Piercy pitches in for eagle, keeps lead at Safeway

By Doug FergusonOctober 15, 2016, 1:51 am

NAPA, Calif. – Scott Piercy keeps finding ways to score even when he's not making a lot of putts.

Piercy pitched in from 40 yards for eagle on the par-5 ninth hole Friday, helping him keep a two-shot cushion at the rain-delayed Safeway Open until it became too dark to continue.

A steady rain that fell on Silverado for most of the bleak day halted the second round for 2 hours, 36 minutes as water began to pool on the tee boxes and the corners of the greens. The delay meant the second round could not be completed until Saturday morning.

Bill Haas had a 2-under 70 in the morning and finished 36 holes in 8-under 136.

Piercy, who opened with a course-record 62, made only one of his four birdie chances until his eagle at No. 9, and he followed with a 10-foot birdie on the next hole to reach 14-under par.

He missed a 5-foot birdie on the 12th hole, his last of the day.

Johnson Wagner was at 12 under and had a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-3 15th hole when he decided to wait until morning. Paul Casey, who opened with a 64, recovered from two bogeys late on his front nine with three birdies over his next four holes. He was 11 under through 12 holes, ending his day with a 35-foot birdie putt.


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''In my mind, I wanted to shoot 3 under on the front,'' Piercy said. ''And luckily, I was able to do that.''

Piercy converted only one of four reasonable birdie chances, making a 7-foot putt on the par-5 fifth hole. The next par 5 was into the wind, though he was mildly surprised that a 3-wood came up so short of the green in the first cut.

''I had a good angle, though, kind of shooting straight up the green,'' he said. ''When you make it from 40 yards, it's luck. I hit a good shot. I landed it pretty much where I wanted to and it reacted good. Whenever it goes in, that's a bonus.''

No one from the afternoon starters finished the second round, which was to resume at 7:45 a.m. PDT. The third round was to be played in threesomes off both tees, though more rain was in the forecast for the weekend.

Haas was hopeful of at least staying close to the leaders. That depended on Piercy, Wagner and Casey, and perhaps a few others.

Haas was one of the ''replacements'' for Tiger Woods, in this case taking the spot that had been set aside for Woods in the early-round groups. Haas doesn't know why he was chosen. He just considered it a treat to be able to watch the exploits of Phil Mickelson and the rhythmic swing of defending Emiliano Grillo.

And they were able to watch Haas post the lowest score from the group.

Haas made it through the tough conditions brought on by rain Friday morning at least got him into the mix going into the weekend of the PGA Tour season opener at Silverado.

Haas was at 8-under 136, the low score among those who finished 36 holes. Mickelson had another 69 and was at 6-under 138. Grillo played bogey-free after the delay for a 70 and was at 5-under 139.

Woods had planned to play at Silverado and even entered the tournament on Friday. The PGA Tour decided to arrange the groups so that Woods played with Mickelson and Grillo. Woods, however, withdrew on Monday saying that his game was ''vulnerable'' and not where it needed to be.

Haas took that spot in the group, and all three have put on a good show.

Grillo had a 35-foot birdie putt that he left 10 feet short on the 11th hole, his second of the round, when the rain was at its worse. He made it through the back nine without any more mistakes, and then ran off three straight birdies on the front nine .

Mickelson returned from the rain delay in much worse shape. The driver slipped out of his hands on his first shot at the par-4 13th and led to a snap-hook out-of-bounds. He managed to make a 10-foot putt to escape with bogey .

Lefty made another bogey on the par-3 seventh when he pushed his tee shot left of the green, left of the gallery and next to a beer concession. From rain-soaked pine bark, he hit a flop to 12 feet and narrowly missed the putt. There were plenty of good shots, too, however, and Mickelson had control of his irons, which was key.

The greens were so soft from rain that it was critical not to spin the ball back too much around the hole.

''To be able to get the distance control right, the trajectory, the spin right on spongy greens and give myself as many birdies as I hit, I think this is some of the best iron play that I've had,'' Mickelson said. ''And then I hit a few wild ones, too, so I guess it's kind of my normal game.''

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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

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

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."


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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."

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Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 10:33 pm

After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.

La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.

"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."


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Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.

The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.

"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."