Mickelson grouped with Rose, Fitzpatrick at Open

By Will GrayJune 6, 2014, 3:53 pm

Phil Mickelson's quest for the career grand slam will begin alongside the man that beat him last year at Merion.

Mickelson will play the first two rounds of the U.S. Open with defending champion Justin Rose as well as reigning U.S. Amateur champion, Matthew Fitzpatrick. After winning the Open Championship last July, this marks Mickelson's first attempt to complete the career grand slam at the major that has eluded him the most - Lefty's record six runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open began at Pinehurst in 1999 and include 2013, when he finished two shots behind Rose.

Mickelson, Rose and Fitzpatrick will begin on No. 10 at 7:51 a.m. ET Thursday.

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A trio of young guns will play together at Pinehurst, as Jordan Spieth (age 20), Rickie Fowler (25) and Hideki Matsuyama (22) were announced as the second featured group. Spieth, No. 10 in the world, was a runner-up at the Masters in April and tied for fourth at The Players Championship after sharing the 54-hole lead. He'll be joined by Fowler, who tied for 10th last year at Merion and tied for fifth at Augusta National, and Matsuyama, who notched his first career PGA Tour win Sunday at the Memorial.

Spieth, Fowler and Fitzpatrick will get things underway at 8:13 a.m. Thursday off the 10th tee.

Other notable first-round groups include (all times ET):

7:18 a.m. (No. 1): Sergio Garcia, Jason Day, Brandt Snedeker: Three of the best players still without a major. Day is making just his third start since February after battling a thumb injury, while Garcia is teeing it up for the first time since a knee injury kept him from playing the BMW PGA Championship.

7:29 a.m. (No. 1): Henrik Stenson, Matt Kuchar, Lee Westwood: Another trio of marquee players that have yet to win a major. Stenson is one of only two players that will be able to supplant Adam Scott as world No. 1 if he wins at Pinehurst.

7:40 a.m. (No. 1): Webb Simpson, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell: This group consists of the winners of this event from 2010-2012. McIlroy remains in the spotlight after his highly-publicized breakup, but he'll get to play the first two rounds alongside fellow Ulsterman McDowell.

8:02 a.m. (No. 10): Chris Kirk, Russell Henley, Brendon Todd: University of Georgia alums have had a banner season on the PGA Tour in 2013-14, and this group includes three Bulldogs that have already won. Kirk took the McGladrey Classic in November, while Henley won the Honda Classic and Todd claimed the Byron Nelson Championship last month.

1:03 p.m. (No. 1): Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Victor Dubuisson: Walker is the only player with three wins this season on the PGA Tour, and he'll play alongside Johnson, who won in China in October. They'll be joined by the Frenchman Dubuisson, whose short-game heroics nearly won him the WGC Match Play title in February.

1:03 p.m. (No. 10): Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Bill Haas: Not exactly the most electric group. It's been 11 years since Furyk claimed his U.S. Open title at Olympia Fields, while Stricker saw a good chance slip away last year at Merion. They'll be joined Haas, who took home the FedEx Cup in 2011.

1:25 p.m. (No. 1): Bubba Watson, Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel: Along with Stenson, Watson is the only other player that can take the No. 1 ranking from Scott at Pinehurst, and they'll get plenty of time together during the first two rounds. The group is rounded out by Schwartzel, the Masters champ from 2011.

1:47 p.m. (No. 1): Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, Martin Kaymer: This group brings together three of the last four PGA Championship winners, including good friends Dufner and Bradley. Kaymer returned to relevance last month when he won at TPC Sawgrass.

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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.


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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."

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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."