Weekend Review

By Brian HewittFebruary 3, 2003, 5:00 pm
  • If anybody had asked me, I would have told them that:
  • Phil Mickelson was within his rights at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic when he asked out of the 'celebrity' rotation. But it was a wrong-headed decision.
    In Mickelson's defense, he let tournament officials know weeks in advance that, even though he was the defending champion, he didn't want to be part of the glitz. Conventional wisdom among the players says playing with the celebrities the first four days of this 90-hole event will cost three to four strokes because of all the distractions.
  • But Mickelson was the first defending champion since 1977 to play outside the spotlight. And it is hard to figure how a player who was so wildly popular at the U.S. Open last summer would want to risk a public relations blemish. But that's what this has become for him now.
    Again in Mickelson's defense: He signs more autographs than almost anybody on Tour and he is one of the best clubhouse tippers in professional golf. He cares about people. It's his judgment on issues like the Hope controversy that sometimes let him down.
    Mickelson tied for sixth. The player who replaced him in the celebrity draw, Joey Sindelar finished 16th. The difference in their 90-hole stroke totals? Three shots.
  • If Annika Sorenstam decides to play in the B.C. Open opposite the British Open in mid-July, it will be a bigger 'story' in the sporting media than Ernie Els' title defense at Royal St. George's.
    This is a stunning fact. But watch how many daily newspaper sports editors assign their golf writers to cover Annika in New York instead of the men across the pond. You might be surprised.
  • The most interesting golf course, in my opinion, for Annika to play against the men would be Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth. Colonial plays shorter than its listed 7,080 yards. As recently as 1996 short-hitting Corey Pavin won there. Would Ben Hogan, whose statue dominates the club's grounds, turn over in his grave at the prospect of Annika in the field? Maybe. Remember, Hogan is the same guy who refused to have a guest room included when he built a house near at nearby Shady Oaks because he didn't want to have to entertain out of town guests.
  • For Mike Weir, a Canadian, this is about as good as its gets. First he birdies the last three holes to beat Jay Haas and win the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic by two shots Sunday for his first Tour win in more than a year. Then he moves on to the Monterey Peninsula for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am where his partner will be countryman Wayne Gretzky, a hockey legend and boyhood idol.
  • Greg Norman has played his last Masters. At 47 this somehow doesn't seem right. But he needed to finish in the top 16 last year to get invited back. He shot 75 on Sunday for a share of 36th place when he needed 69 to get in the top 16.
    Norman's is probably THE sympathetic figure in the tournament's storied history. But Masters chairman Hootie Johnson isn't finding much sympathy in his heart for anybody these days. Johnson is a progressive at heart. He's just having a bad year.
  • Sources say Jack Nicklaus, 63, hasn't decided whether he will play at Augusta. But if his debut at the weekends inaugural Champions Tour event in Hawaii is any indication, the Bear will be at the Masters in April. It will likely be his third-to-last appearance at the tournament because of new eligibility guidelines engineered by Johnson.
    Come to think of it, Jack may bow out after next year, thereby having the satisfaction of leaving the tournament on his own terms. A Masters without six-time champion Nicklaus doesn't sound right either.
  • It got my attention when baseball player Ken Griffey Jr., in a televised interview from the Hope last week, said Tiger Woods' recovery from knee surgery was going slower than expected. Hmmmm. Griffey is one of Woods' close Orlando pals.
  • Getty Images

    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

    Getty Images

    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."

    Getty Images

    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.

    Getty Images

    Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

    Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

    The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

    It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

    "It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

    Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

    "This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."