Top Billing for European Golf

By Brian HewittOctober 11, 2004, 4:00 pm
It was the first time in recent memory in this country that I can recall the Euros stealing the show.

Yes, in my opinion, the dunhill links Championship, won Sunday at The Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland by Stephen Gallacher, was more compelling than the Michelin Championship at Las Vegas.

This is not to say that Andre Stolz 21-under par victory in Vegas was not without its moments. Fact is, 21 is rarely a bad number for the players in the gaming capitol of the world.

And it was terrific to see Tom Lehman back in the hunt again late Sunday. The short putt he missed on the 71st hole at the TPC at Summerlin cost him a shot at a playoff with Aussie Stolz. But ever since switching to the long putter in Canada early last month, the 45-year-old Lehman has gone a long way toward exorcising his putting demons.

And how about Tag Ridings? He has been playing on a major medical extension this year after injuring his back early in 2003. All he did Sunday, going off the 10th tee, was card a tidy little 61 to earn a share of second place and guarantee himself PGA Tour status in the top 150 for 2005. If Ridings wins more than $140,000 in his next eight events, he will be fully exempt next year.

But the weekend belonged to the boys on the other side of the pond. Maybe to the victor goes the spoils. Four of the top 10 finishers at the dunhill links--Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and David Howell, were members of the European Ryder Cup team that thrashed the Americans at Oakland Hills last month. Ulsterman Graeme McDowell, who lost in a playoff to Scotlands Gallacher, almost certainly will play on a Ryder Cup team in the future.

The dunhill links has, for the moment, improved on the nice little formula that has been working for a long time at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am: This year it managed to combine A list celebrities like Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Douglas and Dennis Hopper with Ryder Cup heroes and provide them with a killer rotation. The Old Course, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns are, arguably, every bit as good as Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Poppy Hills.

Sadly for Donald, who may quietly be the very best of a suddenly swell crop of English young guns, he shorted a 13-footer on the 72nd hole to miss the playoff with McDowell and Gallacher. It was the second time this year Donald has failed on a makeable putt on the 18th hole Sunday to miss a playoff. At the Buick Invitational in February he and Chris Riley let winner John Daly off the hook on the final hole.

But Donalds rise to stardom has been a steady one. He now weighs in at No. 25 on the Official World Golf Rankings.

And his amateur partner, Eric Gleacher, was just one of the financial eagles that gathered at the dunhill links. Gleacher and Donald both played their college golf at Northwestern University and surely had lots to talk about what with the Wildcats football team winning in overtime Saturday for the second straight week.

But Gleacher is also a heavyweight inside the halls of the power brokers of golf. He is a former Secretary of the USGA. And his firm, Gleacher & Co., recently advised Forstmann Little on the acquisition of the International Management Group that reportedly cost in excess of $700 million.

Wall St. semi-legend Teddy Forstmann, who runs Forstmann Little, partnered with Vijay Singh at the dunhill links.

The point in all of this is that the European Tour appears headed into a period of increased stature. And there was a sense that a large number of the important people in golf at the moment were in Scotland last week.

This is not necessarily at the expense of our PGA Tour. But it is a reminder to all who pay close attention, that the best and most interesting golf on your television set on Sundays can sometimes come in the AM.

Now if somebody can please do something about those six hour rounds in pro-ams, on both sides of the Atlantic. They are tortuously long.
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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 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.

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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.


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.