D. Johnson leads at Riviera; Walker one back

By Doug FergusonFebruary 14, 2014, 2:24 am

LOS ANGELES – Dustin Johnson moved down the coast of California and brought his game with him Thursday in the Northern Trust Open.

So did Jimmy Walker.

Johnson made six birdies on a warm, sunny day at Riviera for a 5-under 66, giving him a one-shot lead when the opening round was suspended by darkness. Walker birdied his last three holes and was in the large group at 67 that included Francesco Molinari of Italy and Torrey Pines winner Scott Stallings.


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Four days ago, Johnson closed with a 66 in the gray, cold weather of Pebble Beach to finish one shot behind Walker. In conditions that could not have been any different - and could not have been any better - he made birdie on all of the par 5s at Riviera and only had one bogey on his card, at the long par-3 fourth.

The only comparison was the quality of his golf.

''It was cold, windy and wet at Pebble on Sunday. Here, it's not a lot of wind and perfect conditions. It's sunny and a really nice temperatures,'' Johnson said. ''It's still golf, though. You've still got to adjust no matter what you're doing.''

That was no trouble for Walker, whose victory in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am was his third of the season. He drove his RV down from the Monterey Peninsula, got up at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday to appear on Golf Channel, and then went right back to work.

Walker was in the middle of the pack until his tee shot on the par-3 16th settled just over a foot from the cup. He nearly reached the par-5 17th in two to set up a simple birdie, then finished with one of his best shots - an 8-iron from 184 yards out of a flyer lie in the rough to the back of the green and a 30-foot putt.

''It's four more days of golf,'' Walker said. ''You can ride the momentum of really good play. But everyone started at even and you just have to be like, 'Let's go get it again.'''

It was a glorious day off Sunset Boulevard, and Riviera was in ideal shape - firm and fast, particularly on the greens.

The warmth meant a little more distance, such as the 349-yard tee shot Johnson hammered down the middle of 13th fairway, a slight dogleg left framed by eucalyptus trees. That left him only 97 yards, and he stuffed it. And on the par-5 17th - 608 yards up the hill, no help from wind - he reached it in two and had a two-putt from just over 20 feet. His only glitch was coming up just short of the green and in the bunker on the 225-yard fourth.

Johnson isn't playing a lot this season, but when he does, he plays well.

He already has a win at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai. He shared the 54-hole lead at Kapalua and tied for sixth, and then took off four weeks before returning at Pebble Beach. That was a good sign for Johnson, who said he doesn't have a good history of playing well in the first event after a long break.

''This time, I stayed with it. I worked hard at home,'' Johnson said. ''It was tough at Pebble because of the weather, and it was hard to keep your concentration.''

Life is bliss right now for Walker, who is going for his third win in California this season, starting with the Frys.com Open at CordeValle in October. The only struggle was a bogey on the par-5 11th when his tee shot just missed the fairway and buried in a small indentation in the long grass. He followed that with another bogey on the tough 12th, and then rallied at the end.

''I don't know what it's like for some of those guys that are winning 40 times and they have done this a ton,'' Walker said. ''But right now, enjoy it. It's fun. It's a good place to be.''

Jim Furyk, Keegan Bradley and Rickie Fowler were among those at 68.

Jordan Spieth looked as though he might be among the leaders after holing out from 125 yards for eagle on No. 7 to reach 3 under. He was in position for a birdie on the 11th until leaving a shot in the greenside bunker and missing the par putt. Spieth caught a huge break on the next hole when his tee shot was hooking out-of-bounds until hitting a tree, though he had to scramble for bogey.

He also made three par putts in the 5-foot range to hold it together, but dropped a shot on the 18th when he tried to punch a hybrid around some Eucalyptus trees. He had a 73.

Spieth was playing with Fred Couples - the 20-year-old Texan was born a year after Couples won the Masters - and the old guy held his own. Couples had a lost ball on his second shot at No. 11 and made double bogey, rallied with two birdies and then made bogey on the final hole for a 72. Couples is playing the Northern Trust Open for the 32nd time.

DIVOTS: The 10th hole was perilous as ever at 314 yards, especially for Scott Verplank. He took two shots from the front bunker and three from the back on his way to an 8. ''That was fun,'' Verplank said. The rest of the day wasn't. The 49-year-old Verplank, who has been battling injuries the last few years, withdrew with a bad back. ... Billy Hurley missed last week at Pebble Beach because his wife, Heather, gave birth to their first daughter (and third child), Madison Joy. Then, he got in as an alternate when Harrison Frazar withdrew. Hurley opened with a 70.

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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 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

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.