Players Not Sold on New Houston Open Course

By Associated PressApril 25, 2006, 4:00 pm
HUMBLE, Texas-- The Shell Houston Open will move to the weekend before The Masters next year, a change organizers hope will lure a more star-studded field.
It's not the date, but the course that could keep many away.

The Tournament Course at Redstone, where Stuart Appleby shot 19 under last weekend to win the event, got a lukewarm response from the players, most of whom were seeing it for the first time.
Vijay Singh won the previous two Houston Opens at the adjacent Jacobsen/Hardy course at Redstone. The event moved to the 7,457-yard Rees Jones layout this year.
Singh said too many of the holes look the same.
'The golf course did not grow on me,' said Singh, the 2000 Masters winner. 'Normally, the more you play, the more it grows on you. I just hope they go back to the old golf course next year. I think that's the consensus of most of the players.'
Bob Estes, who finished second to Appleby, didn't like the distance between holes. The second tee was more than a quarter mile from the first green and though players had carts waiting to shuttle them, Estes said the process backed up play.
'It's just so spread out, the rounds were really long, and that's the downside of it,' Estes said.
Appleby led wire-to-wire and won by six shots. Naturally, he liked the course, but said it was not the ideal tuneup for Augusta. But he added that no course really is and said most players only play the week before majors for the competition.
'Certainly, if I play like this next year going into Augusta, I'll have the next event to gain the momentum and the vibe going in,' he said.
Others did have compliments for the new course north of Houston, which former PGA champion David Toms helped Jones design.
John Daly, who drew the largest galleries last week despite finishing tied for 59th, said the new course was more demanding than the old one off the tee.
'The other one, you can rip driver on all the par 4s and par 5s and this one here, you can't,' he said. 'But I do like it. It's an awesome golf course.'
Outside of a few long walks, Estes enjoyed it, too.
'It's definitely hard enough to challenge all of us,' he said.
Larry Mize, who won The Masters in 1987, said The Tournament Course does have similarities to Augusta.
'You've got big, undulating greens and your iron play is as key as it is at Augusta,' said Mize, who finished at even-par last week. 'You can get some Augusta-like putts out here. I think it can work as a warmup.'
The Houston Open was often played the week before the Masters in the late 1980s and early '90s. It was two weeks before The Masters in 2002, the final year it was played at the TPC at The Woodlands.
It got the late April time slot in 2003, and tournament director Steve Timms said organizers asked the PGA Tour for a change. While acknowledging organizers hope to draw more marquee stars with the move, Timms said the request was also made to protect the course's condition.
Last week, the course was in transition between its winter and summer grasses, requiring more water. Estes said the fairways felt overwatered.
Timms said the course will play firmer and faster -- and more like Augusta -- in late March because of a reduced need for water. The Jones layout will host the event for at least the next six years.
'We're on a heavily overseeded golf course, and playing earlier, with the temperatures here as they are in late March, that works perfectly for us,' Timms said.
Timms isn't expecting Tiger Woods to change his usual routine of skipping the tournament before any major. But Timms expected to draw a few more marquee names than this year's did.
'We were going to take whatever date we got and do the best we could,' he said. 'This will give us a higher probability of attracting a good field. Now, it's just up to us to do all the things we need to do to make this an event players want to play in.'
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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 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.

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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.


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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.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."