First Names Say it All

By Brian HewittMarch 3, 2008, 5:00 pm
Lorena and Ernie. We had gotten so used to Annika and Tiger. And to be sure, the time of Sorenstam and Woods has not yet passed. But the point is, in golf now, when we say Lorena and Ernie there is no need to mention their last names which, by the way, are Ochoa and Els.
Lorena won in Singapore Sunday, lapping a strong LPGA field. Ernie outlasted everybody in Florida, shooting the low round of the day in trying conditions to beat 54-hole co-leader Luke Donald by a shot.
For Els it was his first victory on American soil in almost four years. You have to go back to the 2004 Memorial for the Big Easys last win in the States.
We play out here to win, he said after the round. I guess we get addicted to that feeling and when you dont get your rush, so to speak, you miss it.
You can make the argument that nobody in mens golf needed that rush more than Ernie. He has talked openly about the demons inside his head. He worked with golf shrink Bob Rotella extensively during the week at the Honda Classic. And now his head is clear as the games focus turns toward Augusta and the Masters Tournament five weeks away.
As compelling as the golf was at Palm Beach Gardens, it was impossible to ignore what happened on the womens side in Singapore.
World No. 1 Lorenas 11-shot victory at the HSBC Womens Champions was an eye-opener. The LPGA margin of victory record for 72 holes is 14 shots and was set by Cindy Mackey back in 1986.
Even more of an eye opener was who Lorena beat in Singapore. Second place belonged to World No. 2 Annika Sorenstam. Third place money went to Paula Creamer. This was the LPGAs third event of the year. Sorenstam won the first, Creamer the second.
With apologies to Suzann Pettersen and Karrie Webb, can you say Big Three in womens golf?
Singapores was Ochoas 2008 debut. Can you say style? Can you say statement?
We have no idea what course she was playing out here, said Creamer afterward.
Annika was impressed, too. But not quite ready to concede Ochoas superiority. Shes playing well, Sorenstam said. But its nothing I dont think thats not achievable by any means. I think Im playing as good from tee to green. So Im very proud of the way I hit it.
To put Ochoas 20 under in perspective, only 13 players in the field were below par for the week. I took my game to a new level, she said. So Im going to keep trying to repeat myself.
People are beginning to wonder who will lose first in 2008, Tiger or Lorena? They used to ask these questions about Tiger and Annika. Its an honor to be compared, Ochoa said. Im going to try to go after him.
The LPGA has just two events on its schedule before the years first major, the Kraft Nabisco, which is a month away. Before that they will go to Mexico City where Ochoa will be a heavy favorite in her native land. And then they will play the Safeway in Arizona where Sorenstam famously beat Ochoa in a playoff in 2005. Ochoa is the defending champion there.
Looks for Ernie at the PODS Championship this week followed by Arnolds tournament at Bay Hill and the WGC-CA at Doral.
Soon enough there will be majors: Kraft Nabisco for the women and, the week after that, the Masters.
Dont take your eyes off Lorena and Ernie.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - The Honda Classic
  • Full Coverage - HSBC Women's Champions
  • Getty Images

    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

    Getty Images

    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 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."

    Getty Images

    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.

    Getty Images

    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."