Sandbagger Cleared

By Brian HewittFebruary 27, 2008, 5:00 pm
In the wake of the flap surrounding the team portion of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, amateur Billy Walters has been cleared by tournament officials amid questions that his 11 handicap was inflated.
 
Walters, is the erstwhile Las Vegas golf hustler, who won the event with pro partner Fredrik Jacobson by a record 10 shots. When Jacobson finished 4-under on his ball, many people assumed Walters accounted for the other 34 of the teams 38 under total. In actuality, Jacobson made 15 birdies and two eagles over 72 holes. And Walters, who didnt break 80 on his own ball in any of the four rounds, played well on the holes Jacobson faltered.
 
It was classic ham and egg as Walters described it.
 
Meanwhile a former USGA official told GOLF CHANNEL the pros are the ones that need to be investigated in the handicap department.
 
The pros are grossly over-handicapped, said the official. If the pros had a handicap, they would come in at +5 to +7. Put Vijay Singh on a high slope rated course with a +7.1 Handicap Index and his Course Handicap would be +9. He plays as a scratch so he gets nine free shots every round. Thats 36 freebies over four days.
 
The pros, said the official, are the real but silent handicap crooks here.
 
FREDDIE A RYDER CUP CAPTAIN?:
Any hopes Freddie Couples harbored of one day being a Ryder Cup captain died Tuesday when the TOUR announced he would captain the 2009 U.S. Presidents Cup team..Or did they?
 
Couples will be almost 53 in 2012, the next available opportunity for him to captain the U.S. Ryder Cup squad. The last U.S. captain anywhere near that old was Jackie Burke, 50 years of age, way back in 1973.
 
Nicklaus, Palmer, Watson, Trevino, Kite, Crenshaw, Strange'they were all still in their 40s when they held the job.
 
PGA of America CEO Joe Steranka declined to comment on the candidacies of Couples or any other potential future captains late Tuesday. But, he told me, his organization looks for captains with, among other things, recent Ryder Cup experience and peers on the team. Couples, it must be noted, hasnt played on a Ryder Cup team in 11 years.
 
But maybe he will be the exception that proves the rule. We do, after all, call seniors Champions these days. Maybe the wildly-popular Couples could turn out to be the right man for the Ryder Cup job four years from now. Given the Americans' poor record in recent Ryder Cups, perhaps they need a captain a little longer in the tooth.
 
Meanwhile Steranka said we can expect to learn the name of the 2010 U.S. Ryder Cup captain some time between the end of this years matches in Louisville and the beginning of the points qualifying period for the next team.
 
Corey Pavin, who will be 50 at the time of the 2010 matches, is the early favorite for that captaincy. Dont be surprised if Davis Love III gets the nod for 2012. He will be 48 during those matches scheduled for Medinah near Chicago.
 

NOTHING FLIES LIKE A:
The road to Royal Birkdale is paved withtractor tracks?
 
Officials at the John Deere Classic are thinking outside the box in the ultra-competitive arena of recruiting players to come to their event. And it isnt easy when your July dates are the week before the Open Championship (to be played this year at Royal Birkdale in England) and your venue is Silvis, Ill.
 
The tournament has chartered the same 767 jet used by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and his team. It is configured with 102 seats, all of them first class.
 
Tournament director Clair Peterson has been visiting TOUR stops this year and handing players a mock one-way boarding pass, which promises, among other things, hassle-free security and customs screening, no risk of lost luggage and two full meals served in flight.
 
The cost: A player must commit to play in the John Deere Classic. Once that player does, Peterson will reserve up to three seats per player. There is a requested minimum donation of $1,000 per seat which will go towards the tournaments charity fund.
 
That $1,000 number, by the way, is significantly cheaper than any first class seats available through the airlines. A Monday spot check with United Airlines priced out a Chicago-Manchester first class round trip (on the British Open dates) at 6,759.90. One way was a whopping $5,271.40.
 
Better yet, the flight, which will leave at 8 p.m. Sunday after final round play concludes at the John Deere, leaves from Moline and lands in Manchester (close to Birkdale) at 8:30 a.m. Monday. Moline is just minutes from the TPC Deere Run. Normally players heading over to the U.K. from the John Deere Classic Sunday have to hustle the two hours over to Chicago and hop a commercial jet there.
 
The non-stop 767 gives them the most hassle-free way to get to the U.K., plus allows them to pick up Ryder Cup and FedExCup points in a full-status event the week before, said John Deere tournament director Clair Peterson. It has changed the way they view us. Now, if youre playing in the British Open, you have a great reason to also play in the John Deere Classic as well.
 
Peterson added the response from TOUR players has been very positive. Tom Lehman, for example, already has requested the full allotment of three seats and will take six (three more for family members) if extra seats become available.
 

AND FINALLY:
Heres an unsolicited suggestion to the good folks who run the LG Skins Game in late November: Suspend the qualifying requirements for one year and bring together the captains.
 
Thats right, make it Faldo, Azinger, Norman and Couples.
 
Id pay to watch that.
 

Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.