A Note For Fathers Day
Its Wednesday afternoon. Im flying back to Orlando from New York to cover the U.S. Open from the Golf Channel studios. I just spent three days at Bethpage talking to guys and getting some inside info. Ive been to so many U.S. Opens, it feels like its in my DNA, and I hated leaving.
I just finished reading an article in Golf Digest. It was a letter Bob Duval wrote to his father, and it hit me pretty hard. Ive had so many emotions swirling around inside this week, I realized this letter would be the best way to release them.
Every time I cover a major championship, I feel like I get a chance to visit with you for a short stretch of time. Its bittersweet. Im at an event you loved, but I feel like Im here alone among 40,000 people. I know how much you loved the New York metropolitan area and how proud you were when majors came to your adopted home. I remember the last major you ever attended, the 1997 PGA Championship at Winged Foot. You were so sick, but nothing would have kept you away. I remember Jim Awtrey arranging a cart to help you get around your beloved old club. Just one of the many things friends of the game will do for one another.
This Monday I was walking from the putting green to the practice tee. One of the marshals said, Would you like a ride, Mr. Marr? I thanked him and I told him Id walk. It took a couple of steps for me to realize that he hadnt read my badge but had recognized me, and it immediately brought me back to the days when Id follow you around and hear as people would notice you and say nice things about you out of earshot. That always made me proud to be your son.
One of your adopted sons, Butch, had dinner on Monday night with your three kids, me, Tony and Liz. It was very special. We laughed and told stories and got on each other and loved each other. It was like the old days. Claude looked after you, you looked after the Harmon boys, and now they look after us. Im sure someday well continue the circle.
I was walking in the parking lot yesterday and came upon David Fay. He smiled and said, I wish your dad could see this. He didnt need to say anything more. We both knew you would be so proud. Proud of your friend for having the gumption, tenacity and skill to hold our national championship at this great and challenging venue. Proud that the rest of the USGA would heed Davids advice and that the State of New York, Rees Jones and so many people who love the game would come together and organize the logistics for this event. Proud that a municipal course, like the one you grew up on at Houston's Memorial Park, could test the worlds greatest, and hold its head up. Proud to see your boys at NBC straining to get going, ready to showcase their passion, enthusiasm, care and skill in creating the best broadcasts in the game.
I wish you could have seen Tony Marr ragging on Butch about some of his teaching techniques, and Butch giving it right back. I wish you could have seen Liz Marr Hallas gliding through the crowd at Bethpage like you taught her, giggling with Billy Harmon and soaking up the atmosphere. I wish you could have seen the Jenkins' in the media center. Dan is still as crusty as ever, and Sallys still gorgeous, smart and funny.
I wish you could see the Harmon boys, all four of them, and their pupils, playing the game the way it should be played. I wish you could see Tiger Woods. You said hed be special, and hes even better than that. I wish you could see some of the updates Ill be doing this week for The Golf Channel. I think that might make you proud, too.
Its time again for that special week that you loved for so many years. The week that we would so often spend together. A week that golf families use to celebrate the coming of summer and their love of the game. The week that culminates on Fathers Day. I miss you, dad, and I so wish you could see it all.
Then again, perhaps you can.
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.
Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta
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."
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."