Who's the next young star to emerge on Tour?

By Doug FergusonJanuary 8, 2014, 11:09 pm

HONOLULU – John Peterson was in the 11th grade and thought no one his age could beat him. That changed when he was at a junior event in Texas, where he heard so much chatter about an eighth-grader from Dallas that he went out to watch him.

That was his introduction to Jordan Spieth, now one of his good friends.

''I heard he was good,'' Peterson said at the Sony Open, his first tournament of the year. ''I wanted to see what everyone was talking about. I'm a junior in high school, thinking no one could beat me, and here's this eighth-grader killing everybody, already as tall as me. We battled in junior golf. I got him in a playoff at the Jones Cup, and he's been beating me ever since.''

Spieth inspires him in a different way on the PGA Tour – just like Spieth was inspired by Sony Open defending champion Russell Henley.

Every year brings a new crop of rookies. Each year, the intimidation factor of playing alongside the best in the game deteriorates. To look at the latest group of newcomers gathered at Waialae for the first full-field PGA Tour of 2014 begs one question.

Who's next?

''It really helps when you see your peers compete – and win,'' Spieth said Wednesday. ''I watched Russell Henley last year. I was on the Walker Cup team with him, and he wins the first event of the year. When you see that, it gives you a mental edge. You're starting to see young guys on the leaderboard all the time, and these are guys who competed against for years.''

Spieth was among four rookies who won on the PGA Tour last year, joining Henley, Derek Ernst and Patrick Reed. It was one of the strongest rookie classes in years.

''I wouldn't be surprised if it happened again,'' Spieth said.

Peterson is a 24-year-old NCAA champion from LSU who has never been afraid to say what he thinks. He was still an amateur when he lost to fellow amateur Harris English – now a two-time winner on the PGA Tour – on the final hole of a Nationwide Tour event. He told Golf World magazine that day, ''I knew I could beat all those guys,'' and that the top 20 or 30 college players could hang with the top 20 or 30 on the PGA Tour with a few exceptions.

It's that fine line of confident and cocky, which Peterson is known to cross on occasion, that adds to the increasing depth and makes it harder on everyone to win.

''Jordan, Peter Uihlein, Harris English, Russell Henley ... all those guys we've played with the last six years, they're all doing big things,'' Peterson said. ''Peter is playing himself into the World Golf Championships. He's killing it. Guys are really starting to believe they can play with guys who have been here for 15 years. Twenty years ago, guys coming off the Nationwide or whatever the Web.com was called, they probably didn't believe they could beat these guys straight out.

''Now you're seeing it happen every year.''

Peterson was with Spieth in Colombia early last year when Spieth was at a crossroads. With no status anywhere, Spieth was about $4,000 short of full status on the Web.com Tour. He honored a commitment to play a PGA Tour event in Puerto Rico instead of going to Chile to wrap up his card.

''I was like, 'Dude, you've got to Chile,''' Peterson said. ''He went to Puerto Rico and proved everyone wrong again. He could have been out there with us all year. Instead, he went to Puerto Rico ... and wound up in the Presidents Cup.''

Peterson laughed at his bad advice. Their banter remains, and it's refreshing.

Spieth gives him a hard time for a full beard – Peterson spent the last two months with his hands on a rifle instead on a 6-iron, killing a turkey, two bobcats, a seven-point and 10-point buck, two does, two hogs and two raccoons on family property outside Abilene, Texas.

Peterson questioned whether Spieth could even grow peach fuzz.

''I'm just looking forward to calling him 'rookie' all year,'' said Spieth, who is three years younger and $3 million richer.

Peterson won the Web.com Finals last year by finishing among the top five in all four tournaments. That gives a high priority the entire season, along with a spot in The Players Championship. He already has made the cut in three majors, including a tie for fourth at Olympic Club in the U.S. Open.

He played three times when the wraparound season began in October, making one cut. The full year starts Thursday in the Sony Open. For Peterson and all the other newcomers, they only have to look at what happened last year. Henley and Scott Langley went toe-to-toe playing in the last group, both of them rookies.

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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

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.