Notes: Spieth, not McIlroy, the story at halfway point

By Doug FergusonJune 30, 2015, 11:49 pm

The No. 1 player in golf already has three wins in 2015, including a World Golf Championship, and he has finished in the top 10 at both majors.

Halfway through the year, however, Rory McIlroy is playing second fiddle.

Remember the hype over McIlroy going for the career Grand Slam at the Masters? That was three months ago, and it seems like a lot longer. The attention has shifted to Jordan Spieth and his bid for an unprecedented sweep of the four majors in the same year. The real Grand Slam.

Arnold Palmer created it. Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods pursued it.

And now it falls to a 21-year-old Texan who just three years ago wasn't even a full PGA Tour member.

''We watch the elite athlete. We watch the mental focus and the preparation and the drive to become the best,'' Bubba Watson said. ''That's where he's heading. Who knows if he'll ever become No. 1 in the world, but he's trending in that direction pretty quickly.''

For a sport that gets criticized for its pace of play, the turnover is at warp speed.

Tiger Woods ended last year at No. 32 in the world, and he was excited about the direction he was going. He had a new swing consultant and a clean bill of health. He was 15 months removed from a five-win season in which he was voted PGA Tour player of the year for the 11th time.

And now it's a wonder anyone recognizes him.

Woods reached the halfway point of the year at No. 220 in the world. He has more rounds in the 80s (three) than the 60s (two). He has fallen so low in the world ranking that for the first time since he was a 20-year-old rookie in 1996, his appearance at The Greenbrier Classic contributes no points toward the strength of field.


Here are some of the highs and lows heading into the second half of the year:

BEST PLAYER: It's hard to argue against the Masters and U.S. Open champion. Spieth went wire-to-wire at Augusta National and tied the 72-hole scoring record set by Woods in 1997. He went birdie-double bogey-birdie at Chambers Bay and won only after Dustin Johnson three-putted from 12 feet. Only five other players dating to 1934 have won the first two majors of the year.

Overlooked is his victory in the Valspar Championship. Spieth got up-and-down for par from a nasty lie on the side of the hill at the 17th, and he got up-and-down from 35 yards on the 18th hole just to get into a playoff. He won on the third extra hole with a 30-foot birdie putt.

Does he have a chance at the Grand Slam? History says no. That short game says maybe.


ON THE RISE: Dustin Johnson has won every season since he joined the PGA Tour, so he never really fell very far. Even so, coming off that mysterious six-month break, golf's most athletic figure seems determined to reach his full potential. He won at Doral on perhaps the toughest course this year that had grass on the greens. He lost in a playoff at Riviera and was a 4-foot birdie putt away from a playoff against Spieth at Chambers Bay.

If he can put the U.S. Open behind him – Johnson has a short memory – he could be a major threat the rest of the year.


SLIDING: At the peak of his game, there were two tours – the Tiger Tour and the PGA Tour. The same applies now.

In the non-Tiger division, this might be a toss-up between Ryder Cup partners Graeme McDowell and Victor Dubuisson. McDowell spoke of his lack of motivation as he adjusts to life with a new daughter. He hasn't finished in the top 25 since January. In his last 10 starts, Dubuisson has missed half his cuts and has not finished better than 20th.

For the second half of the season, keep an eye on Martin Kaymer. He is winless since his U.S. Open title last year and has missed the cut six times in his last nine events.


CLASS OF '11: That would be the high school graduating class of Spieth, Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger, Patrick Rodgers and Ollie Schniederjans. Thomas played in the final group on the week three times during the West Coast swing. Berger lost in a playoff at the Honda Classic. Rodgers won on the Web.com Tour, challenged McIlroy at Quail Hollow and now has partial PGA Tour membership. Schniederjans, No. 1 in the amateur world ranking last year, will turn pro after the British Open.

Four of them - Rodgers was not there - played a practice round at Innisbrook in March. They began asking who was the youngest. It was Spieth.


BEST FINISH: Rickie Fowler went eagle-birdie-birdie to get into a three-man playoff at The Players Championship. He played the island-green three times on Sunday and took a total of six strokes.


BEST SHOT: Spieth's flop shot off a tight lie above the 18th green in the third round at the Masters. It turned bogey at best into a par and gave him a four-shot lead going into the final round.

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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 played a six-hole stretch in 6 under and shot an 8-under 64 in breezy conditions Saturday to take the lead at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook began the run at La Quinta Country Club with birdies on Nos. 4-5, eagled the sixth and added birdies on No. 7 and 9 to make the turn in 6-under 30.

After a bogey on the 10th, he birdied Nos. 11, 12 and 15 and saved par on the 18th with a 20-footer to take a 19-under 197 total into the final round on PGA West's Stadium Course. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player is making his first start in the event. He won at Sea Island in November for his first PGA Tour title.

Fellow former Razorbacks star Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were a stroke back. Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 on the Stadium Course. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. They are both winless on the PGA Tour.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Jon Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium Course to reach 17 under. The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3, 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.

Scott Piercy also was two strokes back after a 66 at the Stadium.

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 PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course, and Harkins shot 68 on the Stadium Course.

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 Course 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. The Southern California recruit had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over for the week.

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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Mickelson 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.

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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.

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LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. 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.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.