Web.com Tour Finals leave many in a daze

By Jason CrookSeptember 22, 2014, 12:09 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The Finals End Here.

In case you weren’t aware, a quick look around TPC Sawgrass’ Valley Course will remind you. It’s printed on every sign. But that’s really only half of the story.

This is the beginning. Fifty guys making the leap, a chance to make it in the big leagues. The rest are left to try again.

As players came off the 18th green Sunday at the Web.com Tour Championship, it was evident whether they knew they were moving on or had fallen short - or had absolutely no idea.

Some had achieved their dream for the first time and reflected it with a big smile.

“It hasn’t hit me yet. It was probably my best round of the year, maybe life, and I’m still probably in a little bit of shock," said Nick Taylor, 26, after closing out his quest for a PGA Tour card with a sizzling 63. "It’s nice to actually know, but it definitely hasn’t hit me yet. My goal was to get under par and luckily I was a couple better than that, but I was trying to make birdies and have fun.”

Others are getting another shot at the big time. That group includes Sunday’s winner, Derek Fathauer, who held off Zac Blair down the stretch for his first Web.com Tour victory, and eighth top 10 this season.


PGA Tour 2014-15 priority rankings


“I’m ready to give it a shot again,” said Fathauer, of getting back to the PGA Tour for the first time since 2009. “It hasn’t sunk in yet. I need a couple days to recharge.”

Plenty of others were left wondering what could have been, and left rationalizing as best they could.

“I’m still playing golf for a living, which is good. I’d like to be able to control my schedule, so I can hang out with my family and my kids,” said Tag Ridings, who entered the day just one spot outside of the top 50 but slipped to No. 54 with a closing 73. “At the end of the day I still got a nice tour to play on, and I get a little more time off at this stage and I get a little more time off to heal so it’s going to be OK.”

And those were just the ones who knew their fate.

Chad Collins shot an even-par 70 and summed up how a lot of players were probably feeling after their rounds when he said, “Hopefully it’s good enough.” He ended up 47th on the priority list, and admitted he couldn’t keep the top-50 bubble off of his mind coming down the stretch.

“You’re not human if you’re not,” he said. “Anything can happen on those [last three or four] holes.”

Collins was one of the players throughout the day who were in, then out, then back in, then out again. He was one of the lucky ones whose day ended inside the top 50. It makes you feel for Roberto Castro, who finished at No. 51, $31.66 out of the 50th spot.

Last year, the first of this Finals format since the switch from Q-School, six of the top 10 from the priority ranking were able to keep their PGA Tour cards by the end of the year, while none from Nos. 41-50 were able to retain full-time status, leaving several players to openly complain about the limited starts.

Sunday, however, those who made it inside the top 50 didn’t seem too worried about their odds of succeeding next season. Even if they were one in a million, the mood as they held their cards tight and smiled for the cameras in the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse was classic Lloyd Christmas … “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”

Makes sense. After all, it’s the attitude that got them this far in the first place.

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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."