Murphy Wins Season Finale
Murphy entered the final day trailing Wilson by one shot with a 137 (-7) total. She jump-started her victory round with a 12-foot birdie putt on the first hole, followed by another birdie putt on the par-5 475-yard second hole. A bogey on 4 was wiped out with a birdie on 6. She turned at 9-under-par for the tournament and was still one shot shy of Wilson, who birdied two holes on the front side.
Wilson bogeyed 10, dropping her down to 9-under-par with Murphy. Two more bogeys on 15 and 17 left Wilson trailing Murphy, who remained steady with pars on the back nine, by two strokes. Murphy finished strong and improved to 10-under-par for the tournament by draining an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, finishing the round two shots ahead of her nearest competitors. Wilson also birdied 18, making an eight-foot putt, but it was not enough and she finished at 72 (even), for a 208 (-8).
'I was really relaxed out there today,' commented Murphy, who was playing in the final pairing with Wilson and Erdmann. 'I was making good strokes, but left seven putts right on the edge of the hole. It felt great to make that last putt and finish strong. It was a good way to end the season.'
Erdmann started the day tied for second with Murphy and immediately dropped back by three shots with a double-bogey on one. She made up the blemish with birdies on nine, 10, and 13, sending her to 8-under-par for the tournament. Erdmann parred the remaining holes and finished her round with a 1-under-par 71. Price was two shots down after two rounds of play with a 138 (-6). Her final round was made up of birdies on six, 16, and 18, and a bogey on 14, to end tied for second with Erdmann and Wilson.
'I was a little concerned coming into the final tournament because of my position on the Tours money list,' said Price, who finished seventh overall on the 2002 Futures Tour money list with $31,365. 'My main goal was to stay calm and play well so I could remain in the top 10. It feels great to finish strong and now I can rest until the final stage of Q-school.'
Murphy competed for three years on the LPGA Tour in 1998, 2000, and 2001. After missing the cut at the 2001 final LPGA Qualifying Tournament, Murphy re-focused and decided on a new approach. Rather than play a full-time schedule, Murphy and her husband, Dan, returned to teaching at the Stratton Golf School in Stratton Mountain, Vt. The pair instruct golfers between the ages of 14 to 78 with all aspects of the game.
'Teaching has been very therapeutic for my golf game,' stated Murphy. 'I have become a lot more patient and since I am practicing every day, my swing and approach to the game have both improved.'
In addition to teaching, Murphy believes that the turnaround point for her game started back in July, when she was competing in her 10th U.S. Womens Open Championship. She was leading after the first eight holes of the tournament and ended up missing the cut. Five weeks later, Murphy was set to compete in the Green Mountain Futures Golf Classic in Killington, Vt., one hour away from where she resides. However, Murphy forgot to register and she missed the chance to play.
'I was very upset with myself that day,' commented Murphy, who today collected the $10,500 first-place check. 'Mentally, I was not focused on what was important. I was caught up in so many other things and that is not going to help me get back onto the LPGA Tour. I took some time to re-group and to set my priorities straight. This new approach has put me on the right track back to where I want to be.'
In four tournaments that Murphy played this season, including three after her incident in Vermont, she recorded four top-10 finishes, including two ties for sixth and one tie for seventh.
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."
Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder
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."