Steve Flesch By the Numbers
Two is very often the number of wins a PGA Tour player needs to prove to himself that he's good enough.
Steve Flesch won his second PGA Tour event Sunday on his 37th birthday at the Bank of America Colonial.
Flesch won for a lot of reasons, many of them having to do with numbers.
He tied for first in putting for the week. He got up and down five times in five tries from bunkers Sunday en route to shooting 67-67 on the weekend and finishing 11 under par, which was good enough to beat Chad Campbell by two shots.
Flesch played the front nine at venerable Colonial in 9 under par over four days and made no bogeys on the outward half all week. He played the 'Horrible Horseshoe,' Colonial's difficult stretch of holes from three through five, in 4 under par.
For his efforts, he won $954,000, moved to ninth place on the Ryder Cup points list and ninth place on the PGA Tour money list.
For much of the week it seemed like the magic number was 61. Kenny Perry had distanced himself from the field last year with a Saturday 9-under 61 that tied the course record and moved him eight strokes ahead of Rory Sabbatini.
Perry would need much of that lead when Texan Justin Leonard carved out a 61 of his own Sunday to make a run. Needing a birdie on the 72nd hole to shoot 59, Leonard bogeyed instead and wound up second, four back of winner Perry.
Campbell's Saturday 61 this year was even more remarkable, mainly because of the gusty and lusty Fort Worth winds that blew all day long. Campbell served notice early with a drive on the par-5 first that stopped 364 yards from the tee. A 190-yard 6-iron to 9 feet set up an opening eagle that Campbell quickly followed with two birdies.
He was off to the races. Even two bogeys couldn't slow him down. At the end of the day, his 61 had helped him forge a three-way tie with Fort Worth native Brian Gay and The Golf Channel's own Flesch.
None of the players were surprised by Campbell's 61. Many of them had been there in Houston last year at The Tour Championship when Campbell hung a 61 on the board at the Champions Golf Club's Cypress Creek course, also on Saturday.
That number represented a course and tournament record and enabled Campbell's Sunday 68 to provide a three-shot victory margin over runner-up Charles Howell III.
But it was Flesch, a ballstriker's ballstriker who had the numbers that counted on a course named 'Hogan's Alley' after Ben Hogan, probably the best ballstriker of all time.
'As well as I hit the ball all week,' Flesch said when it was all over, 'it would have been a shame if I hadn't won.'
For at least one week, Steve Flesch had everybody's number.
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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.