After Further Review: Rory the story at WGC

By Randall Mell, Ryan LavnerAugust 4, 2014, 1:00 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. In this edition of After Further Review, our writers weigh in on Rory McIlroy winning his second consecutive event and again ascending to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and how secrecy on the PGA Tour does everyone a disservice.

John Daly used to be freakish with his prodigious length off the tee. Today, we are witness to a generation of freaks. Is there anyone more fun to watch overpower a course with his driver when he is playing with confidence fully radiating than Rory McIlroy? Well, yeah. There is Bubba Watson and Adam Scott. And there was Dustin Johnson, before his personal life went OB. They can make every week look like golf's version of a home-run derby. You want to consistently compete for golf's biggest prizes today? You better have some freak in you. - Randall Mell

After Rory McIlroy won at Hoylake two weeks ago, I wrote that we were witnessing a transition right before our eyes, as the so-called Tiger Era morphed into the Rory Era.

If you weren’t buying into that narrative then, well ... how about now?

There has never been a more vivid line of demarcation between the two players as there was Sunday, when Woods withdrew from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational with a recurrence of his back injury, followed a few hours later by McIlroy’s second consecutive victory.

That’s not to say Tiger is done, nor does it insinuate that Rory will dominate every event he plays, but the writing is clearly on the wall.

You can choose to read it or choose to ignore it. Either way, the transition is here. – Jason Sobel

While Rory McIlroy’s triumph and Tiger Woods’ withdrawal were the stories of the weekend, the story of the week was Dustin Johnson’s leave of absence and the battle of semantics that followed.

Whether he was suspended, took a voluntary leave from golf or some combination of the two remains unclear. What is clear, though, is that the PGA Tour’s reliance on lock-and-key secrecy when it comes to player punishment and suspensions has made a difficult situation all the more complicated.

Poker players can attest to the fact that an all-in strategy works every time but once, and the Tour’s insistence on preventing disciplinary action from seeing the light of day is one that has traditionally paid dividends.

When that information begins to become public knowledge, though, the policy can create more problems than solutions – especially when the Tour changes its mind on when it can and cannot comment on such situations. - Will Gray

It’s not just that he is long, because for every Bubba there is a DJ, for every Colsaerts there is a Woodland. And it’s not just that he’s (relatively) precise, because of the top 5 in driving accuracy only Tim Clark has won in the past four years.

No, it’s the fact that Rory McIlroy is long AND accurate. His drives are the most mesmerizing five seconds in sports. McIlroy’s propensity to hit the driver over and over again stands in stark contrast to the way that, say, Tiger Woods has cautiously plodded his way around courses in recent years, fearful of the big stick.

McIlroy’s entire game is predicated on how he starts from the tee, and lately he unsheathes driver and bashes away, his ball routinely sailing 330 yards and a few centimeters off the center line. What a sight. – Ryan Lavner

At first the PGA Tour held the company line, informing anyone who would ask that whatever happened to Dustin Johnson – be it a suspension following a failed drug test or a voluntary withdrawal from competitive golf – would not be addressed.

Within hours, the circuit circled back around with a statement riddled with varying shades of vague, “With regard to media reports that Dustin Johnson has been suspended by the PGA Tour, this is to clarify that Mr. Johnson has taken a voluntary leave of absence and is not under a suspension from the PGA Tour.” Whatever the reality, secrecy doesn’t work. - Rex Hoggard

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

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

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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 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.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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.


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."