Golfs Playing Field Level Now

By George WhiteFebruary 24, 2005, 5:00 pm
Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington are here in the States this week. So is Darren Clarke and Miguel Angel Jimenez. Thomas Bjorn, Ian Poulter, Joakim Haeggman and Graeme McDowell have flown over. So have Trevor Immelman and Alex Cjeka.
Out in Carlsbad, Cal., they all have gathered from the European Tour for the first big clash of the biggies of golf. They, among several others whose home was originally in Europe, will swap shots with the Americans on hand at La Costa for the World Golf Championship-Accenture Match Play. Thats a dozen European Tour stars who are among the top 65 in the world, leading some cynics to wonder what kind of statement it makes about the American game.
Phil Mickelson knows. Its painfully obvious to anyone who cares to check out the situation on one very important world stage.
It's really not that surprising given our Ryder Cup performance, is it? Mickelson said. That they're up on top, it's not surprising to anyone.
Not just the European Tour stars are here, but so are the Australians, the Japanese, South Africans, and several other international stars. Some would say that the American game is in a state of decline. Mickelson, though, doesnt see world golf through an American flag. He sees it through a United Nations flag. Just because American dominance has declined somewhat doesnt mean the game is any less interesting, he says.
No, no, not at all, Mickelson believes. I'm a fan of the game of golf, not just American golf. I like to see it grow throughout the world, and that's what it's been doing, and it's been evident in the performance of so many international players.
I think that the quality of the golf across the world, international golf has improved greatly, not just in the UK, but in Australia and Asia; different parts of the world it's improved vastly. '
These world gatherings take place several times a year now. There are four of these World Golf Championships. There are the four major championships. And there is the Players Championship, the PGA Tours party which might be the grandest of them all.
Of course, Americas best havent been very inclined to cross the ocean, either the Atlantic or Pacific, to participate when the confab changed venues. Mickelson is among the guilty. He points out that he has a young family to look after, and a trans-oceanic trip takes him away from home for three weeks just to play one tournament. But he does think the Match Play, for instance, does try to accommodate the Yanks when it is moved around.
When it was moved to Australia, they did a couple of things to accommodate it, such as having the following week tournament in Hawaii, which made it a lot easier, he said. So I would probably do that, yes.
But he, like the absent Ernie Els and countless other world players, would like to see some changes made in the format which would guarantee a losing player more than one round. The way the Match Play is currently configured, a player might come 8,000 miles just to play 15 or 16 holes and be knocked out on opening day. Surely, Mickelson says, there are ways to ensure against that eventuality.
In my perfect world, I would like to see the format slightly altered, he said. I'd like to see the first three rounds - 54 holes - Wednesday through Friday, played stroke play and knock it down to the top eight.
Then I wouldn't have a problem going anywhere throughout the world to do that because I'd feel with 54 holes of stroke play you can have that first round not be perfect and still get in the top eight. And I feel like it gives the top players a little bit better chance of getting into the match play format for the weekend I wish it would go to that. I understand why it doesn't, but I just would feel more comfortable traveling around the world with a format closer to that.
Most of the Internationals are staying in America to play in Florida for the next month. But certainly not all of them ' some have no choice but to return to Europe or Japan or Australia. And if this tournament were moved to, say, South Africa, then everyone would be in danger of the quick one-and-done. Most would only play three days. Only a very fortunate few would get through to Saturday.
It makes Americans seem awfully insular when given the option of moving this particular tournament around the world. But maybe they really arent. Maybe this tournament needs to be tweaked a little so everyone can enjoy three days of golf ' Americans, Brits, Australians, South Koreans, South Africans ' everyone.
Email your thoughts to George White
Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.