Els Troubled by Devastation in Phuket
In 1994 Greg Norman swept to the world No. 1 position with a victory at Phuket. In 1998, a young Tiger Woods added another entry into his already impressive resume with a final-day, eight-stroke come-from-behind playoff win over Ernie Els at Blue Canyon.
By mid-morning on the 26th, with the pristine sky still beaming overhead, Phuket was a picture of devastation. The little island off the western coast of Thailand had been just been inundated by the awesome tsunami that swept the rim of Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and all areas in the region. Phuket, a swanky tourist area roughly 500 miles south of Bangkok, was swimming under water. The tsunami had exacted a terrible price, equally hitting the poor people of Sri Lanka as well as the privileged people vacationing in Phuket.
Els heard the news and was deeply disturbed. He admires the area and has vacationed there often, even when there was no golf tournament. He spoke at the Mercedes Championship where he is playing this week in Hawaii.
That was terrible, he said at a Tuesday press conference. It seemed like it came out like a light, if you can call it that way.
Yeah, it was terrible. We've traveled over there many years now and it's a tragedy, you know, obviously. So I don't know what it's going to do for the tourism in that part of the world, but it's obviously really hit them very hard.
Less than a year ago, Ernie and his family were on vacation in Phuket. It was between stops in Asia and Australia, part of the convoluted itinerary the world traveler keeps. Els thought back on that stop, fully aware that he could just as easily have been right in the path of the deadly tsunami. Think about the million or so years that earthquakes and tsunamis have been occurring in that part of the world, and Els is extremely fortunate that his Phuket experiences came a mere 10 months before the latest tragedy occurred.
Last February, we spent 10 days in (Phuket), he said. And actually (his caddy) Ricci just gave me a ride over here (to Kapulua), and one of those pictures those people took was at one of the hotel he stayed at (on the island of Phuket) when we were there last year in February. Yeah, definitely it would have affected us.
Els gets a bit queasy now just thinking about it. But much more than missing a golf outing, he thinks about the missing 160,000 people who will never have that experience again of just walking in a lush green meadow.
His wish, as is mine, is that all golfers around the world would contribute to the fund to help the ravaged areas. Dont know where to give your donation - $5, $10, $50, $100? Give to the Salvation Army. Give to the Red Cross. Give to UNICEF, to Save the Children, to World Vision, to any one of the many donation sites set up on the Internet.
Already I am already embarrassed at the amount I gave to the reconstruction effort. But like Ernie Els, I am simply in awe at what the ocean can do. God alone knows when a tsunami will hit the next time. It may very well be at a golf tournament in Asia.
Or it could very well may be on the West Coast of the United States. Give as though your neighbor were involved ' for the next time it happens, he well might be.
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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.
Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.
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.