Olazabal Rounding Into Form for Match Play

By George WhiteFebruary 19, 2002, 5:00 pm
Hes 36 now, a veteran of just about every kind of golf you can imagine. During his life hes been a junior champion, an adult champion, excelled with Seve Ballesteros in the Ryder Cup, has two Masters titles, been successful in every corner of the world.
But ' Jose Maria Olazabal may be just learning to win.

Winning consistently has always been difficult for Olazabal. Hes played 14 years now and never won the European money ranking. The last two years the Spaniard has played both the U.S. and European tours, and two weeks ago broke through with a victory at San Diego. This week hes at the World Golf Championship'Accenture Match Play Championship, and he looks suspiciously like someone who can win it all.
(Hes) driving the ball fantastic, said Darren Clarke, the Irishman who played a practice round with Olazabal Monday. He missed one fairway yesterday. And he drove it long and straight. If he keeps it in the fairway, hes going to have a great chance because his short game is so good.
Clarke has been a European Tour regular for almost 12 years, and hes seeing an Olazabal hes never seen before. The best Clarke has seen? Yeah ' by a long shot, agreed Clarke.
The difference, frankly, is Olazabals instructor ' Butch Harmon. Olazabal asked Harmon early last year to take a look at the crooked drives and offer some advice. Harmon did, and though its taken Olazabal a year to feel comfortable with the instruction, it finally is becoming ingrained. Somebody had better watch out.
Im playing better, obviously, said Olazabal. Really, its just a matter of technique, changing the swing and thats pretty much it.
Ive been doing NOT the right swing for many years, and its going to take me a while to get rid of those bad habits. I didnt spend much time with (Harmon), and maybe its not the right time to work on your swing when youre playing tournaments and major events. But having said that, I think the results are starting to show up. Hopefully, Ill keep on improving.

Olazabal has been superb in his Ryder Cup appearances, teaming with Seve Ballesteros to form one of the more feared teams in Cup history. He has considerable experience playing this match-play format.
You have to really change your approach to the round, he conceded. Eighteen holes is not much. I mean, anything can happen in 18 holes of match play.
But thats all you have to change, your approach to the round. Youre not trying to beat the golf course. Youre just trying to beat an opponent, and all you have to do is just score one less than he does on every hole.
Given Olazabals recent success, there has been considerable distress that he isnt on the European Ryder Cup team. The teams will be the same as they were in September before the terrorist attacks, and the match will be played this year in September under the same guidelines with the same team members as last year.
Olazabal says that is fine with him.
I had my chance to be, he said, but I missed it, and I have no regrets about it. Nothing I can do about it.
The decisions are done. I think it would be pointless to talk about it anymore. I think it will be to the benefit of the team itself not to talk about this issue at all, concerning anybody. I think that will have to be made clear to everybody.
Olazabals first-round match is against the man who caused the uproar in the last Ryder Cup ' Justin Leonard. Leonard sunk a huge putt on the 17th green that set off a wild American celebration while Olazabal waited patiently to putt.
Olazabal believes, however, that any untoward feelings that may have existed between him and Leonard have long since been patched up.
Everything was resolved a few years ago, said Olazabal. He did what he was supposed to do. I mean, he tried to play his best. Finally, he won. There was nothing wrong with him.
That was just one of the breaks that you must accept, Olazabal says. Golf gives you something many times, but it takes something many times.
I just try to keep as relaxed as possible, he said. But when you are in a situation to win or when you are in a situation under a lot of pressure, the adrenaline is flowing, youre not going to be relaxed. Youre not going to be able to deliver under those circumstances.
Sometimes, you know, that adrenaline helps you to concentrate better and to give your best.
Getty Images

Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

Getty Images

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.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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.

Getty Images

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.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''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.

Getty Images

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.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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.