Futures Tour Returns To Its Roots
Launched in 1981, as the Tampa Bay Mini Tour, the Futures Tour will play the $65,000 tournament at East Lake Woodlands Golf & Country Club Friday through Sunday, March 26-28.
'The Tour has its roots in Florida, specifically in Tampa, and its a great market for womens golf,' said Zayra F. Calderon, president and chief executive officers of the Futures Tour.
East Lake Woodlands last hosted the Futures Tour in 1988. The Tours return to the challenging South Course will bring together a full field of 144 players from 26 nations, competing in the 54-hole event. The winner of the tournament will earn a first-place paycheck worth $9,100.
At least one player in the field will have home-course advantage. Jenny Gleason of Clearwater, Fla., will be the local favorite at East Lake Woodlands Golf & Country Club. Gleason works in the clubs pro shop and is a Futures Tour member this summer.
Heading up the field this week will be last years tournament champion Colleen Cashman-McSween of Plantation, Fla., who won at Rogers Park Golf Course, site of the 2003 event. Her title will be challenged by 2003 tournament winner Stephanie George of Myerstown, Pa., along with Futures Tour veterans Lisa (Strom) Fernandes of Huntersville, N.C., and Michele Fuller of Jupiter, Fla., -- both runners-up at events last season.
Kimberly Adams of Tide Head, New Brunswick, winner of the season-opening Lakeland Futures Golf Classic two weeks ago, also will be in the field. Seon-Hwa Lee of Chonan, Korea, the rookie who finished second in Lakeland, will be looking for her first Futures Tour title. She won twice on the Korean LPGA Tour prior to joining the Futures Tour.
Jimin Kang of Seoul, Korea, who played collegiately at Arizona State University and was runner-up at the 1999 U.S. Womens Amateur Championship, has rejoined the Futures Tour this season and will play in Tampa. The non-exempt LPGA Tour member won her professional debut in 2002 at the M&T Bank Loretto Futures Golf Classic in Syracuse, N.Y., and spent most of the 2003 season attempting to Monday-qualify for LPGA Tour events. Kang will face Korean compatriot and Futures Tour rookie Naree Song of Seoul and Bangkok, who enters her second Futures tournament after launching her pro career at the Lakeland Futures Golf Classic. At age 17, Song is the Tours youngest member this year.
Amateur Brittany Lincicome of Seminole, Fla., will join the field of professionals in Tampa. The Clearwater-area teen also joined the field in the Lakeland Futures Golf Classic. She was the St. Petersburg Times Player of the Year for 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003.
And appearing in her first Futures Tour event will be Beverly Klass of Boynton Beach, Fla., who played on the LPGA Tour for 13 years. The 47-year-old veteran touring/teaching pro received nationwide coverage when she turned professional at age 10, prompting the LPGA Tour to set age requirements for membership at 18.
The Vincent Reid Foundation, which serves developmentally disabled individuals from ages 6-22, will be the tournaments charity. Founded in 2000, the foundation offers life skills training for greater independence.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
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
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
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."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
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.
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.
Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta
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."
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."