Poulter man to beat at Volvo World Match Play

By Associated PressMay 16, 2012, 6:18 pm

CASARES, Spain – Given his excellent Ryder Cup record and his unprecedented double in individual match-play tournaments, Ian Poulter's preferred format for the 2016 Olympics is no surprise.

''I don't know where they are with their decision-making ... but I think match play would suit the Olympics better than a stroke-play event,'' the Englishman said Wednesday.

The proposed Olympic competition for men and women is a 72-hole individual stroke-play tournament, but Poulter surely would be installed among the favorites if there was a late change.

One of the grittiest players on the circuit, Poulter looks to be the man to beat when he defends his title at this week's World Match Play Championship in Spain.

''He seems to make the clutch putts,'' said Justin Rose, one of Poulter's rivals this week. ''He's just one of those competitive guys, eye-to-eye, hates to lose.''


Matchups for Round 1 of the Volvo World Match Play


Poulter, the only player to win the Accenture World Match Play in the U.S. and the Volvo version on the European Tour, ground out a 4 and 2 victory over Luke Donald – then the world's top player – a in last year's final.

Twelve months later, he has an even bigger incentive to win in southern Spain – it's the year of the Ryder Cup, an event close to Poulter's heart.

''I love match play. I love the buzz of it. I like looking straight at the guys you are playing. It puts you under pressure and it's a great format we don't play enough of,'' Poulter said. ''Especially being a Ryder Cup year, it would be important for me to have a big week this week.''

With the biennial match with the United States a little more than four months away, Europe's top players couldn't pick a better tournament to impress team captain Jose Maria Olazabal than the World Match Play Championship.

The world's top three players – Europeans Rory McIlroy, Donald and Lee Westwood – have decided to skip the event. But No. 9 Martin Kaymer, No. 12 Rose and 2010 Ryder Cup star Graeme McDowell are among the field.

Brandt Snedeker, who is vying for a spot on the U.S. team for the match in Medinah near Chicago from Sept. 28-30, is the only American in the 24-man field at the Finca Cortesin course near Malaga.

Snedeker hopes his clubs arrive for the event. On Monday, his plane made an emergency landing en route to Spain after a passenger suffered a heart attack. His suitcase and clubs were lost, forcing him to use a makeshift set for Wednesday's pro-am.

Snedeker was drawn in a group alongside veteran Dane Thomas Bjorn and South Africa's Branden Grace. There are eight groups of three players in the round-robin format, with the top two in each advancing to the last 16.

Grace is looking to become the first player to win four European Tour events in his first season after graduation from qualifying school.

The omens are good for the 23-year-old South African. He won his last match-play event in his native country six years ago.

''It's come all at once, it's a bit of a shock,'' Grace said of his current form after winning the China Open, Volvo Golf Champions and the Joburg Open. ''I couldn't ask for a better spot. I think at this time, I'm just running with the emotion and the positives.''

Sergio Garcia and fellow Spaniard Alvaro Quiros are in the same group along with Japan's Tetsuji Hiratsuka, while Rose, British Open champion Darren Clarke and Robert Rock will clash in an all-British group.

Clarke hasn't made a halfway cut all season and is without a top-10 finish since his victory at Royal St. George's last July.

''My pride has been hurt,'' Clarke said. ''I've been so frustrated with the whole thing because I've been trying so hard, too hard probably. Not to justify the Open win, but to back it up.''

Scotland's Paul Lawrie is one of five other major winners in the field and likely to make Europe's Ryder Cup lineup having already won the Qatar Masters this season. This will be the 1999 British Open winner's 500th European Tour event, making him only the 22nd player to achieve that feat.

Poulter is grouped with John Senden of Australia and Tom Lewis of England.

Finca Cortesin is hosting the tournament for the third straight year following the switch from its longstanding venue of Wentworth in England. Organizers said Tuesday that the event will be moved next year, possibly outside Europe for the first time in its illustrious 47-year history.

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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.