Whew Tiger Barely Creeps Past the Knife
Tiger Woods slipped under the cut-line at the Cialis Western Open by coming up with a couple of key birdies late in the day Friday. Had it not been for that bit of excellence, he would have had to call it quits after 125 consecutive tournaments in which he had not missed a cut.
Woods was slip-sliding away after his 12th and 13th holes - Nos. 3 and 4 at Cog Hill. He went double bogey and bogey on those efforts, and suddenly he was 3 over. The cut-line was at 1 over. Unless he turned it around - and right away - he was gone lock, stock and driver.
But Tiger, as he has done so often in his career when he simply, absolutely had to, got off the bogey train just in time. He nailed a couple of crucial birdies. He had made just one all day long, but he hunkered down on his 15th (No. 6) to get one, then came right back at his 16th (No. 7) to breathe life into his tournament hopes.
The streak began in 1998 after he had failed to show up for the third round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, which had been postponed from February until August. That event makes a cut after three rounds.
He also missed the cut by one stroke in the 1997 Bell Canadian Open ' the only 'real' missed cut of his career. He shot a 76 to miss that one after shooting a 70 the first day.
Actually, its not a cuts-made streak since a number of the events (five now on the PGA Tour per year) have no cuts. Included in his streak of 125 no-cuts are 25 tournaments in which there were no cuts.
Byron Nelson had the old record of 113 straight tournaments without missing a cut ' though the records are choppy with incomplete newspaper results. But it was a far different game in those days back in the 40s. On the one hand, the competition may not have been as difficult with World Way II ongoing. But on the other hand, many tournaments paid only the top 20 players. Nelson was in the money at least 113 straight times.
Tiger eclipsed that mark by not missing a cut all the way until the Tour Championship, the last tournament of last year. Fridays close call was a nail biter indeed, but it was not Woods scariest moment. In the 2002 Buick Invitational, he was one off the cut coming to the 36th hole (No. 18), but he birdied the hole, holing a curling 6-footer to make it right on the number. At the 2001 PGA Championship, he was two off the cut after the 14th hole. However, on No. 15 he made a 40-footer to pull within one, hit the cut-line with a 30-footer on 16, then ended up with another closing birdie to make the cut by one.
The record is iffy about when Tigers record streak begins. If you count the next tournament he played after the Canadian in 97 ' the Walt Disney ' the streak is up to 129. But the 98 Pebble Beach throws a monkey wrench into the equation. Pebble Beach that year was a 54-hole tournament which, thanks to torrential downpours, was decided seven months after it began. Woods chose not to return to the Monterey Peninsula, but its unlikely he would have made the cut anyway. His score of 76-72 was 14 strokes behind the leaders and he would have had to shoot a 65 to make the cut. Pebble Beach is a 54-hole cut, not the traditional 36.
Woods camp accepts the Disney in 97 as the start of the steak, but the PGA Tour counts the week after Pebble Beach ' the Buick ' as the beginning. Woods is credited as withdrawing.
Included in his 11 starts this season are seven finishes in the top 10. However, he tied for 46th at Bay Hill, where he had won four consecutive times, and finished in a tie for 17th at his most recent outing, the U.S. Open.
Tiger finished third or fourth in the three tournaments prior to the Open, primarily thanks to brilliant putting. He stands third in that category on the tour rankings, and that roller has saved many a bogey from becoming a reality. However, his driver has kept him constantly in trouble ' he ranks 160th in fairways hit. And more telling, perhaps, has been his record on the par-3s. The par-3s is a good indication of how you are hitting your irons. Woods is 145th in that category.
And so he goes on with his record now at 126. He has, indeed, been lucky. But lets face it ' every time he seems like it will surely, certainly end, Tiger comes up with a way, a will, to keep the streak alive. And so far, thats 126 straight times of playing on the weekend. Thats 126 straight times of making the cut. And nobody else in history can say that.
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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
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.
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.