Stat attack!: Honda Classic preview

By John AntoniniFebruary 25, 2014, 8:52 pm

As comebacks go, the Honda Classic has made a successful one. Thought of for years as the step-child of the Florida swing, the tournament has made a massive strides on the strength of Jack and Barbara Nicklaus’ involvement and the move to the PGA National Resort & Spa’s Champion Course. This year seven of the top nine players and 26 of the top 50 on the World Ranking are scheduled to compete.

They’ll have to contend with the famed Bear Trap – the par-3 15th, par-4 16th, and par-3 17th holes, where water comes into play on every full shot. These holes are not for the faint of heart. They have played over par the last four years and the par-3s were among the PGA Tour’s 50 toughest holes in 2010 and 2011. But how much impact did they have on the top of the leader board? What role did they play in determining the winner of the tournament?

Since 2010 the outcome of the Honda Classic was a direct result of play on the Bear Trap holes in 2010, 2011 and 2012. In those years, the winner played better at the Bear Trap than his nearest competitor. But in 2013 winner Michael Thompson (pictured) played two strokes worse than runner-up Geoff Ogilvy on the holes and still won by two strokes.

How the leaders played the Bear Trap (2010-2013)

 Player Bear Trap Result
 Michael Thompson +1 Won
 Geoff Ogilvy -1 Two back
 Player  Bear Trap Result
 Rory McIlroy -3 Won
 Tom Gillis +1 Two back
 Tiger Woods -1 Two back
 Player Bear Trap Result
 Rory Sabbatini -1 Won
 Y.E. Yang  Even One back
 Player Bear Trap Result
 Camilo Villegas Even Won
 Anthony Kim +4 Five back

When Thompson won a year ago, he led the field in birdie percentage on par-4 holes, shooting under par on 12 of the 48 two-shotters. He followed in the footsteps of 2011 winner Rory Sabbatini and 2010 champ Camilo Villegas, who also dominated the par-4s. Like Thompson, Sabbatini made birdie or better on 25 percent on the par-4s, while Villegas was under par on a whopping 31.25 percent four years ago.

How the leaders played the par-4 holes in 2013

 Player Subpar scores Birdie percentage
 Michael Thompson 12 25%
 Geoff Ogilvy 7 14.58%
 Luke Guthrie 9 18.75%

Four players who are in the top-10 on the PGA Tour in par-4 scoring average are in the field at the Honda Classic. Here’s how they have fared in the past at this event.

Par-4 scoring leaders in the Honda Classic

 Player Par-4 average Honda history
 Zach Johnson 3.87 Hasn't played since 2008 (T-30)
 Boo Weekley 3.90 Playoff loser in 2007, no other top-10s
 Jeff Overton 3.91 Four cuts made with a best of T-6 (2011)
 Charles Howell III 3.94 Seven straight cuts made; best of T-10 (2011)

Although Thompson was the first American winner of the Honda Classic since Mark Wilson in 2007, the Honda has crowned just one European champ (Rory McIlroy in 2012) since moving to PGA National in 2007. However, several golfers from across the Atlantic have played well at the Champion course. In addition to McIlroy in 2012, Justin Rose was third in 2010 and Luke Donald was runner-up in 2008. Like McIlroy and Donald, several Europeans who have struggled recently are playing this week and might be good bets to reverse their fortunes. Rose, however, won’t be one of them as he withdrew because of a recurring injury to his right shoulder. In addition to the players listed below, Padraig Harrington won the 2005 Honda Classic when it was held at the CC of Mirasol (Donald also won at Mirasol in 2006.)

Top Europeans at the 2014 Honda Classic

 Player Results at PGA National
 Rory McIlroy Won in 2012
 Luke Donald Second in 2008, T-10 in 2011
 Lee Westwood Fourth in 2012, T-9 in 2010, ’13
 Paul Casey T-4 in 2010
 Freddie Jacobson T-5 in 2009, T-6 in 2010
 Graeme McDowell T-6 in 2011, T-9 in 2012, ’13

The three top Americans on the World Ranking are also playing this week, but they haven’t had as much success at the Honda Classic as their European counterparts. Top-ranked Tiger Woods was second in 2012, but was T-37 last year in his second Honda start as a professional. Fifth-ranked Phil Mickelson is making his first Honda appearance since 2002 and No. 7 Zach Johnson is playing for the first time since a T-30 in 2008. The Honda Classic is one of four current PGA Tour events that Woods has played at least three times without winning. It’s worth noting that he has finished second in three of the four.

PGA Tour events where Tiger Woods has made the most starts without winning 

 Tournament Starts Best finish
 Northern Trust Open 11 Second in 1998, T-2 in 1999
 Barclays 8 T-2 in 2009, 2013
 Honda Classic 3 T-2, 2012
 Waste Management Phoenix Open 3 Third in 1999

One final thought: The Honda Classic has followed the WGC-Accenture Match Play on the PGA Tour schedule six times in the last seven years and in four of those years the Honda winner wasn’t in the Match Play. But if you want a player who can piggy-back on his Match Play success – as Accenture runner-up McIlroy did in winning at PGA National in 2012 - look no further than Rickie Fowler. The consolation-match winner at Dove Mountain was T7 and T13 at the Honda Classic the last two years, is 58th on tour in par-4 scoring and was second in the 2010 Memorial Tournament, the other Tour event Nicklaus headlines.

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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.