Singh Back for Title Defense

By Associated PressSeptember 7, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 Bell Canadian OpenVANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Regardless of what happens the rest of the week, Vijay Singh has already given the Canadian Open a huge lift -- just by showing up.
 
With Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and other top players passing up the world's third oldest pro tournament, the presence of the defending champion and second-ranked player in the world is huge.
 
Singh injured his back a couple of weeks ago playing ping pong with his son and withdrew from last week's Deutsche Bank Championship. Singh's decision to defend his title in the Canadian Open was great news for a tournament short on headliners.
 
``The back is fine,'' Singh said Wednesday. ``I could have a slight herniated disc, but at my age, the guy says everybody has that.''
 
Tournament officials insist this year's field is just fine, too.
 
``I'm always disappointed when Tiger doesn't come, but the field is as good as it's ever been,'' said Stephen Ross, executive director of the Royal Canadian Golf Association, which runs the tournament.
 
Maybe so, but Mickelson, Kenny Perry and Davis Love III are among the tour's household names who played the Canadian Open last year at Glen Abbey and aren't here this week. With a few extra spots to work with, 16 Canadian players, including three amateurs, are in the field.
 
Part of the Canadian Open's problem is that the PGA Tour schedule puts it right in the middle of a pair of tournaments on the East Coast -- the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston and next week's 84 Lumber event in Pennsylvania. It also didn't help that the Deutsche Bank's final round wasn't played until Monday.
 
Some players apparently weren't willing to make the long trip west after the extended stay in Boston, then have to travel back across the U.S. to play in Pennsylvania.
 
``It definitely hurt us,'' Ross said of the PGA's scheduling.
 
Even Olin Browne, a journeyman tour player who scored a rare win at the Deutsche Bank, pulled out.
 
Stephen Ames, a native of Trinidad who now is a Canadian citizen, said Wednesday the PGA Tour schedule favors tournaments on U.S. soil.
 
``It feels like we're being kicked back into a secondary category,'' Ames said. ``I wish (PGA Tour commissioner) Tim (Finchem) would look at that. We have so many foreign players now that we should share the wealth rather than just thinking Americans all the time.''
 
The tournament also could use another stirring Sunday finish like last year's at Glen Abbey, where Singh beat Canadian Mike Weir on the third hole of a playoff.
 
Weir took a three-shot lead over Singh with eight holes to play and with 40,000 fans cheering him on and pulling against Singh, Weir appeared ready to become the first Canadian in 50 years to win the national tournament.
 
But Weir's putting abandoned him down the stretch. Three times he stood over a putt to win -- a 10-foot birdie on the 72nd hole, a 25-foot eagle on the 18th hole in the playoff and a 5-footer for par at No. 17 on the second extra hole. He missed them all.
 
Singh said Wednesday he'd welcome a similar scenario this week.
 
``Coming down the stretch, if I'm playing with Mike Weir and I win again, it won't bother me at all,'' Singh said.
 
Singh's game is good enough to get him into the final group every week, but Weir has struggled since finishing fifth at the Masters in April. He came down with a stomach virus that was bad, he fell asleep on his bathroom floor and awoke the next morning with a wrenched back. He tried to come back too quickly and missed the cut in six of his next seven tournaments. Since then, his best finish has been a tie for 15th at The International.
 
He says he's feeling better now and his game is starting to come around.
 
``Physically, I feel 95 percent. Mentally, I feel very confident, more confident right now than I have at any point in the year.''
 
Singh has won four times this year and is second on the year's money list behind Woods with $7.3 million. He plans to play in four more tournaments and still has a shot at being the tour's leading money winner for the third year in a row.
 
Singh has defended two of the nine tournament wins he had a year ago -- at Houston and at the Buick Open -- and a win this week would make him the first back-to-back Canadian Open winner since Jim Ferrier did it 54 years ago.
 
Related links:
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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.

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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

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    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."