Westwood, Kaymer try to get back on track in Qatar

By Associated PressFebruary 1, 2012, 2:04 pm

DOHA, Qatar – After forgettable performances in Abu Dhabi, third-ranked Lee Westwood and fourth-ranked Martin Kaymer are looking to get their 2012 seasons back on track with strong showings at the Qatar Masters.

They have chosen one of the most challenging courses on the European Tour’s desert swing to do it, however.

The Doha Golf Club just outside Doha is infamous for its windy conditions and this year will be no different. Forecasts are for winds to reach upward of 20 mph for much of the tournament.

Westwood struggled at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship and finished in a tie for 17th. Nursing a sore shoulder and unable to master the greens, the Englishman was even par after two rounds. By the time he started playing better, including a 4-under 68 in the third round, he was effectively out of contention and finished seven shots behind eventual winner Robert Rock.

“I had a few sort of issues to negotiate,” Westwood said. “We’ve been working a lot on my fitness just recently, and I haven’t played a lot coming into Abu Dhabi. Didn’t hole as many putts or find the greens there, a little difficult to read.”

Still, Westwood said his showing was “a decent start” and he was feeling good about his game after closing out the 2011 season strong. He won the Thailand Golf Championship in December and the Nedbank Challenge a few weeks earlier. He had a third-round score of 62 at Nedbank, and opened Thailand with a 60 – the lowest round of his career – and then a 64 to beat Charl Schwartzel by seven strokes.

“The ball is starting on line where I’m aiming, and my pace control was good. I only made one bogey over the weekend. Unfortunately that was a three-putt from long range,” Westwood said of his putting. “I think I was second in greens in regulation, so my game is fairly sharp. Like I said, I’m a notoriously slow starter and it always takes me a bit to get going.”

Westwood said his shoulder is feeling better and he was eager to tackle the Doha course – a place he has had mixed success. His best finish is third in 2010 but he missed the cut last year and finished several times outside the top 30.

“Looking forward to this week and playing a golf course I’ve done well in the past,” Westwood said. “Apparently the rough’s not as long as it was last year, but the weather man says it’s going to be fairly windy. And when it’s like that around here, it’s a really tough test.”

Kaymer had an even worse showing in Abu Dhabi, where he was the defending champion and had won the tournament three times. The 2010 PGA Championship winner opened with a 77 which he blamed on bad putting and missed the cut after shooting a 1-over 73 on Friday. The poor performance comes in the wake of a disappointing 2011 season in which he won twice, but struggled in the bigger events.

Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, and defending champion Thomas Bjorn will also be in Doha and eager to build on their strong showings in Abu Dhabi. Both players finished in a tie for third.

Joining them will be Hunter Mahan, who becomes the latest American to make his debut in the Middle East.

Mahan said he was feeling good despite the long trip to the Middle East. Calling it something he wanted to do after hearing fellow players rave about it, the 19th-ranked American said the Qatar tournament offers him a chance to test his game against some of the world’s top golfers and also to immerse himself in a new culture.

“I think it’s somewhat beneficial, I think, to be an American player coming over here because it’s not all about golf,” Mahan said.

“I really enjoy the opportunity to kind of travel and see different parts of the world,” he said. “When it’s time to play golf, it’s time to play golf. But like I said, getting out of your comfort zone is kind of a good thing, kind of makes you forced to focus and bear down a little bit and make sure you’re doing what you need to do to prepare for the week.”

Catch coverage of the Qatar Masters on Golf Channel: Thursday and Friday, 9AM-1PM ET; Saturday and Sunday, 8:30AM-12:30PM ET.

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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.


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."