Phil Fans Ready for Wild Times in the Desert

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 30, 2007, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)The PGA TOUR makes its annual stop this week in Scottsdale, Ariz., for the long-running FBR Open -- and the list of superlatives that come with it: wild, raucous, unpredictable.
 
And no, we're not talking the fans surrounding the infamous 16th green at the TPC of Scottsdale.
 
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson has had four straight top-10s at the FBR Open. (WireImage).
Rather, we're talking about Phil Mickelson's scorecards thus far this season.
 
Mickelson, who once was a resident in the area and was a college star at nearby Arizona State, returns to the desert as a two-time winner of the event. Yet, it is the scorecards from his opening two tournaments that scream of rust and perhaps too much time away from TOUR play.
 
After a much publicized retreat from golf following his dismal Ryder Cup performance, Phil the Thrill has seemingly gone back to the style of play that prompted the commercial, 'What will Phil do next?'
 
At the 90-hole Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, Lefty somehow parred just half the holes (45) - the other half were birdies, eagles, bogeys or worse. Somewhere an amusement park should come up with a roller-coaster named after the man.
 
It was pretty much the same last week at the Buick Invitational. Plenty of birdies, several doubles, too many bogeys and a lone eagle - in perfect Lefty-style - on the 72nd hole.
 
The results - a tie for 45th and a tie for 51st. Hardly the start the reigning Masters champion was looking for to possibly quell the talk of his now legendary meltdown at Winged Foot. But a homecoming of sorts this week could be just what the doctor ordered for Phil.
 
Another homecoming of sorts is that of J.B. Holmes, even though he hails from Campbellsville, Ky.
 
It was here last year that one of the PGA TOUR's biggest bombers landed his first TOUR win - in a spectacular, runaway fashion. His seven-shot margin of victory was the largest in a player's maiden TOUR victory since Jose Maria Olazabal's 12-stroke romp at the 1990 NEC World Series of Golf.
 
Heres our list of players to watch for from four different categories: Superstar (top-10 ranked player from the Official World Golf Ranking); Second Tier (guys outside the top 10, but no lower than 100); First-Timer (a player who has never won before on TOUR); Veteran (a guy who has played 10-plus years on the PGA TOUR and may or may not have won in some time).
 
Fred Funk
Fred Funk is coming off a bogey free week in Hawaii.
Superstar
Although with just three top-10 players in the field again this week, Mickelson's up-and-down play is too suspect to be the pick. Geoff Ogilvy, a definite star in the making, has little to draw from so far this season. The pick for this week then falls into the lap of Vijay Singh. Twice a winner of this event, his last in 2003, Singh will come into Scottsdale with a bit of a chip on his shoulder after two straight sub-par - by his standards - efforts at the Hope and the Buick. Singh has had five straight top-20 finishes in the event.
 
Second Tier
Fred Funk. The Funkmeister is coming off a big win on the Champions Tour that saw him trounce the competition to the tune of a staggering 11-shot victory. Maybe even more impressive was this stat: 54 holes, 0 bogeys. Funk, who turns 51 in June, intends to spend most of his time on the PGA TOUR this season due his exempt status from winning the Players Championship in 2005.
 
First-Timer
If J.B. Holmes can have his breakout party here Arizona, why not Bubba Watson? Watson did edge out Holmes for the driving distance title last season and had the best finish of his young career just south in Tucson at the Chrysler Classic. Currently 24th on the money list due his fourth-place tie last week, Watson again is leading the TOUR in driving distance at 323.1 yards off the tee. It's just too bad that the wild 16th hole in Scottsdale is a par-3 instead of a par-5, or a short par-4. If it was, Watson would no doubt be crowned the king.
 
Veteran
Mark Calcavecchia was the pick in this space a week ago, and he gets a well-deserved nod again this week. A three-time champion in Scottsdale, Calc is playing inspired golf at the moment, racking up his second straight top-10 after his tie for fourth at the Buick. With his confidence growing, the 12-time PGA TOUR winner will be ready when he arrives at the place where he has had his most success.
 
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    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

    “I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

    Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

    The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.

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    Landry stays hot, leads desert shootout at CareerBuilder

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 12:35 am

    LA QUINTA, Calif. – 

    Andrew Landry topped the crowded CareerBuilder Challenge leaderboard after another low-scoring day in the sunny Coachella Valley.

    Landry shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under. He opened with a 63 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club.

    ''Wind was down again,'' Landry said. ''It's like a dome out here.''

    Jon Rahm, the first-round leader after a 62 at La Quinta, was a stroke back. He had two early bogeys in a 67 on the Nicklaus layout.

    ''It's tough to come back because I feel like I expected myself to go to the range and keep just flushing everything like I did yesterday,'' Rahm said. ''Everything was just a little bit off.''

    Jason Kokrak was 14 under after a 67 at Nicklaus. Two-time major champion Zach Johnson was 13 under along with Michael Kim and Martin Piller. Johnson had a 64 at Nicklaus.


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    Landry, Rahm, Kokrak and Johnson will finish the rotation Saturday at PGA West's Stadium Course, also the site of the final round.

    ''You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important,'' Rahm said about the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, a layout the former Arizona State player likened to the Dye-designed Karsten course on the school's campus. ''With the small greens, you have water in play. You need to be more precise. Clearly the hardest golf course.''

    Landry pointed to the Saturday forecast.

    ''I think the wind's supposed to be up like 10 to 20 mph or something, so I know that golf course can get a little mean,'' Landry said. ''Especially, those last three or four holes.''

    The 30-year-old former Arkansas player had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine. After winning his second Web.com Tour title last year, he had two top-10 finishes in October and November at the start the PGA Tour season.

    ''We're in a good spot right now,'' Landry said. ''I played two good rounds of golf, bogey-free both times, and it's just nice to be able to hit a lot of good quality shots and get rewarded when you're making good putts.''

    Rahm had four birdies and the two bogeys on his first six holes. He short-sided himself in the left bunker on the par-3 12th for his first bogey of the week and three-putted the par-4 14th – pulling a 3-footer and loudly asking ''What?'' – to drop another stroke.

    ''A couple of those bad swings cost me,'' Rahm said.

    The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the world, Rahm made his first par of the day on the par-4 16th and followed with five more before birdieing the par-5 fourth. The 23-year-old Spaniard also birdied the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth.

    ''I had close birdie putts over the last four holes and made two of them, so I think that kind of clicked,'' said Rahm, set to defend his title next week at Torrey Pines.

    He has played the par 5s in 9 under with an eagle and seven birdies.

    Johnson has taken a relaxed approach to the week, cutting his practice to two nine-hole rounds on the Stadium Course.

    ''I'm not saying that's why I'm playing well, but I took it really chill and the golf courses haven't changed,'' Johnson said. ''La Quinta's still really pure, right out in front of you, as is the Nicklaus.''

    Playing partner Phil Mickelson followed his opening 70 at La Quinta with a 68 at Nicklaus to get to 6 under. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer is playing his first tournament of since late October.

    ''The scores obviously aren't what I want, but it's pretty close and I feel good about my game,'' Mickelson said. ''I feel like this is a great place to start the year and build a foundation for my game. It's easy to identify the strengths and weaknesses. My iron play has been poor relative to the standards that I have. My driving has been above average.''

    Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on a sponsor exemption, had a 70 at Nicklaus to match Mickelson at 6 under. The Southern California recruit is playing his first PGA Tour event. He tied for 65th in the Australian Open in November in his first start in a professional tournament.

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    Mickelson 'displeased' with iron play; 10 back

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:18 am

    All of Phil Mickelson’s offseason work on his driver has paid off through two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    His iron play? Not as sharp, and it’s the reason why he heads into the weekend 10 shots off the lead.

    “I’ve been pretty pleased, overall, with the way I’ve been driving the ball, and very displeased with the way my iron game has been,” said Mickelson, who shot 68 Friday on PGA West’s Nicklaus course. He has hit only 21 of 36 greens so far this week. “Usually my iron play is a lot better than what it’s been. So I’ll go work on it and hopefully improve each round in this tournament and build a solid foundation for the upcoming West Coast events.


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    “I feel like if I continue to drive the ball the way I am, and if I got my iron play back to my normal standard, I should have the results that I’ve been expecting.”

    Mickelson, of course, is always bullish this time of year, but he has been able to find 10 of 14 fairways each of the past two rounds, including at narrower La Quinta Country Club, which doesn’t always fit his eye.

    “This is actually the best I’ve driven it in a lot of years,” he said.

    Currently in a tie for 67th, Mickelson will need a solid round on the more difficult Stadium course Saturday to ensure that he makes the 54-hole cut. He hasn’t missed a cut in his first West Coast event of the new year since 2009.