Hawaii 5-0 Sony Open Contenders

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 10, 2006, 5:00 pm
2006 Sony OpenMichelle Wie, Michelle Wie, Michelle Wie. Thats about all youre going to read, see and hear this week at the Sony Open.
Vijay Singh
Vijay Singh is trying to successfully defend a title for the third time in his PGA Tour career.
Wie, however, is just one of 144 players in this first full-field PGA Tour event of 2006. And while its quite possible that she could make the cut on her home course at Waialae Country Club, where she recently shot a career-best 64, its quite unlikely that she will actually win the tournament.
Selecting the eventual champion beforehand is not an easy task. Unless youre picking Annika Sorenstam (who won 10 of 20 LPGA Tour events last year) to win on the ladies side, the odds are highly stacked against you.
But try we will. Here is our list for the top 5 contenders to win the 41st Sony Open in Hawaii.
Vijay Singh
Singh is the defending champion, having shot 65 in the final round a year ago to fend off Ernie Els, who closed in 8-under 62, by a stroke. Els won this event in 2003 and 2004. But with his absence this year, Singh is the clear favorite. The Sony was the first of four tour triumphs for Singh in 05. Only Tiger Woods won more than did the big Fijian a year ago, but Singh wasnt overly impressed with his performance. Saying he slacked off down the stretch, he expects to be more focused and more dedicated ' and accomplish even more in 06. He's off to a good start, having finished runner-up last week in the Mercedes Championships, losing a playoff to Stuart Appleby. Singh successfully defended two titles last year, at the Shell Houston Open and the Buick Open.
Jim Furyk
Unlike at the Mercedes, Furyk doesnt own a house on this host course. But just like at Kapalua, he does have a victory at Waialae. Furyk captured this event 10 years ago, defeating Brad Faxon in a playoff. Hes made the trip to Honolulu every year since his rookie season on tour in 1994. The only other tournament hes competed in as often is the Las Vegas tournament, now known as the Bose Championship. Furyk kick-started the season by finishing third in Maui.
Shigeki Maruyama
Shigeki Maruyama has three top-10s in seven career Sony Open starts.
Shigeki Maruyama
As a past tour winner, Maruyama would fit the mold of recent Sony champions. Only one player over the last decade (Jerry Kelly, 2002) has made this event his first tour victory. Maruyama, who has three tour titles, but none since 2003, has had plenty of success here. He has three top-10s over his last six Sony starts. Last year, he led by one through 54 holes, but his 1-under 71 on Sunday left him in a tie for third, two back of Singh. Given his Japanese heritage ' and omni-present smile ' he would likely be a popular champion on the island of Oahu. He is hoping to join countryman Isao Aoki as winners of this event. Aoki holed his approach shot on the 72nd hole for eagle to defeat Jack Renner by one in 1983.
Justin Rose
While experienced winners have prevailed 90 percent of the time over the last 10 years, others have come very close to making this their maiden triumph. Three years ago, tour rookie Aaron Baddeley lost to Els in a playoff. The year after that, Harrison Frazar did the same. Rose would love to start a new trend at Waialae. Hes come close on a few occasions to earning win No. 1 in the States, but hes never been able to finish strongly enough to do so. That was the case last year, when he made his debut at the Sony. Rose opened in 67-66 to get within one of the 36-hole lead; however, he closed in 72-72 to tie for 20th. With an extra year of tour competition under his belt ' and a few more difficult losses to season him, he should be ready to take advantage of his next opportunity.
Charles Howell III
Few players over the last five years have come up as short on expectations as has Howell. Expected to be a winner many times over by now and the leading 20something player in the U.S., Howell is still stuck on one tour victory ' which came in 2002. Its not as if hes a slouch; he averages about six top-10s a season and has never finished worse than 33rd on the money list. But he hasnt been able to convert opportunity into victory over the last 3 seasons. Of course, the 26-year-old hasnt won this event, but he has fared well in four previous appearances. He tied for fourth in his debut in 2002 and then tied for third a year ago. In between, he notched a couple of top-30s finishes. Perhaps the winds will finally blow his way this week.
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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.

    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."