Power Rankings: Omega Dubai Desert Classic

By Will GrayJanuary 30, 2013, 1:42 am

For the third week in a row, we have two events on the fantasy golf slate. Our power rankings for the Waste Management Phoenix Open can be seen here, while the European Tour also claims part of the spotlight with the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. Following a dramatic finish last week in Qatar, many of the game's elite remain in the Middle East to test their game again this week.

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Rafael Cabrera-Bello returns to defend the title he won last year. Here are 10 names to keep an eye on this week in Dubai:

1. Sergio Garcia: After coming up just short last week in Qatar, the Spaniard will be eager to build on the momentum at an event where he has been inside the top 20 in each of his last three appearances.

2. Lee Westwood: Making his first start of 2013, the Englishman heads to an event where he has been runner-up three times - including twice in the last three years.

3. Henrik Stenson: Great record here, having notched five straight top-8 finishes from 2006-2010, highlighted by a win in 2007. Finished T-10 last week in Qatar so his game seems to be on point early in 2013.

4. Thorbjorn Olesen: The young Dane has continued to build on last year's momentum, following up his runner-up in Abu Dhabi with a T-22 finish in Qatar. Remains one of the names to watch for a potential breakthrough season in 2013. 

5. Anders Hansen: Already has a top-10 finish under his belt in 2013, having tied for ninth two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, and has twice been inside the top 5 in Dubai - including a runner-up finish in 2011.

6. Rafael Cabrera-Bello: The defending champ returns on the heels of a Sunday 64 in Qatar, which vaulted him inside the top 25 for the third time in three starts this year.

7. Chris Wood: The Englishman finally got the monkey off his back last week, capturing his first career European Tour win with an eagle on the 72nd hole last week in Qatar. Now he heads back to Dubai, where he's been inside the top 20 each of the last three years, including a tie for 10th in 2011.

8. Matteo Manassero: Having begun his 2013 season with three straight top-25 finishes, the upstart Italian may be in position to succeed against a somewhat weaker field despite a relative lack of prior success in this event (T-31 best result in three starts). 

9. Jamie Donaldson: After his comeback victory two weeks in Abu Dhabi, the Welshman now heads to an event where he was T-16 a year ago and has been inside the top 15 on two prior occasions as well. 

10. Stephen Gallacher: Despite struggling so far this season, the Scot should benefit from returning to some friendly confines in Dubai. Gallacher has been inside the top 10 here each of the last two years, including a runner-up showing last year, and has missed the cut only twice in 12 appearances.

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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.

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

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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."


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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."

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."