Life Just a Ball for Stadlers Father and Son
Not so long ago ' early last year, actually ' golf was not fun. Stadler was 49, just crossing off the days until he turned 50 in June. He was hitting the ball sideways the last three or four years on the PGA Tour. Once one of the putting wizards, his putting was now just terrible. And golf was merely a way to make a buck or two. He long ago had ceased to enjoy it ' it was simply a means of making a living.
I think everybody will admit, 45-50 and playing the regular tour, you dont really have a whole of fun, said Stads. Youre non-competitive, not nearly as competitive as you used to be. That wears on you after awhile.
Then, on June 2 of last summer, the Champions Tour became a reality. That marked the demarcation point ' one day he was walking around just existing, the next day the light bulb went off.
Last summer I had an absolute ball, the time of my life, Stadler said only a couple of months ago. And that was before his fifth Champions Tour win in the Bank of America Championship Sunday. That was before his son won on the same day. Has a Fathers Day present ever been so sweet?
This is probably the best golfing day I will ever have,'' said Stadler. I don't think individual accomplishments even come close to this. It's incredible.
It was at the Father-Son Tournament last November that Stadler was losing patience with junior. Kevin is 24 now, and at the time he wasnt eligible for the regular tour, or for the Nationwide Tour. He was wallowing around in no-mans land. Advice from dad, perhaps?
Theres been a lot probably given I dont know how much has been heard, said poppa at the time, a deep-throated laugh starting deep within his belly. Pretty much in one ear and out the other. Then I just kind of bagged it for three years. Everything I said kind of set him off a little bit ' which was fine.
And now ' this. Craig could hardly keep up with the business of hand Sunday ' shooting 64 on the final day of a Champions Tour event. His caddie said Stadler was hugely disinterested in his own game. On every tee, Stadler asked for updates from the Nationwide.
I am so happy for him and so proud, said Stadler. He's struggled with his game and struggled trying to find out where to play, but he hung in there and he's worked hard at it.''
Kevin has a place to play now, competing on the Nationwide through the end of next year. And Craig ' well, Craig cant remember life being any more fun.
You know, its nice to be back and be in contention all the time, he said. Its wonderful to be back playing with the guys I started playing with when I first started playing, 10-15 years ago. We are all pretty good friends.
Its a combination of everything ' just being out here, three rounds, hop in the cart and get around a couple of days in pro-ams it all adds up to a pretty good time and Im really enjoying it, said a contented Walrus.
A great life, isnt it, Stads? Its a little bit of golfing heaven.
Yes, he agreed. No kids at home. You play so-so and you make a good check. You play decent and you make an awesome check.
And Ive gotten very used to no cuts very used to waking up Thursday and just kinda, Yeah, Ill play sometime today. I never realized how much I enjoyed three rounds with a no-cut format. Its awesome. You have a schedule and you can play around it. In that regard, its a lot easier that playing the tour.
Tweny-five events on the Champions Tour, five wins. And to think that Stadler didnt enjoy golf only a year or so ago.
I have no regrets being out here, he said. I played 27 years on the PGA Tour ' which is probably six more than I probably wanted to play. I didnt have much fun playing the last 5-6 years.
Now, hes having a ball. And his son seems to be feeling the same, after winning last week and making the cut at the U.S Open. Being a Walrus was never so much fun.
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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.