Am Tour: Playoff needed to decide competitive Jones flight; Snead flight a runaway

By Brandon TuckerSeptember 22, 2015, 11:04 pm

LA QUINTA, Calif. – It didn't take long for a spectacular finish at the Golf Channel Am Tour National Championship at PGA West, where six flights will crown national Champions.

Michael Baker, from Corona, Calif., held off Jayr Tonido, from Clarskston, Ga., in a one-hole playoff on the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West to win a highly contested Jones flight (handicaps 16.0-19.9).

After entering the day in the final pairing and one shot off the lead, Baker played a steady final round. On the 18th green, he had a three-foot bogey putt to clinch the win.

"The arms were a little shaky," said Baker, who missed the putt and wound up in a playoff with Tonido.

Each player had just a few minutes to regroup before heading to the par-4 1st hole of the Nicklaus course for a sudden death playoff. Both players hit good drives, but Tonido missed the green and had a tough pitch back on.

After Tonido missed his par putt, Baker had this look at birdie to clinch the victory:

"This is the top," said Baker. "This is right up there except for my kids being born.

"It's not going to get any better than this."

Baker joined Am Tour this year at the suggestion of his brother Bryan Baker, a three-time Nationals qualifier who plays on the Chicago local tour, also competing in the Jones flight at this week's Nationals. Michael and Bryan lost their mother last year, and made a point to make this year's National Championship a family affair. Michael brought his wife along and Bryan brought his wife and kids and they rented a house to be together all week.

"This meant a lot to me," said Baker. "I wanted to do this for her."

Runaway champion in the Snead flight

Heading into the final round, there wasn't much doubt as to who would win the Snead flight (20-plus handicaps). Rick Burton, from Seymour, Ind., entered the day with a 15-shot lead and cruised to a 16-shot victory of Rodney Harrison from Decatur, Ga.

Burton, 52, had the opportunity to compete in the Senior Nationals, which begins on Friday, but decided to compete this week instead in order to play with his son John, as well as some other friends on tour.

Turns out, it may have been a blessing playing with the younger and wilder Snead-flight golfers.

"The older guys, we try and advance it down the middle," said Burton. "And we do alright.

"I was playing with a couple guys who hit it 60 yards farther."

The result was a runaway victory, but it turned out to be a bittersweet one. His son John Burton, 21, was also in contention in the Sarazen flight until yesterday.

As John walked off the 18th hole after a 76, he was in an apparent tie with Vijay Jain for the lead. But shortly after turning in their cards, Burton realized his score on the 18th hole had been written down wrong on the scorecard by his scorer -- a five instead of a six.

He promptly reported the error, unsolicited, and it resulted a disqualification and forfeiting the opportunity to play in the final group in Round 4.

"I was proud of him for turning himself in," said his father Rick. "I wish he didn't have to learn so early at such a crucial time."

John will never know if he could have prevailed in the Sarazen flight to make it a father-son sweep, but Rick leaves nationals with a trophy for the family and great pride in his son's honesty.

Getty Images

Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

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.

Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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.