Toasts of the West Coast

By Brian HewittFebruary 25, 2008, 5:00 pm
So what did we learn from the West Coast swing that Sunday concluded near Tucson where, ho-hum, Tiger Woods captured the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship?
 
For starters, we re-learned something we already knew. No, not that Woods is the best player on the planet. We re-learned that the West Coast swing is a misnomer.
 
Only three of the nine PGA TOUR events played in the U.S. so far this year are actually located on the West Coast. They are the Buick Invitational, the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the Northern Trust Open. The latter, by the way, played at Riviera Country Club, does not actually offer ocean views of the Pacific from the fairways.
 
Of the other six, the Mercedes-Benz Championship and the Sony Open are on the Pacific but not the West Coast. They take place in Hawaii.
 
The Bob Hope Chrysler Classic is staged in the Palm Springs area; the FBR Open lives in Phoenix; the Match Play is down the road in Tucson and the Mayakoba Open is hosted in Mexico.
 
Maybe officials could change the name to the Pacific Rim Swing With A Couple Of Desert Venues Thrown In. But that still wouldnt cover Mexico.
 
Anyway, back to the premise of this column:
 
We learned at Mercedes that Steve Strickers surprising ascent in the world rankings was not a fluke. The TOURs Comeback Player of the Years two years running dueled Daniel Chopra down the stretch at Kapalua only to lose in a playoff. By the time the guys got to Tucson for the Match Play, Stricker had shot all the way up to No. 3 in the world. And who did Stricker beat in the first round there? Daniel Chopra.
 
At the Sony Open we learned how good K.J. Choi really has become. He saws everything left to right off the tee. But he rarely misses a fairway he needs to hit. We should have known, when Choi won Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods official events last year, that his was a game on the come.
 
At the Hope we learned how difficult it is to play on the lead. A much-improved Justin Leonard began the final round four shots clear of D.J. Trahan. His swing didnt hold up under the gun and Trahan lapped him on Sunday. Same went for Vijay Singh at Pebble Beach. Early Sunday the tournament looked to be his. Then he started missing greens and eventual winner Steve Lowery started stringing birdies.
 
Dont worry about Leonard, though. Already this year he has four top-10s and is beginning to look like a lock for Paul Azingers Ryder Cup team in September.
 
At the FBR we learned again that long-hitting J.B. Holmes likes the TPC Scottsdale. Holmes posted his second win there by birdieing the difficult 18th to force a playoff with Phil Mickelson. On the first extra hole, which also took place on No. 18, Holmes birdied it again for the win.
 
Mickelson, who had made an 11 on the 14th hole at Pebble Beach on Saturday to ingloriously miss the cut, was undaunted. We re-learned that when he showed up at Riviera and emerged victorious there for the first time in his career. Dont look now but Woods, still oh-for-Riviera, might be jealous.
 
And, oops, speaking of Woods: We almost forgot his tour de force, multi-stroke win at Torrey Pines in the Buick Invitational. He has now won four straight times there and will be even more of an overwhelming favorite (than he already was) when the worlds best players return to Torrey Pines South course for the U.S. Open in June.
 
Finally, not to forget Brian Gay. The 36-year-old journeyman, who also happens to be one of the best putters in the game, got the monkey off his back in his 293rd PGA TOUR start with his victory at Mayakoba. Dont be surprised if you see him in the TOUR Championship at the end of the year.
 
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    Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

    By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

    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.

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    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

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    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 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.


    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."

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    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.

    @tommyfleetwood_1

    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.