Baddeley captures Northern Trust Open

By Doug FergusonFebruary 21, 2011, 5:27 am

Northern Trust Open

LOS ANGELES – Finally a winner again, Aaron Baddeley raised his arms when his last putt dropped into the cup Sunday in the Northern Trust Open as his wife and two young daughters came over to share the moment.

They might have been among the few cheering him on at Riviera.

Baddeley could hear chants of “Freddie!” at every turn, and it got even louder when Fred Couples birdied the opening three holes to take the lead. Unfazed, Baddeley cared only about a victory that was just as meaningful to him.

“I thought Freddie was going to be tough today because winning is a skill, and Freddie has been winning quite often recently,” Baddeley said. “When he got off to a good start, I was like, ‘Freddie looks like he’s going to have one of those days where he’s going to play great.’ I was still just trying to focus on my game, and try to do what I needed to do.”

He did just enough.

In a battle of generations, the 29-year-old Australian made his best putt after his only big mistake and closed with a 2-under 69 to hold off Vijay Singh and Couples, and win for the first time in four years.

Baddeley wound up with a two-shot win over Singh, who turns 48 on Tuesday. The big Fijian closed with a 69 for his best finish in more than two years. Couples, who still had hope on the 16th, bogeyed two of the last three holes and shot 73 to tie for seventh in his bid to become the PGA Tour’s oldest winner in more than 35 years.

“I’m a golfer, so I’m disappointed,” Couples said.

With his tender back, it only took one hole for the 51-year-old Couples to fall apart. Tied for the lead, he pushed his tee shot into the barranca to the right of the seventh fairway in grass so thick he had trouble finding his ball. Couples gave it a ferocious whack, and the ball came out to the left and into a bunker. He wound up making double bogey, a three-shot swing when Baddeley holed a 20-footer for birdie from the fringe.

“I just didn’t feel the same after that,” Couples said. “I didn’t really hurt myself, but I never hit a shot, and I just got it around. I mean, I couldn’t hit an iron. I hit a few good drives, but I was afraid to hit the ground, hitting it that hard out of that stuff. I did get off to a good start, and that was where it ended.

“It’s nothing bad,” he said. “I’m not having any excuse. It’s just after that point, I never hit a shot.”

It was the third career PGA Tour win for Baddeley, whose game had slipped so much that he had plunged to No. 224 in the world. This isn’t enough to get back into the top 50, but at least he can book a trip to Augusta National in April for the Masters.

Singh, who only three weeks ago had fallen out of the top 100 in the world for the first time in more than 21 years, had his highest finish since he won the Deutsche Bank Championship in 2008 on his way to the FedEx Cup. Despite back-to-back bogeys on the back nine, he gave himself a chance to the very end.

Singh said it was the best week with the putter in his career, which would include his 2000 Masters victory. He took only 105 putts for the week, including just one three-putt in the second round.

“That’s a great, great thing to have when you’re putting well,” Singh said. “I haven’t done that for a long, long time. This is going to get me some places.”

Baddeley, who finished at 12-under 272, won for the first time since the 2007 Phoenix Open. He had been one of the early proponents of the “Stack & Tilt” swing method until deciding to go back to his old teacher, Dale Lynch, two years ago. His goal was to be able to move the ball both ways without having to think about it, and the swing held up just fine on a sunny afternoon along Sunset Boulevard.

“To be honest, it felt like coming home,” Baddeley said of his return to Lynch, his first coach as a teenager in Australia. “Dale and I have spent a lot of hours together, and at times it’s been frustrating, but like I said, that end product … we knew what we were working toward, and that was the key.”

Kevin Na made good putts on the last two holes for a 71 that put him alone in third place.

Couples was showing his age on the practice range, where his back is so tender that he only warms up with a driver and fairway metals to stay more upright. With a driver in hand, he teed up two balls at a time to keep from stooping over.

On the course, he looked like the Couples of old.

Couples opened with three straight birdies to bring Riviera to life, just like the old days. He chipped in for birdie from just off the second green, pointing his club to the cup with his left hand in a pose that has become familiar over the years. Then came a 20-foot birdie on the third to give him the outright lead.

But it started to come undone on the par-3 sixth, where the tee was moved forward and the pin was front and right, away from the bunker in the middle of the green. He flared it to the right and missed a 4-foot par putt.

And then came what he called a “comedy of errors” on the seventh.

Equipped with the lead, Baddeley never let it go. His only mistake was hitting into the trees on consecutive shots and missing a 2 1/2 -foot putt to take double bogey on the 12th. Baddeley responded swiftly, making a 20-foot birdie putt from the fringe with 8 feet of break.

He made pars the rest of the way, and no one could catch him.

“It’s definitely been a couple of long years, but it was worth every bit,” Baddeley said. “I really feel that the last couple years is actually what made it easier today … the character that was just built in me.”

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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."


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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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."