Mickelson Quietly Begins Climb

By George WhiteFebruary 9, 2006, 5:00 pm
That guy quietly lurking in the background bears watching this week. Philip Alfred Mickelson has played three times and racked up three top-10s. Is he, perchance, ready to break out?
 
Mickelson has made a few enemies with his decisions on places to play the past year or so. But you have to give him his props ' he knows what he is doing on the golf course. Mickelson opened his year by finishing in a tie for fifth at the Hope, followed that with a tie for eighth at San Diego, and last week tied for seventh at Phoenix.
 
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson hopes his putting will come around this week at Pebble Beach.
Mickelson won last year at Phoenix, as well as the next week at Pebble Beach. This week the tour swings oceanside to Pebble, and Mickelson is sidling up to that trophy already. Remember, he has had these boffo starts to the season several times in his career. He might tail off a little toward mid-season, but the beginning of the year he has nearly always come out smoking.
 
Mickelson, of course, took an unusually long vacation to wind up last season. With the exception of the odd tournament or playing appearance, he shut er down in October last year after Vegas and didnt start up again until the Hope in mid-January. Thats roughly three months of loafing. Mickelson is a bona fide family man now with a wife and three kids, but three months is quite an extended absence for anyone nowadays.
 
Everyone had him pegged for the No. 1 threat to Tiger until about the middle of May last year. He had just finished in the top 10 seven times in eight events, including the two victories. But for a couple of months he had a devil of a time hitting it straight and didnt threaten again until mid-August when he won a biggie, the PGA Championship. He then slipped back into his old habit of missing fairways and greens through the end of the year.
 
So, naturally, he was generally forgotten when this year began. But remember ' its the beginning of a new season, and its Mickelsons time of year. His putter has been sour a few rounds, but he has tagged the ball beautifully. Of course, the spotty greens at Pebble Beach mean that hardly anyone ever has a great week putting. So maybe thats another good omen for Phil.
 
I don't feel very good on the greens right now, he said. I really haven't felt comfortable, haven't made too many putts. I've got to work on that. I've been trying to take a little extra time before each round, but it hasn't quite settled in yet, and I don't anticipate that it will next week at AT&T with the greens not being that great.
 
I feel like the putting just isn't there yet.
 
Mickelson says that, at the age of 35, he finally has become a golfer. The last two years correspond to the time he began working in earnest with Rick Smith and Dave Pelz.
 
I felt like I made the biggest strides in the last two years as far as consistency and level of play, he said. The ability to contend in the majors has been a big factor the last two years.
 
And the putting, he feels certain, will come around. And he hopes it comes around this week.
 
I started to key in on a couple of things where I started the ball on line (in Phoenix), Phil said, and thats going to be important at Pebble.
 
Its a tough tournament, though, to play well because there are a lot of factors that you cant control. You cant control how the ball bounces on the greens, you cant control some of the weather conditions, some of the pace of play issues. You just have to kind of accept it and hope you get some breaks.
 
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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

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.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

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

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

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.


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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."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

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.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

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.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.