Day sets sights on more victories in 2014

By Doug FergusonFebruary 24, 2014, 6:34 pm

MARANA, Ariz. – Along with celebrating a World Golf Championship that took him to No. 4 in the world, Jason Day couldn't help but consider the rest of the young season and wonder just how much higher he could go.

That's when he paused to reflect, and to make a confession.

One of the worst labels hung on any golfer is that he's only playing for a check. Day said he used to be one of those guys.

''I'm going to be honest here,'' he said, almost as if he had something he wanted to get off his chest. ''I come from a very poor family. So it wasn't winning that was on my mind when I first came out on the PGA Tour. It was money. I wanted to play for money because I'd never had it before. Winning takes care of everything. And it's not about the money anymore. I just play golf - golf that I love - and win trophies.''

To look at his raw skill is to forget that few things in life have come easily to the 26-year-old Australian.

His father died of cancer when Day was 12. As a kid, he had to shop at a used clothing store, where for $5 he could stuff as much as he could into one bag. Finding refuge in golf and inspiration from the work ethic of Tiger Woods, he won a Nationwide Tour event at 19 and seemingly was on his way.

After six years on the PGA Tour, he earned close to $14 million - but had only one win, at the Byron Nelson Championship. He had a pair of close calls at the Masters, and nudged even closer to a major last year at Merion when he tied for second behind Justin Rose.

But it's all about winning. Day seems to have figured that out.

It's easy to call the Match Play Championship the biggest win of his career because there hasn't been many others. But when he sat down with his team last fall before embarking on a new season, the goals were clear.

''That's all I'm trying to do is win,'' he said.

Day won the individual title in the World Cup last November at Royal Melbourne, where he and Masters champion Adam Scott delivered Australia the team title. And now he has a World Golf Championship, carved out over five days, six matches and 113 holes.

This required mental strength to go along with physical tools, especially after having to watch Victor Dubuisson pull off two shots that would have left anyone wondering if the golfing gods were conspiring.

From the base of a cactus, the Frenchman went for broke by blasting at the ball - even his club was snagged by a television cable - and knocking it up a rough-covered slope and down onto the green to 4 feet. One hole later, Dubuisson's ball was at the bottom of a desert bush among rocks bigger than a golf ball when he popped that shot onto the green to save par. At this point, Day went from disbelief to laughter. What else could he do?

''At that time you're just thinking, 'Do I need to just hand him the trophy now after those two shots?' But I didn't want to do that,'' Day said. ''I wanted to win so bad, and I've been wanting to win so bad. And there was nothing that was going to stop me. I felt great from the start of the week. I had a good preparation coming into this week. The swing felt great. Just for some reason, this week felt different to any other week I played.

''And I just wanted it more than anything in the world.''

Day refuses to look back at the last six years as an underachievement. The hard work never stopped even as the trophy case was relatively empty. Day set the bar high when he first joined the PGA Tour through the Nationwide Tour and said he was ready to take down Woods.

There's still time. Plenty of time.

Day only has to look at Scott and Justin Rose, who didn't win majors until they were in their early 30s. He no longer is hung up on Woods and Rory McIlroy, both of whom had won multiple majors by this time.

''I think the biggest thing for myself is just to understand I'm not Rory. I'm not Tiger. I'm not Adam Scott. I'm not Justin Rose,'' he said. ''I'm Jason Day. And I need to do the work and it will happen. I've just got to be patient.''

He has reason to be excited.

The Masters is just around the corner, a place so special that Day refers to it as the closest thing to heaven on Earth. He made a late surge at Augusta National in 2011 before Charl Schwartzel blew past everyone with four straight birdies. Last year, he had a two-shot lead standing on the 16th tee and made back-to-back bogeys, finishing two shots out of the playoff.

The goal hasn't changed. He still wants to be No. 1 in the world. And he knows now it won't be easy.

Then again, his week at Dove Mountain was anything but that. And in a format where every day feels like Sunday, that might turn out to be the biggest payoff.

''As long as I keep working hard and I want it as much as this, hopefully the floodgates will open and I'll win a lot more,'' Day said. ''But it's totally up to me if I want to win one more or 10 more or 20 more. It's just how much I want it.''

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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.

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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."