Power Rankings: 2015 Zurich Classic

By Will GrayApril 21, 2015, 8:44 pm

The 24th event of the wraparound season is upon us, as the PGA Tour heads to the Big Easy for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. A field of 144 will tackle TPC Louisiana, where seven of the past 10 champions have been first-time winners.

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Seung-Yul Noh won this event a year ago by two shots over Andrew Svoboda and Robert Streb. Here are 10 players to watch in New Orleans:

1. Justin Rose: The Englishman enters off a runner-up finish at the Masters and now tees it up on a course where he has cracked the top 15 each of the past three years. After a slow start to the season, Rose appears to be finding his form and a friendly venue like TPC Louisiana will only accelerate that process.

2. Dustin Johnson: Perhaps the hottest player on Tour not named "Spieth," Johnson has five top-10 finishes in his last six starts, including a T-6 finish at the Masters. Johnson won earlier this season at Doral and while his lone prior Zurich start was a missed cut in 2008, his current form is strong enough to trump any lack of course knowledge.

3. Keegan Bradley: Bradley appeared in line to win this event a year ago, playing in Sunday's final pairing before fading to T-8. He returns off a pair of top-25 finishes in Houston and Augusta, including a final-round 68 at the Masters, and currently leads the PGA Tour in total driving.

4. Jason Day: The Aussie is making his first trip to New Orleans since 2009, and it comes on the heels of a somewhat disappointing T-28 finish at the Masters where he never contended. Day won in San Diego and has been remarkably solid this season, with no finish worse than T-31 in seven starts. He should be able to continue that trend this week.

5. Harris English: English barely missed out on a Masters invite via the OWGR, but his season has still been a solid one: seven top-30 finishes in his last nine starts, including a T-3 finish at the Sony Open and a playoff loss at Torrey Pines. English last played Zurich in 2013, when he finished T-6 after a final-round 67.

6. Morgan Hoffmann: Hoffmann flirted with victory last month at Bay Hill and followed it with another strong showing last week, finishing ninth at Harbour Town. He sandwiched those around a respectable T-28 Masters debut and has cracked the top 35 in each of his two prior Zurich starts, shooting 70 or better in six of eight rounds.

7. Brendan Steele: Steele has been a cut-making machine, playing the weekend in each of 12 starts this season and finishing inside the top 25 in four of his last five events. He was a runner-up at the Humana Challenge in January and has made the cut in each of his two previous trips to TPC Louisiana.

8. Rickie Fowler: Fowler rallied for a T-12 finish at Augusta National but remains in search of his first top-10 finish since his season-opening start in China in November. Fowler missed the cut at this event last year but his record at TPC Louisiana is otherwise solid, with three straight top-35 finishes highlighted by a T-10 finish in 2012.

9. Cameron Tringale: Tringale has a strong track record at this event, with three top-20 finishes in his last four starts including a T-7 finish in 2012. While he missed the cut at Hilton Head, it was his first MC in nine starts and he tied for fifth earlier this month at the Shell Houston Open.

10. Steve Stricker: The veteran is making a rare start, just his second tournament since hip surgery in December, but he knows his way around TPC Louisiana. Stricker last played here in 2012, finishing sixth, and each of his last three starts in this event have netted top-15 finishes. He finished a solid T-28 at the Masters in his return from the disabled list.

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Rahm (62) takes early lead at CareerBuilder

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.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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.


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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.

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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."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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."