Little Walrus Learns His Lesson
Everyone expected a few yuks, a joke or two from the old man about the pride he must feel in playing with the kid. Kevin was 23 then. But instead of yuks and a lot of small chit-chat, what the small audience heard was a concerned father talking about how his son hadnt quite learned many of lifes harsher lessons.
It all started with a question: had Craig given young Kevin much advice on how to be a professional golfer?
Theres been a lot probably given I dont know how much has been heard, said poppa with a belly laugh. 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.
The last three years, Walrus said, I havent said a whole lot. If he asks me, then Ill chime in. But hes got his own people he works with. I dont know a damn thing about the golf swing and Ill be the first person to admit it.
Craig must be proud this morning. Son Kevin won the biggest victory of his life over the weekend. Playing on a sponsors exemption in Australia, Kevin won the Johnnie Walker Championship. Its an event that is co-sponsored by the European Tour and the Australasian Tour, and a lot of big-name players were entered ' Adam Scott, Fred Couples, Colin Montgomerie, Retief Goosen, Michael Campbell, Ian Woosnam to name a few. Kevin won it on the 72nd hole, a par-5 which he eagled with a 3-iron that stopped a couple of inches from the hole.
Kevin has definitely matured. Being 25 instead of 23 and having to buy your own enchiladas will do that to you. Stadler the Younger has felt his way along, learning the game at a snails pace rather than availing himself of all the advice that his dad could have given him. But ' hes learned.
Seems like my game has really progressed in the last couple of years, Kevin said. I feel like I played pretty well last year and just didn't get anything out of it. Just a little off, there wasn't anything really wrong. I was hitting it fairly well and not scoring. I'm happy with my golf, regardless of where I'm at.
Last week, incidentally, was a good one for the elder Stadler, too. He took a break from the Champions Tour to mix it up with the kids at Pebble Beach. And he made the cut easily, finishing in a tie for 42nd. This week hes back with the elders at the ACE Classic in Florida.
Late in 2003, though, Craig was nothing more than another concerned father, wondering if his son was ever going to take to heart some of lifes lessons.
I think my buddy here next to me is at a time in his life where he needs some pushing, Craig had said. Hes facing decisions on what hes going to do ' whether to improve his golf game and work at it. He plays great at times, and not very good at times.
Ive told him over the years, I think its one of the toughest things to learn ' to convince yourself that you have the ability, you have the talent, and subconsciously, you know, you think about it
Craig isnt by nature that serious, and on this day he realized that. Realizing he probably had been a bit harsh in his lecture, he cut the kid a little slack.
I didnt mean you hadnt learned that ' youve gotten a lot better at it than five years ago, dad said hastily. Youve done a creditable job at it, but theres still things there to fix. Theres a lot of areas in my golf game to fix, and there always will be. If you ever get perfect at it ' keep working!
Kevin said last week that, indeed, much of his golf swing is self-taught. This, though he had an excellent golfer living right there in the house.
I don't know if I was just stubborn or didn't care enough to get a teacher when was young, conceded Kevin. My dad always harped on me about it, but I never really felt like the hard-core instruction was for me.
The two, Walrus Senior and Walrus Junior, have gone their separate ways now. Craig lives in the Denver area, Kevin in Arizona. It seems one of us is always on the road, so I don't get to see him all that much, said Kevin.
But always, Kevin gets asked the question ' what is it like being the son of a celebrated golfer? Kevins stature is the same as Craigs, so the questions come even more frequently. Kevin hardly knows what to say ' its the same as if he were the son of a doctor or lawyer or Indian chief.
But obviously it is different having a father who cares the way that Craig does. That, said Kevin, is very special.
It's obviously opened a lot of doors for me that people might not have. I was exposed to golf at a very young age and what I wanted to do for life. I imagine it wouldn't have happened if he wasn't already out there doing it, said Kevin.
Kevin has had his PGA Tour card already, but had it revoked last season because he only finished 168th on the money list. Poppa Craig, incidentally, finished 185th, though he played only six tournaments compared to 33 for Kevin. But maybe Kevin will get his card back ' and keep his card. He has an awfully good example, and it seems like hes willing to follow now.
By GEORGE WHITE
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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."