Stadler Finds Something That Was Missing
I figured maybe Ben Crenshaw might do something like this, maybe Mark McCumber. But Stadler fooled me. I guess its that laconic way of his, that look that says anything but Im excited. But any way you look it, he is excited. Just look at what hes done.
Stadler won his third Champions Tour victory over the weekend. That is in addition to winning the B.C. Open this year on the regular tour. Oh ' did I mention that he has only been a Champions Tour member since his 50th birthday June 2nd?
Stadler has been plagued for several years now by a mediocre putter. Thats usually certain death on the Champions Tour, where you absolutely must roll the ball well to have much of a chance. The courses are a little shorter than the PGA Tour, meaning that everyone will reach them in about the same amount of shots. But once you get there, the fun starts. Its the guys who make the most putts who usually win.
Stadler, though, hadnt been much of a putter earlier in the year. He missed five cuts in his eight tries on the regular tour. Then he changed tours, won on the regular tour shortly after joining the Champions Tour, and hasnt stopped yet. And ' he putts it pretty well now.
Could I get used to this? he said with that deep belly laugh of his. Yeah. Im not as dumb as I look.
The win this past weekend was Stadlers second in succession. He won three weeks ago at the Greater Hickory Classic, before that a major - the Ford Senior Players Championship.
Why? I go back to something I heard Jack Nicklaus say in the late 1970s, said Stadler. Winning breeds winning. Ive always taken that to heart. Im in kind of a comfort zone now.
Stadler is fifth on the Champions Tour in driving distance at 286.5 yards, and hes second in greens hit. Plug in the putting average and you have the tours No. 2 scorer, right behind someone named Watson, T.
Whats happened? Well, the ol warhorse is getting his second wind. Stadler got a whiff of this rarified air, and he thinks he will stay around for another ' and another.
All of a sudden you are thrown into the limelight and everyone is expecting you to be on top of the heap again. In that regard it is kind of fun, said Stadler.
'You kind of look forward to that. I don't know what the difference is. You look at a lot of guys out here that just were not very good from 45 to 50, and all of a sudden they come out here and they find something, they start playing great again.
He himself was just average on the regular tour of late, underachieving by a good measure while he tried to find a reason to go golf tournaments 20 times a year. Now, he doesnt have to try. He says he actually looks forward to it.
I think it is just a little different mentality out here, Stadler said. You feel more like you belong, more like you can be competitive with all these guys, as opposed to going out and just kind of when you are 48 and 49, kind of hoping to make the cut I think just everything kind of falls into place.
Maybe its just seeing some old faces, or maybe its just remembering how it used to be in 1982, when he won four times.
You see all the guys you are playing against, and just kind of subconsciously, you are thinking ' I played these guys 20, 25, 30 years ago, and I was very competitive with them then. Theres no reason I shouldnt be now, Stadler said.
I think your confidence level and everything just goes up, just for the fact you dont have 80 guys that are 25 years old that hit it 340 freakin yards and make every putt playing against you every week.
Stadler is the only player on the Champions to have won three times, this in just half a year. Watson, Bruce Lietzke and Hale Irwin each have two. And, Stadler won on the regular tour a month after he was 50.
All in all, he has more than $1 million in his pocket that he didnt have before he turned 50. Yeah, the Champions Tour is a good life. But you dont have to tell Stadler. After all, hes living it.
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Rahm (62) fires career low round
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
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."