Notes: Donald a bubble boy with Opens around corner

By Doug FergusonMay 12, 2015, 11:59 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The U.S. Open is a month before the British Open.

Qualifying through the world ranking is in a different order.

The British Open takes the top 50 in the world ranking that is published after next week, and with two tournaments left, a few players have some work to do.

That starts with Luke Donald, who has qualified for every Open Championship since 2002 (he missed in 2008 with an injury).

Donald is No. 60 in the world ranking and plays next week in the BMW PGA Championship.

Ben Martin, who missed the playoff at the TPC Sawgrass by one shot, moved up to No. 51 this week. He is playing in the Wells Fargo Championship.

Players still have other avenues for which to qualify for St. Andrews, either by top finishes at select tournaments or by being ranked high enough in the European Tour or PGA Tour money lists. The world ranking figures to be the best bet.

As for the U.S. Open, the cutoff to reach the top 60 and earn an exemption is May 25, which is after the two Texas events on the PGA Tour, and after the Irish Open on the European Tour schedule. Kevin Kisner has lost in playoffs twice in the past month, though that at least moved him to No. 66 and within range.

The U.S. Open also has another cutoff for the top 60 on the Monday of the U.S. Open (June 15). Two players got into the U.S. Open after the final ranking cutoff a week ago, including Kevin Na, who tied for 12th.

THOMAS TURNAROUND: Justin Thomas is averaging right at 300 yards a drive in his rookie year on the PGA Tour.

But he wasn't always this long a hitter. Far from it.

''He would call from an AJGA tournament and I'd say, 'What's the number?' And he'd say it was six,'' said his father, Mike Thomas, a former PGA of America director and the longtime pro at Harmony Landing outside Louisville, Kentucky.

''That was the number of holes he couldn't reach.''

Most of them were par 4s, though Justin Thomas said he was all but certain to hit driver on at least one of the par 3s.

''I hit it so short,'' he said.

His father recalls one tournament where Thomas was paired with kids who were being recruited. The coaches watched a young teenager unable to get to three or four holes and still shooting 69. ''Typical of him being so competitive, he said it should have been 67,'' his father said.

Somewhere around his junior year in high school, Justin Thomas began to move it through a combination of getting stronger and technique. Distance is no longer is an issue, and Thomas continues to amaze with his power despite being only about 5-foot-10 and barely 160 pounds.

And that led to another story about his size.

Thomas recalls his freshman year at Alabama when a friend called concerned over what he had read on the school's website. It listed Thomas at 6-foot, 180 pounds. His buddy asked what happened to him. Thomas went to the coach.

''He said he wasn't going to have recruits looking at some guy on the team who was 5-10, 130,'' Thomas said.

PACING HIMSELF: Geoff Ogilvy tied for 24th at The Players Championship, his highest finish of the year. Even more notable is that it was only his eighth tournament.

The Players was the start of what likely will be four in a row, which is rare for the former U.S. Open champion. But there's a purpose to it.

''I've been underplaying on purpose, because I very often feel that in the summer I'm spent,'' Ogilvy said. ''This was the year to experiment and toy with the schedule a little bit. I don't think I've played enough tournaments to this point.''

He goes from Quail Hollow to Colonial and likely will play the Byron Nelson. If not, he would go to Memorial. And after the U.S. Open, he's headed for a holiday at home in Australia before going to St. Andrews.

There's only one problem.

By saving himself for the summer months, what if it's a short summer? Ogilvy is No. 159 in the FedEx Cup. His season could end in August. What if he doesn't even qualify for the playoff events?

''I figure there's always time,'' he said. ''And if I don't, I don't. It's not the end of the world. I've spent so much time worrying about that, and it's not conducive to playing well. Last year proved that. I had a horrific year. I win one week and it changes everything. One week and 27 holes.''

The one week was a win in Reno. The 27 holes were at the TPC Boston, which led to a runner-up finish and put him into the Tour Championship.

''Maybe I have that one week at St. Andrews or Chambers Bay or next week, whatever,'' he said. ''Stop chasing it. Stop worrying.''

DIFFERENT ROADS: On the same day that Rickie Fowler won The Players Championship and its $1.8 million prize, Rhys Davies of Wales won a Challenge Tour event in Turkey. It was his first victory in more than five years.

Fowler and Davies played at Royal County Down in 2007 at the Walker Cup, and Davies must have left quite an impression. He beat Fowler, 3 and 2, in the Sunday singles. If that wasn't enough, Davies had no trouble in the Saturday singles with his 5-and-4 victory over Dustin Johnson.

Davies' previous win was the Hassan Trophy, when he rallied to beat Louis Oosthuizen. That was in 2010, when he climbed as high as No. 44 in the world.

''Sometimes it's been really horrible in the last couple of years, I'm not going to pretend,'' Davies said. ''It's been quite dark sometimes. But I always felt that if I could get in the mix, I could win again. Sometimes it was so bad I didn't know where the next good round was going to come from. That's all I've been looking for, one good score. I know that seems crazy, but it was as simple as that.''

DIVOTS: One year after he was No. 1 in the world, Adam Scott is no longer in the top 10. Scott dropped to No. 11 this week. The previous time he was out of the top 10 was the week before his runner-up finish in the 2012 British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. ... After missing the cut in his American debut this year, Rory McIlroy has finished out of the top 10 only one time in five starts. That was at Bay Hill, where he tied for 11th. ... The USGA accepted a record 1,873 entries for the U.S. Women's Open at Lancaster Country Club in Pennsylvania. That breaks the record of 1,702 entries for last year's Women's Open at Pinehurst No. 2. ... Sergio Garcia's 45-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole at the TPC Sawgrass was the fourth time he had made a birdie putt of 30 feet or longer on the island green. ... Nick Faldo and Sandy Lyle have become honorary members of the Royal & Ancient.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Going into the final round of The Players Championship, No. 18 was the only hole at the TPC Sawgrass that Rickie Fowler had failed to birdie in his career. He made birdie that wound up getting him into a playoff that he won.

FINAL WORD: ''This game is too dad gum hard to get caught up in who's rated where. Just go play your butt off and see what happens.'' - Kevin Kisner.

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.