Golf means never taking anything for granted

By Doug FergusonJuly 19, 2011, 8:00 pm

SANDWICH, England – Dustin Johnson probably doesn’t think he’ll have to wait 15 years to win a major.

He already has won four times in his four years on the PGA Tour, and he has played in the final group at three of the last six majors. That doesn’t happen by accident. To say Johnson is the most talented American golfer won’t get much of an argument.

Then again, a young Darren Clarke might have thought the same thing.

Clarke was among the new faces in European golf that helped inspire a slow revival in the late 1990s. He might not have had the raw skill of someone like Johnson, but a major figured to be in his future. He played in the final group at Royal Troon in 1997. He took down Tiger Woods at the 2000 Match Play Championship when Woods was at the absolute top of his game. Then came another close call a year later in the British Open.

His major finally arrived Sunday, a month before he turns 43, his head full of gray hair and his belly bulging.

But at least he got there.

“The hardest thing with Darren was that he’s been slightly labeled an underachiever. And he was,” his agent, Chubby Chandler, said in the glowing aftermath Sunday evening. “He had the talent to win a major, an Open, but it didn’t happen. For it to happen like this is just amazing. Now he’s no longer an underachiever.”

Clarke became the third-oldest player to win his first major, trailing only 45-year-old Jerry Barber in the 1961 PGA Championship and Roberto De vicenzo at 44 in the 1967 British Open.

There are others like Clarke who were on the downside of their prime years when they won a major. Two that come to mind are Tom Kite, who was 42 when he won the U.S. Open, and Mark O’Meara, who was 41 when he won The Masters and British Open.

One reminder from this British Open is that there are no guarantees in golf. The game owes nothing to anyone.

Johnson would seem to be a lock to win a major, simply by the experience he has been gaining, even if it’s the kind he’d rather forget. But hard knocks also raise questions.

There was that atrocious start at Pebble Beach last year on his way to an 82, his dubious two-shot penalty on the final hole of Whistling Straits last year at PGA Championship when he didn’t realize he was in a bunker, and that 2-iron on the 14th hole of Royal St. George’s on Sunday.

Surely, he’ll figure it out soon.

But wasn’t that also said of Sergio Garcia?

Garcia had it far more difficult, playing in an era when Woods was winning majors just about every year. The Spaniard is only 31, although it seems as though he’s been around much longer because he has been in the mix at majors so much. As a 19-year-old rookie, he nearly came from behind to catch Woods at Medinah. He played with Woods in the final group twice more in majors, and when Woods wasn’t around, Garcia found another nemesis while losing two majors to Padraig Harrington.

A dozen years after he roared onto the scene, Garcia still hasn’t won the big one. And this year, his game reached a point that he was happy just to be playing in the last two majors.

And then there’s 38-year-old Lee Westwood.

As happy as he was for one of his best friends winning the Open, part of Westwood had to be asking, “When will it be my turn?”

Twice in the last four years, he missed out on a playoff in the majors by one shot. He had the 54-hole lead at the Masters last year and was beaten by better golf from Phil Mickelson. Westwood kept getting better to the point that he reached No. 1 in the world.

But still no major.

“Lee has done everything he can do to get himself into contention to win,” Clarke said. “Unfortunately, he’s had guys that have played better than him on quite a few occasions, or they’ve had the bounce of the ball or things going their way. Right now, things haven’t gone his way, but I’m sure that they will go his way because he’s too good a player to not go his way.”


But the same could have been said of Colin Montgomerie.

He won a record eight money titles on the European Tour. He twice got into a playoff at the majors, losing both of them. Then came what appeared to be a Clarke-type moment at Winged Foot in 2006 when Montgomerie, at age 42, had a chance to win a U.S. Open. From the middle of the 18th fairway, he chunked a 7-iron and made double bogey. That shot might explain why Monty never won a major.

Everyone makes blunders in the majors – Kite, O’Meara, Tom Watson – and they eventually figure it out.

But not always.

“The game is fickle,” Clarke said. “It hammers you, it hammers you, and then it gives you something. Of all people, I think Lee Westwood deserves something to be given to him. And I’m very sure that he will win majors, and not just a major.”

That’s what was said of Rory McIlroy before he won the U.S. Open last month by eight shots with a record score. Some players – with an Irish accent, it should be noted – began the countdown to Jack Nicklaus’ 18 majors. Then came the British Open, and a curious complaint from McIlroy that he doesn’t like playing in the wind.

Adding to the pressure of Westwood is that four players from Chandler’s stable at International Sports Management have won the last five majors – Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, McIlroy and now Clarke.

Everyone but Westwood.

“That will be hard on him,” Clarke said. “But if I was a gambling man … I would have a substantial bet on Lee Westwood winning the PGA in Atlanta. I hope he does.”

Hope isn’t enough.

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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.