Tales From the Tour

By Associated PressDecember 30, 2003, 5:00 pm
Never judge a golf season by first impressions.
 
Ernie Els won four times in his first six tournaments (he finished second by one shot in the other two) and was poised to challenge Tiger Woods. Then, he injured his wrist on a punching bag and never regained his momentum.
 
Els won seven times around the world, but his only PGA Tour victories were in January.
 
Vijay Singh tucked a baseball-sized sponge just below his left armpit while working on his swing during a five-hour session on the range in February. That led to a rib injury that sidelined him for five weeks, the longest layoff of his life.
 
Singh wound up having the best season of his career and ended Woods reign atop the PGA Tour money list.
 
As for Woods?
 
He missed the first five weeks of the year recovering from knee surgery, but still had the most wins (5), the lowest scoring average and, despite no majors, was voted PGA Tour player of the year for the fifth straight time.
 
It was a memorable year, full of moments that went beyond birdies and bogeys, green jackets and claret jugs, and women playing against men.
 
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About midway through Singhs marathon session at Torrey Pines with the sponge ball, Steven Alker showed up on the range and placed a beach ball between his knees as he worked on his short irons.
 
Someone pointed out this training device to Singh and jokingly suggested he give it a try.
 
Singh looked over at Alker and said, Anyone who uses something like that doesnt know what the hell hes doing.
 
When the weekend arrived, Singh was home with a rib injury and Alker was two shots out of the lead.
 
But perhaps Singh was right.
 
By years end, Alker finished 163rd on the money list and failed to get his PGA Tour card at Q-school.
 
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Hal Sutton has always been one of the most outspoken players. His no-nonsense approach and Louisiana drawl always makes for a good interview.
Now that hes the Ryder Cup captain, the PGA of America sent Sutton to media training.
 
A reporter approached him on the range at Doral and asked him what he learned.
They said I cant talk to you anymore, Sutton said, laughing to himself before he resumed hitting balls.
 
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The first round of the Masters was a washout, leading to two of the longest days at Augusta National as players tried to squeeze 54 holes into Friday and Saturday.
 
Mike Weir completed his second round Saturday morning, and a four-stroke lead gave him time to eat lunch and relax for a few minutes in the players lounge.
Weir looked peaceful as he thumbed through a book on the coffee table, The Greatest in the Game.

One day later, the Canadian was wearing a green jacket.
 
Jerry Kelly grew up playing hockey and is aggressive by nature, which isnt always a good fit on the golf course.

He was walking along a path at the Memorial with a glare in his eyes after the third round when he saw a reporter he knows coming the other direction. Without warning, Kelly threw his shoulder into the reporter ' a hockey check ' and knocked him back about 5 feet.
 
Kelly kept walking, then looked back over his shoulder and smiled.
Thanks, man, he said. I feel a lot better.
 
Inside the press room, one look at the scoreboard said it all.
 
Kelly had just shot 84.
 
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No one answers more questions about bad backs than Fred Couples, who has been dealing with aches and pains for nearly 10 years.
 
He was weary after a long opening round at the British Open, where he shot even-par 71. A radio reporter from the BBC cornered him and began a long list of questions, all of which Couples already had answered.
 
The topic shifted to the inevitable.
 
What does an old man with a bad back do now? the reporter said.

He leaves on this question, Couples said dryly, then turned and walked away.
 
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A group of men in dark suits huddled outside the bathrooms in the clubhouse at Champions Golf Club during the final round of the Tour Championship.
 
They were the security detail for former President Bush, who had been watching Woods play the front nine. Bush stopped by to say hello to PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, and Barbara Bush headed for the ladies room.
 
Minutes later, Woods fiancee, Elin Nordegren, went into the restroom as Mrs. Bush was walked out.
 
They stopped and looked at each other, as if they had seen each other before but couldnt remember where, and then went their own way.
 
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The big debate this year was whether golf should have equipment regulations for professionals and amateurs. The Royal & Ancient Golf Club and the U.S. Golf Association oppose two sets of rules.
 
How can you create different rules? R&A secretary Peter Dawson said while working as a rules official on the 13th green at The Players Championship. How is this good for the game?
 
About that time, Woods walked off the green. Despite sitting out five weeks, he won three of his first four starts.
 
Dawson smiled, wondering if everyone was missing the point.
 
This technology is supposed to be the great equalizer, Dawson said. And yet, Tiger has still very much separated himself, hasnt he?
 
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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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.


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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.

@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.