Notes Young Guns Firing OMeara Moving On
Ben Curtis is the only American in his 20s with a major. Curtis and Jonathan Byrd are the only U.S. players under 30 with multiple wins.
'I think it's ridiculous,' Howell said. 'I don't understand it to be honest with you. I think American golf under 30 is fine. If you look across the board, if you look at guys playing nowadays, I don't buy into that, no.'
Indeed, it has become a sensitive topic.
But the last few weeks on the PGA TOUR have offered some hope, starting with the 27-year-old Howell.
He had two chances to win in his first three tournaments, after an offseason in which he poured the majority of his time into putting. Three birdies in a four-hole stretch on the back nine put a brief scare into Tiger Woods at Torrey Pines. Howell needed eagle on the final hole to force a playoff and hit a 3-wood from a tough lie in the rough to the middle of the green.
Woods called it 'one of the best shots I've seen him hit.'
'The lie wasn't all that good, but he pulled it off,' Woods said. 'That shows you he's heading in the right direction.'
Howell had company at the Buick Invitational.
Brandt Snedeker, 26, opened with a 61 and remained atop the leaderboard going into the final round but finished third. Jeff Quinney, the former U.S. Amateur champion, tied for fourth at the Bob Hope Classic. He was tied for the lead at Torrey Pines, then stumbled over the final five holes and tied for seventh.
Meanwhile, Howell moved up to No. 43 in the world rankings after starting the year at No. 82. He must stay inside the top 50 in the world or the top 10 on the money list (No. 3) through March to get into the Masters.
Mark O'Meara finished his regular PGA TOUR career with a birdie, but not much fanfare.
O'Meara turned 50 two weeks ago and said he would devote his time exclusively to the Champions Tour, except for the Masters and British Open. As a former champion of both majors, he can play Augusta National as long as he wants and the British Open until he's 65.
'There comes a time when you have to move on,' O'Meara said. 'I feel like I can still get the ball around a little bit, but I'm kidding myself if I think I can compete against these kids.'
He picked Torrey Pines as his finale, because he grew up nearby in Mission Viejo and won the Buick Invitational in 1997. O'Meara easily made the cut but stalled on the weekend. In a quiet departure, he was first off the 10th tee Sunday in the final round, meaning he finished on the ninth hole, nearly a mile from the clubhouse.
But he had a few fans, playing with Phil Mickelson and being only two groups behind Tiger Woods.
O'Meara did not rule out an end to regular PGA TOUR events, although he is so serious about the Champions Tour that he will miss the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, which he won five times.
'I'm looking forward to playing with guys my own age,' O'Meara said.
It's not as though Tiger Woods doesn't already win enough on the PGA TOUR.
In an oversight published on the back of its media guide, the PGA TOUR lists Woods as the defending champion at the Honda Classic, a tournament he never has played as a professional.
The defending champion is Luke Donald.
TOUR officials said last year that Mission Hills Golf Club in China would get the World Cup in 2007 and 2008, then stage a World Golf Championship every year through 2018.
That plan hasn't changed, even with Monday's announcement that the World Cup is no longer part of the WGC series.
Ty Votaw, executive vice president of international affairs for the PGA TOUR, said Tuesday a WGC event could be played in China as early as next year, more likely in 2009.
'Whether it's in China every year or not, those are details that haven't been worked out,' he said. 'The plan would be to have a presence in China on a regular basis.'
The San Diego Union-Tribune ran a mock trivia question last week asking who would be the first defensive back taken in the NFL draft. The answer was Tiger Woods.
Someone must have seen Woods' latest Buick commercial.
In one take, a fan runs up to him on the range and takes his stack of golf balls, then quickly returns and grabs his bag. Woods throws a ball and hits the man in the back, knocking him to the ground. Woods liked the commercial but felt it wasn't a natural reaction.
'If someone took my bag, I would do something a little bit more than just throw a golf ball at him,' he said. 'So I told the director, 'I have an idea. What do you think if I went out there and tried to grab the bag away from him?''
Only he didn't exactly grab him.
Woods lunged at the man and tackled him hard to the ground. What the commercial doesn't show is a small cut on the actor's forehead.
'As I got closer to him, I got into it a little bit,' Woods said. 'I got a little excited, and yeah, he had a little scratch on his forehead. Just a little scratch. He toweled off, and he was fine.'
After going 112 years without a corporate partner, the USGA now has two. Lexus has signed a deal to become the official car of the U.S. Open, U.S. Women's Open, U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Amateur. The USGA announced late last year a corporate partnership with American Express. ... Ryan Palmer withdrew from the Buick Invitational because his wife in Dallas went into labor. He got there with four hours to spare to see the birth of his first child, a son they named Mason Cooper. ... In the PGA TOUR's attempt to validate the Nationwide Tour as something more than a minor league, consider the disbursement of world ranking points Sunday. Miguel Carballo won the Nationwide event in Panama and received more ranking points than Andrew Buckle received for his tie for fourth at the Buick Invitational.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Since missing the cut at the U.S. Open, Tiger Woods is 166 under in his last 10 tournaments around the world, with 32 out of 40 of his rounds in the 60s.
'If you stick Tiger in anybody else's era, everybody else's total would be dramatically different.' -- David Duval.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
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.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
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
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
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.
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."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
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.
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.