One small step leads to one big boast

By Doug FergusonJuly 26, 2011, 10:32 pm

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two tournaments came down to the last hole and produced emotions as different as the tours themselves.

There were tears on the PGA Tour.

There were boasts on the Nationwide Tour.

Moments after Sean O’Hair won on the strongest tour in the world, his eyes filled with tears and he broke down during his brief TV interview. He had gone more than two years without winning, and his confidence was still fragile on the eve of the Canadian Open.

 It was a reminder how hard it is to win on the PGA Tour.

Hours earlier, NCAA champion John Peterson from LSU had a one-shot lead going into the final hole until he missed the fairway and took bogey. Harris English made a 10-foot birdie for a two-shot swing and the victory, joining Georgia teammate Russell Henley as amateurs to win on the Nationwide Tour this year.

That two college players could contend in golf’s version of Triple-A was not nearly as shocking as the comments that followed.

“I knew I could beat all those guys,” Peterson told Golf World magazine.

And he was just getting warmed up.

“The top guys in college, the top 20 or 30 guys, can beat the top 20, 30 guys on the PGA Tour,” Peterson said. “Maybe with the exception of two or three guys who are constantly up there, like a Matt Kuchar or Luke Donald … those top 20 college guys will beat those top 20 or 30 PGA Tour guys, if given the opportunity.”

The outrageous comment drew a chuckle from Scott Verplank, who won a PGA Tour event in 1985 before his senior year at Oklahoma State.

“Great to have that enthusiasm, isn’t it?” Verplank said Tuesday, sarcastic as ever.

Verplank didn’t entirely disagree. He often plays with some of the best college players, such as U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein, Kevin Tway and Morgan Hoffman. He knows how good they are and what they’re capable of doing.

He just figures Peterson was off by a digit.

“It’s not 20 or 30 guys on tour,” Verplank said. “It’s about 200 or 300 players out here who are just as good. That’s really not a wise statement. They also were playing on the Nationwide Tour. If you’re going to compare that with the PGA Tour, you’re making a mistake.”

No doubt, this has been a remarkable summer for amateur golf.

UCLA freshman Patrick Cantlay has been the headliner, finishing in the top 25 in all four PGA Tour starts. That includes being low amateur at the U.S. Open, setting a course record with a 60 in the Travelers Championship and finishing in a tie for ninth in the Canadian Open.

Across the Atlantic, 20-year-old Tom Lewis of England opened with a 65 at Royal St. George’s for the lowest score ever by an amateur in the British Open. He became the first amateur in 43 years to be atop the leaderboard at golf’s oldest championship.

No doubt, these kids can play.

“On any given week, when you give amateurs a shot, they’re going to do it because we’re ruthless,” English said. “All college events are very competitive, and you learn how to go out there and win. The college golf system is awesome. You see guys coming out every year ready to compete and showing it off.”

What they’ll figure out soon enough is that in golf at the highest level - the pro level - is not measured by one week or one month, or even one year.

“Frankly, there aren’t 30 guys in college who are going to be on our tour in three years,” said David Duval, who as a junior at Georgia Tech had the 54-hole lead at a PGA Tour event until he closed with a 79 and tied for 13th.

There’s a reason it has been 20 years since an amateur - Phil Mickelson - won on the PGA Tour.

Verplank won the U.S. Amateur in 1984, then won the Western Open a year later in a playoff over Jim Thorpe (they finished three shots ahead of Seve Ballesteros and reigning U.S. Open champion Andy North). The next year, he tied for fourth in the season-opening Tournament of Champions, won an NCAA title that spring and tied for 15th in the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills in his pro debut.

He then missed the cut in 16 of his first 20 events on the PGA Tour.

There’s a difference between playing as an amateur and playing for a living.

“The attitude is easier when you’re an amateur because you’ve got nothing to lose,” Verplank said. “Having said that, it ought to be like that as a pro. When I won, it was just golf. When you’re an amateur, you’re just trying to see how good you can get.

“It’s still golf,” he said. “You still have to shoot the scores and make the putts. You’d like to think it wouldn’t change. But everything is based on money out there, and that changes a lot of people.”

English and Peterson want to be part of the Walker Cup team in September before turning pro. English at least has the Nationwide Tour to fall back on next year if he doesn’t get his PGA Tour card through Q-school.

A more difficult decision awaits Cantlay, who sounded a lot more determined to stay at UCLA before he began his splendid summer run. Had he been a pro, Cantlay would have earned $343,088. Would he have played the same way if he were playing for money? Tough to say. Two agents estimate Cantlay could probably get about $500,000 in endorsement contracts by turning pro.

The more critical question is whether he can improve by staying at UCLA.

And whether he realizes that once he starts playing for a living, the game might not seem as fun as it once was.

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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.