Kisner takes 2-shot lead in WGC-HSBC Champions

By Doug FergusonNovember 6, 2015, 8:25 am

SHANGHAI - Kevin Kisner loves what little he knows about Sheshan International, playing another bogey-free round Friday for a 6-under 66 to build a two-shot lead over Russell Knox going into the weekend at the HSBC Champions.

A bad back kept Kisner from playing a practice round, and he had to scramble for pars the first couple of holes in the tournament. At the end of two days, the 31-year-old American was at 14-under 130 and feeling better about his chances in this World Golf Championship.

''It's beyond my expectations. I had no expectations coming,'' Kisner said. ''So it's been good. I'm making a lot of putts, and that's fun keeping the round going when I miss a green. Looking forward to the weekend.''

Knox made a 40-foot birdie putt to start the day and wound up with the low score of the second round at 7-under 65 that put him two shots behind. Right when Branden Grace was starting to expand his lead after opening with a 63, he got too aggressive and stumbled in for a 71 that put him four shots back.

A strong, steady wind put some teeth into Sheshan. Only 16 players shot in the 60s on Friday, compared with 41 in the first round when it was soft and calm.

Jordan Spieth made three straight bogeys on the back nine and had to birdie the par-5 18th for a 72 that put him 10 shots behind. Rory McIlroy, still feeling cramps in his stomach on the range because of food poisoning earlier in the week, also had a 72 and was 10 behind.


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Dustin Johnson appeared to be heading that direction when he made three straight bogeys around the turn, only to finish with three straight birdies for a 71 that left him six shots out of the lead.

The buzz came from Li Haotong of China, who spent all afternoon chasing the leaders and delighting the home gallery. A bogey on the final hole gave him a 69, and he joined Patrick Reed (70) at 9-under 135. Li played the PGA Tour China series last year and had a chance midway through the Web.com Tour season to earn a PGA Tour card until fading. Playing at home in a World Golf Championship, he enjoyed the moment - especially seeing his name on the leaderboard.

''Almost every hole,'' Li said with a big smile. ''Very cool. Very fun.''

Kisner isn't sure what he did to his back on the 16th hole of the CIMB Classic last week in Malaysia, and the flight over to Shanghai didn't help. He chose not to take any medication on Friday and felt his back starting to get sore toward the end of his round. That wasn't a problem. He made birdie on two of the last three holes.

''It's not like an injury where it's going to get worse,'' Kisner said. ''It's just dealing with the pain, and it's gotten better every day, so hopefully this week it will be perfect.''

He'd like the finish to be that way, too - minus the extra holes.

Kisner is coming off a breakthrough season on the PGA Tour without winning, though he sure had his chances. Jim Furyk beat him with a birdie on the second extra hole at the RBC Heritage. Kisner went blow-for-blow with Rickie Fowler in The Players Championship until Fowler beat him a birdie on the fourth playoff hole. Kisner also got into a four-man playoff at The Greenbrier Classic that Danny Lee ended up winning.

''See if I can get it done in regulation this time,'' he said.

Knox at least got a practice round in, but just barely - and with wife Andrea toting the bag.

He only found out last week while in Malaysia that he was in his first World Golf Championship because J.B. Holmes withdrew, but the Scottish-born Knox who has lived in Florida for the last 12 years had to get a visa. His wife spent all day filling out his forms, and they had to visit the Chinese consulate in Kuala Lumpur on Monday before getting it back. His caddie required one extra day, so his wife caddied for him on Wednesday.

''We got a stand bag from the pro here and played the quickest practice round ever, and she complained heavily for the last nine holes,'' Knox said with a laugh. ''But it was nice to run around quickly, so I did get to see the course, but my caddie did not. So I told him what we were going to do.''

The recipe apparently was to keep the ball in play and make putts, and Knox surely made his share of them.

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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

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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."