The King of Wentworth

By Brian HewittOctober 15, 2007, 4:00 pm
All the important stuff in professional golf now is viewed through a prism. Its that time of year to be looking ahead to next year.
 
What did George McNeills smooth cruise to victory in Las Vegas Sunday mean to his confidence for next year now that his status on the PGA TOUR is no longer in question? Where will the remaining bubble boys finish in the final three Fall Series events?
 
What did the Sunday duel in the desert at the Samsung World Championship between Lorena Ochoa and Suzann Pettersen'won this time by Ochoa'mean for 2008 when we consider what looks to be the best new rivalry in the womens game?
 
Is Northern Irelands 18-year-old Rory McIlroy, with two top-5s in his last two Euro starts, the next big thing on the other side of the pond? And if so, how big?
 
And maybe the most compelling subject of all at the moment is the question of the immediate and intermediate term future of Ernie Els.
 
Els turns 38 Wednesday and it has been almost three and a half years since he won on the PGA TOUR at a venue in the States. There has been a knee injury and a prolonged recovery. There has been the renewed ascendancy of Tiger Woods. And there has been the incipient renaissance of Phil Mickelsons game under the tutelage of golf teacher/savant Butch Harmon.
 
Thing is, Els has still got it.
 
What it is is a glorious combination of power, touch, timing, tempo, athleticism, fundamentals and a keen distaste for defeat.
 
Never were all of his inordinate talents more on display than Sunday at Wentworth near his London home, where Els dispatched U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera, 6 and 4, in the finals of an endurance contest called the HSBC Match Play.
 
This was the seventh time Els has won this event, whose format demands 36 holes of match play four straight days from the survivors in an elite field limited to 16.
 
Just minutes after dusting Cabrera, Els was quick to point out that a certain Mr. Woods wasnt here this week.
 
But in the next breath Els was quicker to point out, If I can play this way, obviously I can give anybody a go.
 
You can be sure Woods people will relay that quote to Tiger, who is on an extended break from golf since last months Presidents Cup and Decembers Target World Challenge.
 
And it should be pointed out that the tone of Els comments were more of a slap on the side of the leg to himself than they were a challenge to Woods. I need to play more golf like this, Els said. I wish I could move Wentworth around the world with me.
 
Cabrera, who actually played better golf than Els in the earlier rounds of the HSBC, agreed. He lives here, Cabrera said of Els and Wentworth, a splendid old Harry Colt parkland design. He knows the course and the greens like his own back yard, which it is'his own back yard.
 
Before the advent of Woods on the play-for-pay scene, the whole world was Els own back yard, He won one of his two U.S. Opens and a few dozen other events worldwide before Woods turned pro late in 1996.
 
No other top player other than Els has had more difficulty adjusting to Woods dominance. Perhaps no other top player has more potential to take Tiger down when both are playing their best.
 
Els win Sunday was about more than just his love affair with Wentworth and home cooking and home field advantage. Remember, if Boo Weekley hadnt chipped in twice in a row late Sunday at Harbour Town in April, Els U.S. dry spell would have ended. And remember, Els was right there with the more written-about Woody Austin getting in Tigers face down the stretch at Southern Hills in the final round of the PGA Championship won by Woods in August.
 
Prior to the HSBC, Air-knee, as he is referred to by the delightfully knowledgeable and erudite Scottish golf broadcaster Renton Laidlaw, had quietly clawed his way back to No. 5 in the world rankings. By Monday morning he had inched past Steve Stricker and into the No. 4 slot.
 
Looking ahead to next year, its no stretch to envision Els leapfrogging No. 3 Jim Furyk. It will take prolonged work to get past Mickelson at No. 2.
 
But as long as were talking about 2008, would having a Big Three of Woods, Mickelson and Els elbowing each other for all the big checks and major championships be such a bad thing? And is that an unrealistic expectation?
 
I think not. I hope not.
 
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
 
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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.