Sawgrass Favors No Certain Player

By George WhiteMarch 23, 2006, 5:00 pm
If you normally figure your golf tournament favorites by how far they can stripe the ball, better go back to the drawing board when mapping out The Players Championship.
 
True, a lot of the bolo punchers have won here ' Davis Love III in 2003, Tiger Woods in 2001, David Duval in 1999, Fred Couples in 1996, Greg Norman in 1994.
 
Fred Funk
Fred Funk is one of a variety of different winners at Sawgrass.
But then there is Craig Perks in 2002, Hal Sutton in 2000, Steve Elkington in 1997 and 91 ' all guys who are just average in length. And where do you put Fred Funk of last year, Craig Perks in 2002, Justin Leonard in 1998 or Tom Kite in 88? These guys are pea-shooters compared to the musclemen of the TOUR. But each won the biggie, the one most people call the fifth major.
 
Its a terribly confusing animal, the TPC at Sawgrass. Neither long hitter nor short hitter has the lock on the Players titles. Neither straight striker or spray hitter, neither fish or fowl.
 
It just shows you, it's got a lot of variety and you can play the golf course lots of different ways, says Ernie Els. Basically, it gets the best player that's on form (that) is going to win the tournament - if you're a longer hitter, shorter hitter.
 
Even the winning scores have been on a topsy-turvy roller coaster ride. Norman went ridiculously low in 1994 when he shot a 24-under 264. But Duval was 21 shots higher when he won with a 3-under 285. Funk last year was 15 shots off the record when he was the best at 279, 9 under.
 
The difference, of course, is the weather conditions. Sawgrass is usually fast and dry, which is the recipe for higher scores. But in 94, the course was so lush that balls which normally would have run off into the rough stayed in the fairway. The greens were soft enough to have a go at them from anywhere on the course. The breezes caressed the cheeks instead of blowing in an angry tantrum. And rains dampened the oft-fiery fairways, leaving them no more scary than your course at home.
 
When it gets a little firmer, the second shots become probably the toughest on TOUR, said Els, because the greens are very small, very undulating, and there's only certain areas where you can go with your second shots. So when it's firm, that's one of our toughest tests.
 
The democratic nature of the course is exemplified perfectly by Woods, who won once and finished second (2000-01). But look what was happened to him the past four years (2002-2005) ' he finished T14 in 2002, T11 in 03, T16 in 04, and last year he dropped to T53.
 
Why the difficulty in picking a champion? Why does everyone ' all the better players ' stand out at some time or another at this championship?
 
I think just the nature of its design, with the doglegs, said Tiger, how (architect) Pete (Dye) designed it with the cutoff bunkers and the mounding that it just brings all of us together.
 
We're all hitting the balls to the same spots. A lot of times for the longer hitters, it's 3-wood or 2-iron or some kind of utility club off the tees where the shorter guys are hitting drivers. So we're all in the same spot.
 
With that in mind, it becomes a second shot course and see who can hit their irons the best and put themselves in positions where they can make putts.
 
Phil Mickelson detected another obstacle recently when the course was changed yet again.
 
I think that when the rough was added and made so thick around the greens, it gave an advantage to the player that kept it a little bit shorter and a little bit straighter, he said. But because the greens are small and tough to hit, there's an advantage to a guy who can hit it a little bit longer. Whoever is playing well is the guy that has the advantage.

In addition, It's a second-shot golf course, says Els. Conditions also determine how you've got to play it. If it's soft, you can be very aggressive. You'll see a lot of good scoring because the ball will stick on the greens.
 
And then obviously when it's soft, it's a big change and it's very easy. We always have rough there, so accuracy is a premium. You know, your short game, you'd better have your short game around there because the greens are small. So overall, it's a great test.
 
Which Sawgrass will show up this year? No one knows for certain at the moment. Maybe that is why it is such a great examination
 
It's a great test, Els said. I think to have different winners like that shows you how good the golf course is.
 
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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.