Tiger the Man to Beat at Firestone

By Golf Channel NewsroomAugust 16, 2005, 4:00 pm
Due to the delayed finish of the PGA Championship, it's a short week for some of the games top players as they descend upon Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, for this week's WGC-NEC Invitational.
Since it was included as one of the four World Golf Championship events in 1999, the NEC has had quite a run of entertaining golf. And the one player who has put on the best show at Firestone is Tiger Woods.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods' record at the WGC-NEC is unmatched by anyone in the event's six year history.
In the event's inaugural year of 1999, Tiger rolled in a 15-footer for birdie on the 17th to help him edge Phil Mickelson by a stroke. The win came on the heels of his first-ever victory at the PGA Championship.
He then duplicated the feat the following year, pulling off the double dip at the PGA and NEC by lapping the field in Akron. Twice flirting with shooting 59, Tiger's 259 four-day total still stands as the tournament record.
In 2001, Woods and Jim Furyk put on an epic duel in a seven-hole playoff that ended with Woods third straight victory in the event.
The following two years a little international flavor reached the winner's circle with Australia's Craig Parry taking home the title in 2002 and then Darren Clarke puffing his way to victory in 2003.
Which leads us to defending champion Stewart Cink's win last year over that Woods fella. No, Tiger didn't win but his second place showing ran his record at the NEC to this: 1st, 1st, 1st, T-4, 4th and 2nd. Throw out his opening-round 75 at the PGA Championship at Baltusrol and we could be looking at Tiger going for his third PGA-NEC combo this week.
Five for the Title
Tiger Woods
Woods is the least likely player to have a post-PGA letdown due to his record at Firestone and his unwavering belief in trying to win every tournament. Tiger is unquestionably the mentally toughest in the game - a point reinforced by his T-4 finish after grinding to just make the cut at Baltusrol,. And Firestone CC obviously fits his eye and its length - a monster at 7,360 yards on a par-70 layout - bodes well for the world's No. 1 player.
Phil Mickelson
With another 800lb. gorilla off his back following his validating win at Baltusrol, Lefty might shoot for even loftier goals such as challenging Woods for the No. 1 world ranking. A tall order indeed, considering Mickelson has never ascended to the top spot in the world, even before Tiger made it on the scene back in 1996. Mickelson has had success in this event, with a win in 1996 when it was known as the World Series of Golf, then three straight runners-up from 1997-99.
Davis Love
Sparked by his strong showing at the PGA Championship, Love brings a good record at the NEC to the table. Though he hasn't visited the winner's circle, Love has four top-10s in just six attempts, including a fourth place showing last year and a third in 2003. Despite having a rough go at it in the final round at the PGA, he proved to himself he can still play with the best.
Vijay Singh
Not one to let things ruffle his feathers too much - like a poor putting performance at Baltusrol - Singh just continues to put up astonishing numbers, and most importantly wins. Tied with Woods and Mickelson with four titles thus far in 2005, the big Fijian also has seven other top-5s on the year. Best showing at Firestone, however, is a tie for sixth in 2003.
Retief Goosen
Goosen has quietly - of course - put together an impressive season with a win at the International two weeks ago and his third top-6 effort in the majors at the PGA Championship. Striking the ball as well as just about anybody, the Goose just needs to get hot with the putter. Ranked fifth in the world and sitting in the sixth spot on the money list, Goosen will most assuredly be in the mix this weekend.
Playing Out the Font Nine
Four more to keep an eye on...
* Stewart Cink
Always needing to give a nod to the defending champ, Cink's sizzling opening-round 63 last year led to his wire-to-wire win, which was his second victory of the season. Ranked fifth in prize money in '04, he currently sits in the 34th position.
* David Toms
The unassuming Toms is putting together another solid, if not spectacular, season. He was, however, spectacular in the year's first WGC event. His roll through the six-match Match Play event was some of the finest golf of the year. He comes into NEC with some confidence after a satisfying 69-68 on the weekend at Baltusrol.
* Zach Johnson
Might be playing with a chip on his shoulder after be passed over by Jack Nicklaus for the Presidents Cup team. Finished 12th on the list but Fred Couples got the nod.
* Fred Couples
Opposite of Johnson, gets boost of confidence with his selection to the team from hero Nicklaus. Was in the mix at PGA Championship until a final-round 76 derailed him. Plus, with the majors now over for 2005 it's about time he starts warming up for those silly season events that he loves, in which there is no equal.
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    Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

    By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

    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.

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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.