Winds Reign In New Mexico
But those 50-mph gusting blasts progressively pummeled players in the afternoon rounds. There was an average difference of five shots between the morning and afternoon waves.
'Today was all about getting up and down for par,' said defending champion, Linda Ishii, who carded a 75 for her opening round in the Tour's largest purse of the year.
'By the time I get home to Florida next week, my backswing is going to be a foot long,' groaned Lisa Hall of Stoke-on-Trent, England, who posted a 79 for her wind-affected effort.
Gulyanamitta's sizzling opening round was paced by a steady performance that included 27 putts and a 15-yard chip-in on the 14th hole. The Thai player admitted that wind play typically is not her strength because her homeland is hot and humid with little wind. Playing in gusts has been something she's learned since turning pro in 2001 and joining the Futures Tour.
'We don't have wind at home, but I like to play in it because it's fun,' said Gulyanamitta, who won the Futures Tour's Coleman Golf Classic in Wichita two years ago and captured the Order of Merit for the Asian Women's Tour earlier this year. 'The course is in really good shape this week but the wind has made it difficult to hold the greens.'
Only two other players posted scores under par Friday. Kristin Dufour of Austin, Texas and Erika Wicoff of Hartford City, Ind., both carded scores of 71 (-1) in Friday's late-morning tee times. Kori Johns of Austin, Texas, shot an even-par 72.
But for the afternoon tee times, starting at 12:30 PM, the conditions grew considerably tougher. The wind never let up and 73 (+1), posted by Jessica Polus of West Palm Beach, Fla., was the best score from the afternoon rounds. Catherine Cartwright of Bonita Springs, Fla., recorded a 74, and Young Jo of Suwan, Korea, posted a 75, for the remaining top scores Friday afternoon.
'I was having fun watching the mountains disappear from the dust storm out there,' said Wicoff, who has played for six years on the LPGA Tour and is back on the Futures Tour trying to regain her exempt LPGA status.
Dufour, a first-year pro, used 30 putts and a boatload of patience to post her sub-par round. 'I'd get up there for a birdie putt and everything was shaking,' said Dufour, who backed off seven putts to wait for gusts to subside. 'But you just have to go through your normal routine.'
Dufour scored an eagle-4 on the par-5, 499-yard eighth hole. The former University of Texas player went for the green in two and watched her shot take a big hop to 25 feet. She drained the putt for eagle.
But even the leaders, who had the benefit of slightly easier morning conditions, wrestled with club selection. Gulyanamitta, for example, used a pitching wedge to reach the fifth green on her approach shot during Thursday's pro-am, but was forced to play nearly the same shot with a 5-iron in Friday's opening round.
By sunset, when the final groups dragged in, Gulyanamitta's 3-under 69 in the first round was as strong as the Albuquerque wind.
Tee times for Saturday's second round start at 8 AM, with the leaders teeing off at 2:20 PM.
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."