Back from break, Laird leads Frys.com Open

By Doug FergusonOctober 11, 2014, 2:17 am

NAPA, Calif. - Martin Laird wasn't sure what to expect out of his game after a seven-week break. He hasn't found too much wrong after two rounds of the Frys.com Open.

Laird bounced back from his first bogey of the new PGA Tour season by running off four straight birdies around the turn. One last birdie on the par-5 18th at Silverado gave him a second straight 5-under 67 and a one-shot lead over Bae Sang-moon and Zach Blair going into the weekend.

Blair was among 11 rookies to make the cut in their debut as PGA Tour members.

Silverado hadn't hosted a PGA Tour event since 1980, and it appeared the players were starting to figure out how to navigate the tight, winding fairways and small greens that are all about being on the right side of the hole.

There were 13 rounds at 67 or better, compared with only three in the opening round.

One of them belonged to Jimmy Walker, one of four players fresh off the Ryder Cup who came to the Frys.com Open. Walker opened with a 75, and then he followed that with eight birdies in a round of 66 that got him to the weekend with room to spare.

Hunter Mahan and Matt Kuchar each had a 68 and were at least in range of Laird. Lee Westwood played in the morning through a marine layer that made conditions more difficult. He shot a 69 to make the cut by one shot.

Laird was at 10-under 134.

''You never know how you're going to play after seven weeks off like I had,'' Laird said. ''Just to come out and put back-to-back 67s up and play very solid - very solid 67s - I'm extremely happy.''


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He made a sloppy bogey on the sixth hole with a poor tee shot into the bunker, hitting into another bunker some 80 feet from the flag and missing an 8-foot putt. He had to scramble for par on the next hole, and then he took off.

After a pair of short birdie putts, Laird rolled in a birdie from 20 feet on No. 10, and then made another birdie putt from the same range up the ridge toward a tucked pin on the par-3 11th.

Bae made all three of his birdies on the par 5s and was at 135.

Blair finished second in the final Web.com Tour Finals event to get his card, and kept right on rolling at Silverado. He had six birdies against no bogeys, picking up four shots on his final nine holes to get within one shot of the lead.

Scott Langley, in his first event since his wife gave birth to their first child, had a 66 and was at 8-under 136, along with David Lingmerth and Mark Hubbard, who had a hole-in-one on the seventh hole on his way to a 65.

Laird had more time off than he wanted. A three-time winner on the PGA Tour, he felt his game slipping away when he went back to swing coach Mark McCann and started putting the pieces back together. It was too late to salvage his season. Laird wound up at No. 127 in the FedEx Cup standings - missing by 13 points - and had a month off.

There also were two open weeks around the Ryder Cup in his native Scotland.

When he met with McCann during his break to keep working on his game, the swing was in such good shape that they spent the majority of time working on his short game. That much was evident when he missed the green on the par-3 seventh hole and hit a tricky pitch to 6 feet for par, and on the 18th with a wedge from the first cut that spun back a few feet from the cup.

''I've definitely seen it this week,'' Laird said of the short-game work. ''I'm putting good. My wedge game was pretty bad last year, and we really worked on that. My shot on the last ... it's nice when you do the hard work and then you hit a wedge shot on the last hole to tap-in range almost. It makes it worthwhile.''

DIVOTS: Jarrod Lyle, who earned a spot through Monday qualifying, had a 70 to make the cut in his first PGA Tour event since he had a recurrence of leukemia nearly two years ago. ... Hideki Matsuyama of Japan had a 67 and was three shots out of the lead. ... The cut was at 1-under 143.

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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.


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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.

@tommyfleetwood_1

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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.

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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."


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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."