If not for one hole, Spieth would be co-leading

By Rex HoggardApril 8, 2017, 12:25 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Twenty years ago Tiger Woods set the Masters standard for competitive perseverance.

In his first start at Augusta National as a professional, Woods limped out to a front-nine 40 on Thursday that included four bogeys and not a single birdie.

That he went on to win that year’s Masters by 12 strokes is now part of major championship lore, and however this week plays out for Jordan Spieth he’s probably not going to be able to rival that accomplishment – but he’s trying.

For Spieth, it wasn’t nine holes that put him four strokes on the wrong side of par, it was a single hole, the par-5 15th that featured a poor choice, some poor timing and three poor putts that added up to a quadruple bogey-9.

The miscue, which Spieth explained was caused by a bad decision to go at the pin with his third shot despite swirling winds that were gusting to 40 mph, dropped the 23-year-old to 4 over par and put a serious dent into any potential title hopes.

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But after a similarly tough start on Friday that included two bogeys through his first four holes, Spieth rallied with a closing nine of 33 that included a 13-footer at the 18th hole to move to even par for the week and just four strokes off the lead.

“Dramatically,” Spieth said when asked if his outlook for the rest of the week had improved since Thursday. “I'm very pleased with the second round of this Masters and we're in a position now where we can go out there and win. So, that right there just kind of gives me chills, because after yesterday I was really disappointed in being 10 shots off the lead.”

Spieth’s turnaround is even more impressive considering how difficult it was to move past his poor decision on the 15th hole on Day 1. A bad swing, that happens, but not picking the correct play is something the normally meticulous Spieth has serious issues with.

“It's definitely harder to get over a club selection than it is a bad swing,” he said. “Bad swings happen and you practice for the bad swings not to happen, but the club choices, it's definitely very difficult out here all the time, let alone when it's windy, but that's definitely tougher to get over, because I put a good swing on it and I did kind of did my part.”

Although he avoided any similarly costly mistakes on Friday, there were some tense moments for Spieth on another wind-whipped day. At the 13th hole he backed away from his second shot when his golf ball appeared to oscillate in the rough.

He called in caddie Michael Greller, who assured Spieth his ball didn’t move, and had officials check the footage, who also confirmed the ball hadn’t moved.

Spieth birdied No. 13 despite the distraction to begin his run and put himself back in contention at an event where he’s never finished outside the top 2.

“Those last couple putts, I had confidence in them, put really nice strokes on them and I finally got them to go,” he said. “I hit all nine greens on the back nine and had three birdies and one of them was a 2‑putt. They were getting close and then finally I saw the one go in on [No.] 16.”

Spieth still has 36 holes to play and Woods’ rally in 1997 may never be eclipsed in terms of Grand Slam tenacity, but he does have the chance to make some history of his own and become the first player to win the Masters with a “9” on his card.

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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.

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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 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.

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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.