Another Cup Team Passes Without Bob Estes
What really stung was how he found out.
'My parents listened to the announcement on their computer at home, and they put the phone next to the computer so I could hear,' said Estes, who was traveling to the NEC Invitational that day.
'It was kind of weird to sit there and listen, and find out just like everyone else.'
The news was all too familiar.
Estes was 11th in points for the U.S. team until Fred Funk moved ahead of him by the narrowest of margins, the difference of one stroke at the PGA Championship. During the three-year qualifying process, Estes won three times and was among the top 10 players in the standings until the final few weeks.
Jack Nicklaus had said he might not take the 11th and 12th players for his two captain's picks, as he had done before. Still, Estes thought his chances were better than ever.
The first time he heard from Nicklaus was the day after the PGA Championship, during a teleconference to announce the picks. The news originated with Nicklaus in Wisconsin, was patched through the PGA Tour Web site, picked up by Estes' parents in Abilene, Texas, and relayed to their son in Ohio.
The first pick was Funk. The second was Jay Haas.
What about Bob?
'Obviously, Bob Estes was a big consideration,' Nicklaus said.
Those were hollow words for Estes.
The 37-year-old Texan doesn't begrudge either pick, nor is he bitter toward Nicklaus.
Estes knew the criteria for finishing in the top 10 and he came up short, in large part because of changes to his swing and his equipment at the start of the year.
Still, few players are more snake-bit when it comes to the cup.
Four years ago, Estes came one shot short of making the Ryder Cup team. A bogey on the 17th hole in the final round of the 1999 PGA Championship dropped him into sixth place; a two-way tie for fifth was all he needed to make the team.
U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw called Estes that night and told him he lacked Ryder Cup experience.
That might have cost Estes this time, too.
Nicklaus already had three guys - Chris DiMarco, Charles Howell III and Jerry Kelly - who never played in the Ryder Cup or the Presidents Cup. He felt he could take one more rookie (Funk), but not two.
Even so, Estes can't help but wonder if he got a fair shake, from the process that determines the Presidents Cup team and from the captain.
The U.S. team is based on PGA Tour money - one point for every dollar earned, with points doubled the year of the matches.
Just his luck, the points were cut in half in 2001 - Estes' best year on tour - when the matches were postponed because of the Sept. 11 attacks. That extended the qualifying an extra year.
'Had the Presidents Cup been played last year, I would have easily qualified,' Estes said.
The International team - players from everywhere but Europe - is determined by the world ranking because not everyone plays on the PGA Tour. If it applied to the U.S. team, Estes would have been 10th.
'If the world ranking is good enough to determine who gets in the majors and who qualifies for the World Golf Championships, and if it's good enough for the International team, why don't we use it?' Estes said. 'The world ranking is all about quality. The points system is about quantity.'
Estes won nearly $1 million more than Funk during the three-year qualifying. Because of the gradual increase in points, Funk finished slightly ahead - the difference of $27,589 at the PGA Championship.
Funk, however, played 17 more tournaments than Estes since 2001.
Nicklaus, meanwhile, studied PGA Tour data an inch thick during the weekend of the PGA Championship, trying to figure out which two guys gave him the best chance to win the Presidents Cup on Nov. 20-23 in South Africa.
Funk brings energy. Haas brings experience and stability.
Both were deserving picks.
Still, Estes wonders how much consideration Nicklaus gave him.
'I don't even think Jack knew I went to South Africa to play last year (in the Nedbank Challenge) in anticipation of making the Presidents Cup team,' Estes said. 'I haven't seen Jack all year.'
The only time Nicklaus met with potential Presidents Cup players was at the Memorial, his own tournament. That was the only tournament Estes missed during a five-week stretch.
'I was not there, which had nothing to do with my lack of desire,' Estes said. 'I desperately wanted to make that team, and I was in great position all three years.'
Nicklaus told those assembled at Muirfield Village that he only wanted guys willing to travel to South Africa the week before Thanksgiving. He was satisfied everyone had their oars in the water, and said Funk told him he would row a boat to South Africa for a chance to play.
'I wasn't there to tell him,' Funk said, 'that my boat would have gotten there quicker.'
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
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.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
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
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
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.
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."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
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.
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.