Chamblee: My unpredictable year in review

By Brandel ChambleeDecember 29, 2014, 1:05 pm

A year ago, in a preview for 2014, I made the case for Tiger Woods winning more than one major championship. No huge insight on my part; he had won five times in 2013 and, given his past success at this year’s major venues, I didn't see who or what would stop him. Of course, injury stopped him and I suppose we all could've seen that coming, but he looked so good last year, all of us wanted him to pick up where he left off in 2008.

The game may not need him - in fact I know the game doesn't “need” him - but the game is invigorated by him like never before. Sure, you could argue Francis Ouimet’s win in 1913 was as important to the growth of the game, as were Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan, and most certainly Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. But think of all those greats as ever-ascending notes in an opera, and Tiger took the crescendo to the highest octave. None of us want 2008 to have been his swan song.

But even without Tiger winning majors this past year, 2014 was memorable for many reasons and historic for at least a few.

Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie did in a major what Tiger and Phil never have – they played in the final group together on Sunday and finished first and second, respectively. The talent from the Wie-Thompson pairing and the forecast that came from it gave the LPGA an adrenaline shot in the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Bubba Watson did what he had done before - he won the Masters, thanks to final-round drives at the eighth, ninth and 13th holes that were the beastly equivalent of the C-shaped wedge shot he hit to set up his win in 2012.

The poetic storyline of a Phil Mickelson victory at Pinehurst No. 2, paying homage to Payne Stewart and putting a bow on Phil’s career, proved too good to be true, which is exactly how one could describe the play of Martin Kaymer that week, as he won the U.S. Open by eight.

Butch Harmon proved again why he is the No. 1 teacher in the world. Previously gifted with colossally talented students such as Greg Norman and Tiger Woods, his work with Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler was perhaps the clearest example in teaching today of the impact simple thoughts can have on a player.

Patrick Reed, in saying he was a top-five player in the world before he actually was a top-five player in the world, did his best Ian Poulter imitation. (Poulter had previously said that when he reaches his full potential, “It will be just Tiger and me.”) I’ll say this, though: Reed is a hell of a lot closer to being a top-five player than Poulter ever was to being as good as Tiger. Regardless, we should thank both of these players for having the guts to say what they think, even when it is so contrary to reason. Golf clap to both Patrick and Ian and here’s hoping Patrick picks up where he left off in 2014.

Rory McIlroy won two more majors this year, but most interestingly, he won the third leg of the career Grand Slam, as Mickelson had done in 2013, except Phil was 43 years old. McIlroy was only 25, and when he gets to Augusta National in 2015, should he prevail, he will be the second-youngest to win all four majors. Like Tiger did for so many years, in 2014, Rory exceeded the hype.

Ted Bishop pushed “send” when he should have pushed “delete” in his overreaction, “Lil’ Girl” retort to a book-promoting tweet by the ever-chirping Poulter. Bishop reminded all of us of the quote about taking a lifetime to build a reputation and seconds to destroy one, truer now than ever with Twitter. Almost nobody believes Bishop meant to be demeaning to women, but nor could anyone believe that someone who spoke for so many could speak so poorly.

The Ryder Cup. Nothing bores me more than answering the question of why the United States plays so poorly in this event. This is a circular debate, as in the Americans lose because they don’t come together as a team, and they don’t come together as a team because they are selfish. None of these premises can be proven to support the conclusion, so we always end up right back where we started. What is not boring is watching the Ryder Cup, which is my favorite three days in golf. This year, we were treated to an encore performance by the hilarity of let’s play Blame the Captain.

First, let me say that I have lost track of the number of times I have said Phil Mickelson is a gift to golf - he is. He wins often and plays with a recklessness that is a throwback to Arnold Palmer, and in dealing with crowds and the media he once again gets compared with the King. But what he did in the media center on Sunday night of the Ryder Cup, implying it was Tom Watson’s fault the U.S. lost, was something Arnold Palmer never would've done. It made the American side look even worse, which I didn’t think was possible.

Hence the task force, which is easy to make fun. In theory, getting a group of guys together to brainstorm about how to build a stronger team is hard to argue with; however, the guys you put on that committee should've either showed a passion for the Ryder Cup or been hugely successful in it or, better yet, both. So they put Tiger and Phil and Jim Furyk on the team, who when you consider their stature in the game, are the three worst U.S. Ryder Cup players in history. This would be like letting the guys who punched holes in the boat be in charge of building a new boat. No Paul Azinger, no Dave Stockton, no Ben Crenshaw, no Jack Nicklaus, and pardon me if this seems maudlin in my recruitment of members for the task force, but one has to go back a decade or two to find Ryder Cup passion, intellect and success.

The last thing I am going to say about the Ryder Cup is this: Larry Nelson was promised the captaincy in 1995, didn’t get it and then got stepped over by lesser major winners. What does one typically need to be a Ryder Cup captain? To have won the PGA Championship? Check. He won that twice. How about the national open? Check. How about success in the Ryder Cup? In his first nine matches in the Ryder Cup, he was 9-0. Check. Respect of your peers? Check. For added measure, he served his country on the front lines of battle, willing to put his life on the line for the freedoms we all enjoy. Find those credentials in a player today; go ahead and look. Good luck. Larry Nelson has them all and to those of you who say he's out of touch with today’s players, well, I say to you: How have all those captains who are in touch with today’s players been doing? If there is such a thing as karma for not fulfilling a promise, the PGA of America and U.S. Ryder Cup team are feeling it.

One hundred years from now, when some historian is reading about the year in golf for 2014,  I doubt any of the above stories will be placed above the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews deciding after 260 years to allow women as members. It was long overdue, and when Karen Crouse of The New York Times properly called such clubs “corridors of power,” she crystalized a point I had been unable to make to those who simply said, "What’s the big deal? Men just want to play with men."

So that’s it for the year, at least for me as it relates to golf. I hope all of you have a great holiday season and that your predictions for the New Year are better than mine were for 2014.

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.