A Hot Start Now About the Finish

By George WhiteJanuary 10, 2006, 5:00 pm
For the third straight year, Stuart Appleby wins the Mercedes Championship. For the third straight year, he wins the seasons first tournament, an elite event for winners only. And for the third straight year, people are asking whether this might mean a breakout season for him.
It didnt mean much in 2004 and 2005. In 04, he went on to miss the cut at the Sony Open and finish T40 at the Bob Hope in his next two tournaments, and though he played well in spurts, he couldnt duplicate winning.
Last year, he had a child born the week after the Mercedes and didnt play again until LA six weeks later. And, once again, he couldnt duplicate the victory at Kapulua. He finished T58 at the Nissan in a tournament that lasted only two rounds. In his next outing (the Accenture), he needed 19 holes in his opening match to knock off Joakim Haeggman before losing the second to Ian Poulter. After that, he wouldnt finish in the top 20 until the Booz Allen in June.
To be fair, lets concede that Appleby suffered most of the first half of the season with a nerve problem in his hip. But I managed - when I got over the ball, I could swing it all right, Appleby conceded. I was really surprised because my comfort level was not very good, but when I got to hit a shot, I actually felt all right.
This year, though ' no problem. I'm in better shape than last year, he said flatly.
So what has happened to Appleby the last couple of years to submarine the excellent starts? Well, last year he could point to the child and the injury, though really he didnt do a whole lot the entire year. In 2004, he played pretty consistently, though he never could close the deal.
Surprisingly, Appleby has mostly putted his way to the Mercedes wins. This, despite the fact that he was way down at No. 165 in the putting rankings last year.
It's pretty hard to miss a fairway, pretty hard to miss a green, said the man who averaged 300 yards a drive in 2005, 19th on the rankings. Don't have to chip much, all have you to do is putt. I putted well.
There was no question that his golf game was AWOL after the Mercedes last year. I certainly didn't hit it as good - didn't swing it as good, I should say - and I didn't have any weeks where I putted as good as that, offered Appleby. I think that showed. That (putting) probably cost me 10 to 15 spots on the list right there, minimum. Whereas '04 was a year that was a bit more stable. I finished ranked 12th.
Appleby lives now in Florida, but he in a native Australian and he traditionally spends Decembers playing tournaments in Australia in the short golf season Down Under. Jim Furyk noted that fact, hoping that that is the reason he has dominated the Mercedes the past three years.
He either gets it back very, very quickly or he's been working pretty good in the off-season, one of the two, Furyk said.

Maybe he's been playing a little bit at home. A lot of us live in good weather. It doesn't mean we're always out there practicing. A lot of guys, you want to spend Christmas and kind of be with your family during the holidays.
This year, of course, the tournament missed four men who would have been favorites for the championship ' Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Padraig Harrington and Retief Goosen. But Tiger and Goosen, at least, were in attendance the other two years. So Applebys Mercedes wins were against the top competition. And this year he won a playoff over Vijay Singh, so there wasnt much of a dropoff of talent there.
What does he have to do to step it up to the worlds top 10? Its simple ' he has to putt much better. He was in the top 30 in putting routinely until 2004, when he finished 56th ' and thats not bad, mind you. But 165th ' now, thats bad.
This year, hes going to become a father again shortly. Fatherhood, naturally, didnt affect his putting last year. The hip ' possibly it did. But there should be no excuses this time around. This time, the 34-year-old has to make that extra leap. He has shown the past three years that he can be potentially as successful as anyone save Tiger ' at least at the first tournament of the year. Now he just has to learn how to do it the following 47 events.
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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.”

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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.

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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.

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''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.

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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.

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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.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.