Fowler hopes to rebound from sluggish summer

By Doug FergusonAugust 2, 2016, 4:13 pm

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – Rickie Fowler is short on majors, not on class.

He returned to the 18th green at Baltusrol after an exhausting day because he wanted to congratulate the winner. He is friendly with Jimmy Walker and Jason Day, though there is a special connection with Walker. Both work with Butch Harmon. They were partners in all four matches in the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, and two matches in the Presidents Cup at South Korea. They were housemates at Royal Troon.

''He's definitely one of my closest buddies on tour,'' Fowler said.

Sunday afternoon, however, was as close as Fowler came to a major championship trophy this year.

He was trending in a big way two years ago when he finished in the top five at all four majors, a feat previously achieved only by Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods until Jordan Spieth joined them last year. Even so, it appeared to be only a matter of time before Fowler broke through.

That now seems like a long time ago.

On a soft course at Baltusrol, in a major that produced five players who had all four rounds in the 60s, Fowler could only manage 70-71 in the last two rounds Sunday and tied for 33rd. That was his best finish of the year in the majors.

The British Open two weeks earlier was the first cut in a major he made this year. He shot 76-73 on the weekend at Royal Troon. He never shot better than 75 at Oakmont. He opened with an 80 at Augusta National.

Golf is hard, and so are the majors.

One year, Fowler had top 5s in all the majors without winning a tournament. The next year, he won a career-best three times and didn't feature in any of the majors.

There is no cause for alarm. He still is No. 7 in the world, and that's not a case of bad math. Fowler won in January at Abu Dhabi against the strongest field of the year on the European Tour. He lost the Phoenix Open in a playoff after leading by two shots with two to play. He had the 54-hole lead at Quail Hollow in early May and closed with a 74.

Since then, his only top 10 was at Firestone, a World Golf Championship with a small field and no cut.

''It's been a little slow the last couple of months,'' Fowler said Monday at the TPC Boston to promote his title defense next month in the Deutsche Bank Championship. ''Just golf's hard. If it was easy, then everyone would be out here playing and I wouldn't have a job. So it's just kind of fighting through it and continuing to put in the work, and it will turn back around here soon.''

The victory at the Deutsche Bank Championship last year, coupled with the victory in Abu Dhabi this year, put Fowler on the cusp of conversations involving the top players. He made people suggest a ''Big Four'' when there really were only three players battling for No. 1. And when Dustin Johnson won the U.S. Open to move into the elite in today's game, Fowler lingered as No. 5.

That's no longer the case. Golf is done with ''Big'' any numbers, and Fowler wouldn't be part of that conversation at the moment.

Where the sluggish season has hurt him is in the Ryder Cup standings.

Fowler has dropped all the way to No. 12, a precarious place to be for a couple of reasons. Only the top eight automatically qualify for the U.S. team, and Fowler is running out of time to make it. He chose to play in the Olympics, and he's leaving this week to be there for opening ceremonies in Rio de Janeiro on Friday.

That means he won't be at the Travelers Championship, where the other three Olympians are playing - Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar. All of them are just outside the top eight, and just ahead of Fowler, in the Ryder Cup standings.

It's another reminder how little golf guarantees. Fowler never imagined this being an issue six months ago.

''I took a little bit more time off through the first part of the season to prepare for the busy summer that was ahead,'' Fowler said. ''Unfortunately, I haven't played as well as I would have liked to the past few months, which has kind of put me in a tough position.''

He was in reasonable shape at the halfway point in the last two majors, only to fade on the weekend. And as thrilled as he was for Walker winning a major, Fowler surely took notice that the 37-year-old Texan had been struggling over the previous 15 months.

It can be frustrating that it wasn't him, or it can provide hope that his turn his coming.

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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.”


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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.


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''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.


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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.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.