After Further Review: Matsuyama's well-timed win

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 30, 2016, 9:44 pm

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the impact of Hideki Matsuyama's win in China ...

A week after the PGA Tour announced it was expanding its footprint in Asia with the addition of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in South Korea to next year’s schedule, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama became the first Asian player to win a World Golf Championships title at the HSBC Champions.

Although the two events are mutually exclusive, it is a sign of the times at the game’s highest level. Matsuyama, who lapped an elite field at Sheshan International by six strokes for his third Tour victory, is 10th in the World Ranking and the vanguard of a new wave of Asian players that is making the expansion of the circuit’s Asian swing more than just an economic experiment. – Rex Hoggard


On the LPGA season winding down ...

The LPGA’s Race to the CME Globe is beginning to look like the end of a marathon.

The women’s game has never been so stuffed full of big summer events, with four major championships and the Olympics squeezed into a four-month run that included the International Crown and the major-like Canadian Pacific Women’s Open. The KEB HanaBank Championship in South Korea is like an Asian major in the fall.

Lydia Ko, Ariya Jutanugarn and Brooke Henderson are all showing some effects of the long run, with fatigue appearing to show in their games as they hit the home stretch to the $1 million CME Globe jackpot awaiting at the season-ending Tour Championship in just three weeks. They’re 1-2-3, respectively, in the CME Globe standings. For Ko and Jutanugarn, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, Vare Trophy for low scoring average and money title also hang in the balance.

It might be all about who has the most emotional fuel left in their gas tank when they arrive in Naples, Fla., for the year’s finale. – Randall Mell


On Cody Gribble's good fortune ...

Cody Gribble is a rare example of a hurricane making a positive impact on someone's life.

Gribble was one of the beneficiaries when Hurricane Matthew wiped out the Web.com Tour Championship earlier this month, a result that left him 19th on the Finals money list with the top 25 earning PGA Tour cards. Now three weeks later, the former Texas standout is the newest rookie winner after capturing the Sanderson Farms Championship.

Gribble gets an extra perk from the placement of this week's event on the calendar. Since it falls in the early portion of the new season, Gribble is exempt through the 2018-19 season and will play out of the winners' category for nearly the next three years.

Gribble's quick ascent is a testament to how some players are able to capitalize on breaks that go their way - even when there's a hurricane involved. – Will Gray

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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.

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.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

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."


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


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."

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Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 10:33 pm

After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.

La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.

"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.

The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.

"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."