What We Learned: Honda Classic

By Mercer BaggsMarch 5, 2012, 12:00 am

Each week, the GolfChannel.com team offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the most recent events. This week, the team reflects on the Honda Classic from PGA National Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Rory McIlroy learns fast. The 22-year-old – yeah, 22 – picked up the pieces after Augusta last year. He learned from the setback a week ago against Hunter Mahan. He has some scars, but they have healed stronger.

McIlroy won the Honda Classic in his new adopted home state. He did it over the guy he idolized growing up, Tiger Woods. He did it with the kind of efficiency Jack Nicklaus showed in winning so prolifically.

 In a Ryder Cup year, it seemed fitting for the new world No. 1 to end the American victory streak to begin 2012. – Ryan Ballengee

I learned that for all the talk about how hard the Bear Trap is (and in fairness, it was), PGA National needs to toughen up the rest of the course.  Tiger Woods shoots a final-round 62? OK, he’s Tiger Woods. But a rookie, Brian Harman, shoots 61 to break the course record by three shots? And he could have shot a 59, and he should have shot a 60? That ain’t right. This isn’t  Bermuda Dunes. This is the Champion Course. But it didn’t always act like one this week. – Al Tays

I learned that we should all brush up on our math skills, because for the second straight year, the drama surrounding the No. 1 world ranking will be an intriguing subplot throughout the season. New top man Rory McIlroy could be on the verge of an extended stay atop the list, while erstwhile No. 1s Lee Westwood and Luke Donald aren't going anywhere. And then there's Tiger Woods, as rumors of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. What does it all mean? On a weekly basis, any one of 'em could be in the hunt to become the next top-ranked player. Of course, it all comes down to a formula, so keep those calculators handy. – Jason Sobel

The game may be racing to exhilarating new heights again.

We learned Sunday at the Honda Classic that Rory McIlroy is ready to begin a reign over a new era. We also learned that Tiger Woods is ready to contest that. Rory vs. Tiger isn't wishful thinking anymore. It looks like it's real, like the best rivalry since Jack Nicklaus vs. Arnold Palmer is about to be fully engaged. – Randall Mell

I learned that there is the possibility of a Rory McIlroy-Tiger Woods rivalry. It's difficult to downplay what happened Sunday. Tiger didn't just have a good final round; it was a 62, free of bogeys in trying conditions. Rory didn't just win; he held firm in the face of a charging Woods, with the added weight of the No. 1 world ranking on his back. Golf doesn't just need a rivalry. It needs the game's most popular player to be part of that rivalry and it needs the game's best player as well. Woods-McIlroy satisfies both criteria and Sunday made it seem very possible. – Mercer Baggs

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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.

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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.