the greens. “This is a great example again of how modern architecture is killing the participation of the sport,” Mickelson said.

COOL KELLY: Jerry Kelly said his aggressive nature has gotten in the way of good golf too often - and he’s taking steps to avoid that at the PGA Championship.

Kelly finished with a 5-under 65, matching his lowest score ever at the PGA Championship and ending a streak of 14 consecutive rounds in the 70s at this major. Kelly has missed the cut in his past four PGA appearances.

Kelly acknowledged he always pushed too hard on the accelerator, even when the situation called for some brake. “I’m trying to scale it back a little bit this week, consciously, and I did a fantastic job today,” Kelly said.

He had six birdies and just one bogey at Atlanta Athletic Club to move two shots off the lead of his good friend - and fellow Wisconsin native - Steve Stricker. The two practiced together this week along with Scott Verplank, who was two more shots behind after his 67.

Kelly said he’s always gone hard at whatever he did, especially golf. He has three PGA Tour wins, the last at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in 2009. Kelly hasn’t had a top-10 finish since a third at the Honda Classic in early March and missed the cut in the two majors he played, the Masters and British Open. So a change of style might be in order.

Kelly said he’s never been a power hitter and had to rely on effort to compete. These days, he’s more confident in his technique. “I’m able to actually hit it smooth. I’ve never been able to do that before and I hope it continues,” he said.

BUBBA’S TURNAROUND: Bubba Watson had a share of the PGA lead after four consecutive birdies on his first nine holes. Then came a big mistake.

Watson said he allowed himself to be distracted on the first hole, his 10th, by a volunteer pounding a stake back into the ground at the Atlanta Athletic Club. That led to bogey, the second of five straight Watson would make on the way to a 4-over 74, 11 shots behind leader Steve Stricker.

Watson said he couldn’t block out the noise and lost focus “for the rest of the day, and I was mad. I wasn’t mad at the volunteer, I was mad at myself.”

Watson lost this title in playoff to Germany’s Martin Kaymer at Whistling Straights in 2010. He’s ranked 15th in the world and was considered one of the best hopes to end America’s majors drought. A U.S. player hasn’t won a major since Phil Mickelson’s Masters win in 2010.

Watson was not the only one involved in last year’s dramatic PGA finish to struggle Thursday. Kaymer, the defending champ, was nine strokes behind at 2-over 72. Dustin Johnson, part of last year’s playoff before a two-stroke penalty dropped him to fifth, was 12 strokes back at 5-over 75.

Johnson grounded his club in a bunker on the 18th hole in the final round, although the area was tramped down by spectators all week and did not appear to be hazard.

Johnson came here off a strong showing in the last major, finishing second to Darren Clarke at the British Open.

BIG-TIME BOB: Bob Sowards, a club professional from Portsmouth, Ohio, hadn’t shot under par or made the cut in his four previous trips to the PGA Championship. He took care of the first goal Thursday with a 1-under 69 and is hoping to finish off the other come Friday.

Sowards was the lowest of the 20 club pros entered at Atlanta Athletic Club. He said the PGA is the pinnacle of the year for guys like him, who spend as much time teaching the game as playing it. Sowards is the pro at New Albany Country Club. He bettered his two playing partners in Ryan Moore (75) and Tetsuji Hiratsuka (76).

Sowards said it wouldn’t be easy keeping emotions in check for another 18 holes, especially with the chance to play the weekend with the world’s best. “Without a doubt, I’m going to be looking at the cut line,” he said. “Hopefully, I won’t have to” sneak a look if he has another stellar round like this.

DIVOTS: Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey had an 11-over 81 in first round at a major championship. Gainey, a former winner on The Golf Channel’s “Big Break” series, struggled at Atlanta Athletic Club and had a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 12th hole. … World No. 1 Luke Donald had two late bogeys to drop to even-par 70 while his English compatriot, world No. 2 Lee Westwood was shot further behind at 1-over 71. … British Open champion Darren Clarke was at 8-over 78, tied for 138th.

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.