Early Date Doesnt Deter Big Names

By Golf Channel NewsroomJanuary 18, 2005, 5:00 pm
2005 Buick InvitationalThe Buick Invitational will feature many of the same players it usually does. Two-time champion Tiger Woods will be on hand, as will three-time winner Phil Mickelson, who will be making his season debut. World No. 1 Vijay Singh is in the field, as are Sergio Garcia, Fred Couples and David Duval.
 
And then theres John Daly, who will be back to try and defend his title.
 
But if this years Buick Invitational feels a little differently than in years past, there is one good reason: a change in date.
 
The PGA Tour, in an effort to keep the FBR Open on Super Bowl weekend, moved the Buick forward three weeks. Its the earliest date for the event, which takes place at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, Calif., in 25 years.
 
Tournament director Tom Wilson expressed concern when he learned last year of the official change in date. He was curious to see if volunteer support would diminish because of the proximity to the holidays. He was concerned that the two courses, the North and South, might need that extra few weeks to reach tour-caliber quality. And he wasnt sure what factor weather would play ' and, oh boy, has it played a major role already.
 
Its not only rained in Southern California, its flooded many parts of the region. San Diego County has reportedly already surpassed its annual average rainfall for the entire season.
 
The forecast calls for sunny skies this week, but the effects of the storms will linger.
 
One of the primary causes for concern are the greens on the North Course. They are some 30 years old and dont hold water as well as the greens on the South Course, which were rebuilt in 2001. That means they may be quite spongy.
 
And all of these problems dont even factor in public parking, course traffic and television crews.
 
But somehow, someway, there will be a tournament at Torrey Pines.
 
Daly will be looking to become the third player in tournament history to successfully defend his title. He won last years edition by beating Chris Riley and Luke Donald in a playoff. His bunker shot, which led to the clinching birdie on the first extra hole, was one of the indelible moments of 2004. It marked his first win since the 1995 British Open.
 
With Mother Natures permission, there are plenty of other storylines just waiting to be played out.
 
Woods, who won here in 1999 and 2003, is still in search of his first stroke-play title on the PGA Tour in 15 months. He said that he struck the ball well in his season debut at the Mercedes Championships. But he averaged 30.5 putts per round in finishing tied for third.
 
Mickelson once again skipped the season-opener in Hawaii in order to extend his vacation with his family.
 
The last time anyone saw Mickelson in competition he was firing 59 to win the PGA Grand Slam. The record performance capped off another roller-coaster season for the left-hander ' and made sure it ended on a high note.
 
His 2004 certainly started on a similar positive note, when he won in his first start at the Bob Hope. He then claimed his first major at the Masters and nearly won a couple of more majors. But then things started to go downhill. He was highly criticized for switching clubs prior to the Ryder Cup, was a part of a calamitous pairing with Woods at Oakland Hills, withdrew after becoming ill at the Michelin Championship in Las Vegas, and then broke 70 only once ' with his new Callaway clubs ' in his final two official events.
 
Fortunately for him, his two days in Hawaii gave him some positive momentum to take into this season.
 
The South Course will also be in the spotlight. The 7,568-yard beast, which underwent a $3.3 million transformation, will host the 2008 U.S. Open. It will be just the second public venue to host the National Championship, following in the footsteps of Bethpage Black in 2002.
 
The South is the host course this week. Players will rotate between the two layouts over the first two days, before playing the South exclusively over the weekend.
 
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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.

    @tommyfleetwood_1

    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."