Rocha leads Reno Tahoe; Daly lurks nearby

By Associated PressAugust 4, 2012, 2:53 am

RENO, Nev. – Alexandre Rocha says one of the reasons he has never won on the PGA Tour is that he often gets off to slow starts.

That wasn't a problem Friday when the 34-year-old Brazilian opened birdie-birdie-birdie-eagle on the way to the top of the second-round leaderboard in the Reno-Tahoe Open.

''I was fortunate to get off to the hottest start I think I've ever had in my professional career,'' said Rocha, who finished the day with seven birdies, three bogeys and the eagle.

He had a two-day total of 24 points in the modified Stableford scoring system that rewards aggressive play with eight points for double eagle, five for eagle, two for birdie, zero for par, minus-one for bogey and minus-three for double bogey or worse.

J.J. Henry had his second eagle of the tourney, and John Mallingerhad six birdies Friday to move into a tie for second at 22.

First-round leader Andres Romero of Argentina and Arjun Atwal ofIndia had 21 points, and 2010 Reno-Tahoe winner Matt Bettencourt followed with 20. John Daly was seventh with 19. He birdied six of his last 10 holes.

Rocha has won nine times around the world since 2000, when he was an All-America selection at Mississippi State and recalls once opening a round with 12 consecutive 3s.

''But never as a professional either in Europe or on the PGA Tour have I started with 5 under through four holes,'' he said. ''It always helps to create momentum, which is something I've been missing all year long.''

Starting on the back nine on the 7,472-yard Montreux Golf & Country Club layout, Rocha made a pair of 10-foot birdie putts and added a third when he hit his approach to 4 feet on the 429-yard, par-4 12th.

After holing an 11-foot eagle putt on the 518-yard 13th, he bogeyed two of the next three holes, but rallied and settled for his final birdie on the 636-yard, par-5 eighth when he missed another eagle attempt from 14 feet.

Mallinger, who has four finishes in the top 25 this year but also is seeking his first PGA Tour win, is among those in the field who had never before played in the Stableford format last used on tour at the 2006 International in Colorado.

''I'm actually having a tough time keeping up with the points,'' Mallinger said. ''I'm just trying to get used to it ... getting the score out of my mind and just playing golf.''

''But I like it,'' he added quickly, noting that he jumped from 38th place to fifth when he eagled his penultimate hole in the opening round. ''It should be an exciting finish.''

Daly, the winner of the 1991 PGA Championship and 1995 British Open, hasn't won on tour since the 2004 Buick Invitational. He had two bogeys and a double bogey but reeled off three straight birdies making the turn and closed with two more - the last a 2-footer after nearly holing out his approach for an eagle on the par-4 ninth.

''For me, this is a great format,'' said Daly, who has made the cut only once in five previous tries at Reno but now has made eight cuts in 10 events this year, his best a tie for 12th last month in the Greenbrier Classic.

''You can get real aggressive. There's a lot of birdie holes out there. The fairways are generous,'' the long-ball hitter said.

Padraig Harrington, who was tied for 23rd in a group with David Duval with 14 points, said he's had trouble with ''a lot of calculations'' on the mountain course where the ball travels farther on the edge of the Sierra Nevada than it does at sea level.

''I've got quite a bit of ground to make up,'' said the Irishman who has three major titles. ''I'm a little frustrated to be honest.''

''You've got to get the yardage, you've got to add on whatever pace you are off the sprinkler, then you've got to add on or take off for downhill. And then you've got to add on for the pin and then you've got carry in over a bunker, say, and then you've got to adjust it by 5 percent in the morning and maybe a little more in the afternoon.''

Mike Weir and Camilo Villegas were among those who failed to make the cut in the field vying for a $3 million purse while the world's best compete at the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational at Akron, Ohio.

Henry has three top-10 finishes this year, including a tie for third at the Byron Nelson Championship and is bidding for his second career win on the PGA Tour.

''As much as you'd like to be playing in Akron, this is a fun place to come,'' Henry said. He bogeyed his first two holes Friday said he was able to recover partly due to the scoring system when he rolled in a 25-foot eagle on the 636-yard eighth.

''A birdie and a bogey is better than two pars. And if you can make a couple of eagles, you're going to jump over a lot of guys.''

J.B. Holmes, tied for eighth with Hunter Haas after tallying all but one of his 18 points on Friday, said he tries not to look at the leaderboard.

''You've just got to keep it going knowing that it's not strokes,'' said Holmes, who had nine birdies and a bogey. ''Somebody could be six spots back and make an eagle and all of a sudden they're right there.''

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One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

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Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 2:11 pm

The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...

Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy

McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.

McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.

Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.

“When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.

And that was an offseason event.

“They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.

As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.

So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.

“Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”

Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson

Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.

His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.

It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.

There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.

There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.

While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.

There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.

Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth

Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.

He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.

Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.