Koepka prevails in Phoenix for first Tour win

By Doug FergusonFebruary 1, 2015, 11:03 pm

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Brooks Koepka has lost track of the miles flown, the oceans crossed and the stamps in his passport as he toiled in remote corners of the golfing world for more than two years to prepare himself for moments like Sunday at the Phoenix Open.

The most significant journey turned out to be the 50 feet his golf ball traveled from the fringe, up a ridge and right into the cup.

That eagle on the par-5 15th hole gave Koepka a share of the lead, and he left the mistakes to everyone else the rest of the way. He closed with a 5-under 66 for a one-shot victory and his first PGA Tour title.

''I left every long putt short today,'' Koepka said. ''I said to my caddie, 'I'm finally going to get this one there.'''


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Hideki Matsuyama, among five players who had a share of the lead over the wild final hour at the TPC Scottsdale, was the last player in Koepka's way. The 22-year-old from Japan had an 18-foot putt to force a playoff, but it never had a chance and he closed with a 67.

Masters champion Bubba Watson (65) and Ryan Palmer (66) had to settle for pars on the three closing holes and joined Matsuyama in a tie for second. Martin Laird, tied for the lead with two holes to play, hit into the gallery on the 17th and made bogey and yanked his tee shot into the water on the 18th and made double bogey for a 72.

A week that began with hype over Tiger Woods, who shot 82 and missed the cut by 12 shots, ended with yet another example of a massive generation shift.

The 24-year-old Koepka didn't get the recognition of Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, or former U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein, his roommate in Florida with whom he often traveled in Europe. His raw power got the attention of his peers, however, and Koepka went through enough trials to mature into a rising star.

His second victory in four starts against strong fields - he won the Turkish Airlines Open during the final stretch of the Race to Dubai in Europe in November - moved him to No. 19 in the world.

''It's unbelievable,'' said Koepka, who finished at 15-under 269. ''I didn't think I would work my way up this quickly, but playing the Challenge and European tours led to this. And especially the failure I've had. I can't tell you how much I learned from that.''

Koepka proved to be one smooth customer - he describes himself as ''chill'' - even when the starter pronounced his name as something like ''cupcake'' on the first tee. He laughed during practice swings. He wasn't rattled when Matsuyama holed a wedge from 129 yards for eagle on the opening hole, or when the Japanese star added two more birdies to catch Laird, who began Sunday with a three-shot lead.

Koepka was making nothing but pars. Back-to-back birdies late on the front nine kept him in the game, though still two shots behind.

Matsuyama took the lead with a beautiful pitch behind the green at the par-5 13th, and Koepka followed him to 4 feet for a birdie to stay two behind. Matsuyama had gone 44 holes without a bogey until a three-putt on the 14th, and then everything changed on the 15th.

Koepka rolled in his 50-foot eagle putt and tied Laird, who two-putted from 25 feet.

The tournament effectively was decided on the 322-yard 17th. Laird went well right into the gallery, did well to chip to 50 feet in the fat of the green and three-putted for a bogey. Koepka needed a little luck. With the tees moved forward, it was slightly too close for his 3-wood, not long enough for his hybrid.

He hit 3-wood onto and over the green. And when he saw it disappear over the back, Koepka thought he was cooked.

''One of the camera guys said it stayed up. I still don't know how,'' he said.

The ball settled on the red hazard line, a foot from the water. He made par, and then showed no nerves on the 18th by smashing a driver over the water and bunkers, 331 yards away.

Watson tied for the lead by holing a bunker shot on the par-3 12th for birdie and two-putting for birdie from 20 feet on the 13th.

''I just couldn't do anything after that,'' he said.

His lost opportunity came on the 17th, when his 3-wood went to the front of the green and he three-putted from over 100 feet and made par. Palmer also had birdie chances on the last three holes and couldn't convert.

Arizona State junior Jon Rahm closed with a 68 to tie for fifth with Laird. It was the best finish by a Sun Devil still on the golf team playing in the Phoenix Open. The previous best was a tie for 32nd by Phil Mickelson. However, the top 10 does not get the Spaniard into Torrey Pines next week because he is an amateur. Besides, he's on his way to Hawaii to join his teammates for a tournament.

Koepka is going to San Diego - one of the shorter trips in his career - and with new status as a PGA Tour winner.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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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.