Loves Win May Be the Key for Next Year
It was the Target World Challenge, and it came down to a classic finish between Love and host Tiger Woods. Tiger did what he does better than anyone else ' he went crazy on Sunday in damp, cool weather. But Love had an answer this time ' hang on for a wild ride over the back nine for a win that appeared as safe as money in Fort Knox a couple of hours earlier.
A 45-foot bomb on 16 finally allowed Love to relax a little with a two-stroke lead. If this was supposed to be an exhibition, or just another wrap-up to a rather silly Silly Season, someone forgot to tell Woods. And someone forgot to tell Love, who played the tournament like it was a hot day in July instead of a chilly day just before Christmas.
Sixteen players teed it up, and they were the cream of golfing society. Ernie Els was somewhere sitting in a cozy room with a cup of hot cocoa, but everyone else was there. Vijay Singh, Mike Weir, Kenny Perry, Jay Haas, Nick Price, Chris DiMarco, Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke obviously they werent all hitting it like they do in the middle of the season, but they dont all hit if great in the prime of the year, either. If it is Sunday at 4 oclock and the competition is on the back nine, its going to be intense. If youre trying to hold off a charging Woods, it doesnt matter if its the Sunday of the Masters or the Sunday of the Target. You either lay down in front of the Woods bulldozer ' which most people would do ' or you resist becoming just another road-kill. Love resisted.
You still get nervous, no matter what the tournament is, said Love. Your prides on the line and there are people watching on TV and people watching in the gallery and theyre pulling for you and pulling against you and you want to win.
The difference between the Masters and the Players Championship is a fine, fine line. But you want to win and thats the main thing.
Did you see a difference in Tigers countenance? I didnt. In Loves? Nope, not really.
Whats his (Woods) motivation to shoot 65 today? asked Love. Its because we want to win. We dont want to lose. If you come and show up, you want to play to win.
Does it feel like the Players Championship or Hilton Head or Denver? Not really, but its still very exciting and you still get just as nervous.
Its like comparing coming down the stretch of the Presidents Cup or the Ryder Cup. Which one is more intense? I couldnt tell you much difference when I was out there on 17 at the Presidents Cup. I was nervous as a cat.
Which is to say, Sunday was the fifth time Davis has won this year. This win will never have the impact of Loves win at the Players ' and it shouldnt, certainly. But it was still a win against top-flight competition. And it still says something about Davis Love III and his play in 2003.
I think its a continuation of a good year, said Love, who turns 40 next spring.
I made some strides in my game this year - certainly over 2001 and 2002 I think that this year, Ive met my goal of trying to compete every week and be ready to play every week. Even though Ive had two weeks off, I came out here to play to win, not just to show up and collect a little money and go snowboarding. I came to win and I worked hard to win.
The sweaty palms and thumping heartbeat were there on the first tee Thursday, but that really isnt unusual with Love. He has been a professional for 18 years now, but hes always apprehensive when the competition starts. The fact that he confessed the nervousness for this tournament was just one more bit of evidence that he considered the field pretty important.
Im always excited and nervous, Davis admitted. And in a tournament like this, when there are only 16 players, its almost like the first day its more nerve-wracking than a regular tournament, because you know that every birdie moves you up and every bogey its such a tight race all the way. I was nervous the whole week.
Love had a pretty unusual year. He missed three cuts ' including the U.S. Open and the PGA. But he won at Pebble Beach, at the Players Championship, at Hilton Head and at The International. And he finished the regular season strong, finishing in the top six in his last three tournaments before the win.
Can he do better next year? It seems unlikely - four wins is a major-league success story, and there is some awfully tough competition out there for the victories. But he can become an even more consistent player. And he has a solid springboard at the end of 2003 to catapult him into 2004. It might well have started this weekend.
Email your thoughts to George White
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."