Players Could Expect Shootout in Houston

By Associated PressMarch 29, 2007, 4:00 pm
2006 Shell Houston OpenHUMBLE, Texas -- Stuart Appleby set a course record in the first round, broke 70 on all four days and finished 19-under-par to win last year's Houston Open.
 
He thinks he'll have to go even lower to lift the crystal trophy this time.
 
The Houston Open is back at the Tournament Course at Redstone that drew mixed reviews from the players in its debut a year ago.
 
The tournament was moved from late April to the week before the Masters and organizers have tried to mimic the conditions at Augusta, speeding up the greens, trimming the rough and shaving down slopes around water hazards.
 
However, unless a stiff south Texas breeze blows all weekend, Appleby thinks the tournament will look more like the Las Vegas Invitational than a major championship.
 
'If this course stays soft, it will be very easy, which is not Augusta,' said Appleby, who hasn't won since last year's event. 'If it plays firm, fast and windy, it will make us think more Augusta thoughts.'
 
Tournament officials were hoping the new date and their attempts to mirror Augusta would draw an A-list field.
 
Instead, most of the top players bypassed Houston and headed straight to the real thing, while the Houston Open was once again left without stars such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and, now, even three-time champion Vijay Singh.
 
PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem said the Houston Open was chosen as the event before Masters week because of the course's similarities to Augusta. It's slotted as the Masters warmup through 2012 and Finchem expects the fields to get better as word gets out about the quality of the course.
 
'It's going to take another year or two for the impact of the golf course to sink in,' Finchem said.
 
Though many of the big names stayed away, the new date lured many of the international players who'll play at Augusta. Former Masters champions Jose Maria Olazabal and Bernhard Langer are here, along with Argentinian Angel Cabrera, Irishman Padraig Harrington and Englishman Lee Westwood.
 
The highest ranked player in this week's field is Adam Scott, who's trying to become the sixth Australian to win in Houston. Along with Appleby, and Bruce Devlin, Bruce Crampton, David Graham and Robert Allenby have also won the event.
 
Like Appleby, Scott thinks the Tournament Course is there for the taking this week. He projected the winning score at 20-under or better.
 
'I think there are going to be a lot of birdies this week,' Scott said. 'The wind is the only thing preventing it. But still, even if it's windy, it's going to be 20-under, something like that.'
 
Appleby would still take the score he had last year. He missed two cuts this year and his best finish was a tie for 13th at Kapalua, where he's won three times.
 
'I haven't played any good all year,' Appleby said. 'I haven't moved with the herd, you know? Stuck out of the back with the dog nipping at my heels. I've got to get moving some.'
 
While the Houston Open was the highlight of Appleby's 2006, it kick-started Steve Stricker's campaign.
 
Stricker played only three tournaments before finishing third in Houston last year. He rode the momentum to top-10 finishes at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship and finished the year with $1.8 million in earnings, a career high.
 
'I just started feeling some good things in my swing,' Stricker said. 'I was working hard at home and feeling those good things and finally, I started to see it in some of the tournaments I was playing. It just kind of steamrolled.'
 
Stricker and Appleby were two of 53 players to finish under par last year.
 
Course architect Rees Jones, who oversaw the changes, hopes the Tournament course isn't too easy. He said the alterations were done to force players to make more creative shots -- like the ones they'll face at Augusta.
 
'They're going to have to lob shots or pitch shots into slopes,' Jones said. 'They'll have a lot of options.'
 
Like Finchem, Jones said he hopes the majority of players will eventually embrace the Redstone course.
 
'When they play it, they're going to talk to one another, about how they liked it,' Jones said. 'And then, more will play it and more will come. The word will get out.'
 
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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

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    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

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    ''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

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    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.