Flanagan Stepping on the Gas
Still, Flanagan told me Tuesday, Id like to get it out on the road and play with it a little bit. Ive never really owned a car.
Life is good right now for the 22-year-old former U.S. Amateur champion. Never mind that he failed to advance out of Mondays local qualifying at Pinewild (near Pinehurst) in North Carolina because his 1-under-par score for 18 holes wasnt good enough by two shots. And never mind that disappointment means he wont get to go back to Oakmont (the site of his 2003 U.S. Am victory) where theyre staging the U.S. Open next month.
Flanagan has won his last two starts on the Nationwide Tour. One more in calendar 2007 and he automatically earns an instant promotion to the PGA TOUR. Finishing in the top 25 on the money list is a virtual certainty which means, he said, he can play to win without worrying about money.
Thats my goal for the rest of the year, he said of the very real prospect of winning three Nationwide events. Theres no pressure to get in the top 25.
The last player to win three straight Nationwide Tour events was Jason Gore during his memorable 2005 season. Flanagan will try and duplicate that feat this week at the Mellwood Prince Georges County Open in Maryland.
TWO GLOVES, NO SPOT:
Speaking of the Nationwide Tour, tournament director Teo Sodeman confirmed that Tommy Two Gloves Gainey requested an unrestricted sponsors exemption for this weeks event.
Gainey emerged as the winner of GOLF CHANNEL's Big Break VII: Reunion in the final episode broadcast Tuesday night. Through 54 holes at the BMW tournament last week he shared the lead. A Sunday 77 dropped him out of the top 25 which cost him an automatic berth at Mellwood.
Sodeman turned down Gaineys request and opted instead to invite two local golfers, former Naval Academy standout Billy Hurley and former University of Maryland player Del Ponchock.
His spectacular crash and burn at the Open Championship in 1999 at Carnoustie is still the signature moment of Frenchman Jean Van de Veldes career.
Now Van de Velde has confirmed he hopes to return to the scene of his infamy at this years British in July.
Earlier this year, R&A Secretary Peter Dawson announced his organization would not extend a wild card invitation to Van de Velde for Carnoustie. That means Van de Velde, currently ranked No. 179 in the world, will have to qualify.
All indications are that he will attempt to do so at the European International Final Qualifying set for July 2 at Sunningdale in England. As many as 120 players will play 36 holes that day at Sunningdale with spots going to no fewer than 12 players and no more than 20.
Im not playing very well at the moment, Van de Velde told The Daily Mail last week after rounds of 76 and 79 shut him out of weekend play at the Irish Open.
As to a return to Carnoustie: Of course I want to be there, Van de Velde said. Who would not be keen to play in a major championship? I have to qualify and I think I have got as good a chance as the vast majority of players. Would there be a hullabaloo around me? I dont know. But if so, it wouldnt be a distraction. I would be encouraged by it.
At Carnoustie in 1999 Van de Velde squandered a three-shot lead on the 72nd hole before losing a three-way playoff, that included Justin Leonard and Scotlands Paul Lawrie, the eventual winner.
Lawrie is in the field at Carnoustie by virtue of being a past champion. But its interesting to note that his current world ranking, 248, is 69 places worse than Van de Veldes.
Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
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.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
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
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
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.
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."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
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.
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.