Can Rickie and Rory provide a rivalry?

By Jason SobelMay 8, 2012, 10:36 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – You can root for Rory McIlroy, the precocious, big-hitting major champion who currently stands at No. 1 on golf’s world ranking. You can root for Rickie Fowler, the self-taught, brightly dressed trendsetter who claimed his first career PGA Tour win at Quail Hollow last weekend.

Or here’s a novel concept: You can root for both.

Over the first baker’s dozen years of Tiger Woods’ professional career, his prominence dominated the game’s landscape. During the past few seasons, parity has reigned supreme, with no player collecting more than two victories in 2011 and only one with multiple titles so far this year.

Missing from this transitioning of eras is a true rivalry within the game, one which many observers believe could be forged between the ultra-talented 23-year-olds who squared off as part of the Wells Fargo Championship playoff.


Video: McIlroy's news conference at The Players

Video: Fowler's news conference at The Players


Unlike most rivalries – Republican vs. Democrat; Yankees vs. Red Sox; Road Runner vs. Wile E. Coyote – neither side needs to be chosen over the other, because the end goal is the rivalry itself.

It’s something which has been lacking amongst the highest ranks of elite professional golf for nearly two decades. Oh, sure. Maybe Woods and Phil Mickelson could have been considered a rivalry – or, for different spells, Woods and David Duval or Ernie Els or Vijay Singh – but there hasn’t been a real me-against-you, mano-a-mano, head-to-head rivalry since the days of persimmon woods and balata balls.

McIlroy and Fowler may provide the latest, greatest opportunity for a rivalry within the game, but they hardly offer a slam-dunk, no-doubt-about-it lock for the future. The current field depths have produced more parity than ever, with a bevy of young, talented players all vying for prime position amongst the game’s best.

“There's a lot of really good young players right now, and to count any one of them out of a rivalry would be somewhat unfair to them,” Fowler said Tuesday in advance of The Players Championship. “The game is in a really good state right now with the amount of good, young players that have come out lately, and the guys that are between the ages of 20 and 30 – if I wanted to or had a list, I could go down and name off 10 to 20 guys between Rory and I to Keegan [Bradley] to Dustin [Johnson] to a guy like Jason Day.”

And therein lies a major Catch-22. The game is cultivating so many young stars (a positive result) that it’s nearly impossible to cultivate specific rivalries (a negative result).

Even so, there’s more than a steady groundswell of support for McIlroy and Fowler to break away from the crowd and produce a two-man competitive balance that harkens back to those of previous generations.

“It would be nice if a few people separated themselves from the rest,” McIlroy opined. “Hopefully I will be in that group at one stage. I just think it shows how good the guys are now. But it's the finest of margins – that's what it takes to win out here.”

His friend and fellow competitor mirrors that assessment.

“I definitely think it is good for the game right now with the amount of guys that are bouncing back and forth and the amount of guys that are winning,” Fowler added. “I don't think there's one person in particular that's dominating. Obviously between Luke [Donald] and Rory, they've been playing very well over the last year.

“You're seeing a lot of guys winning, and the kind of fluctuation in rankings. But I definitely think it is beneficial for the game, for guys like Tiger, Phil, Rory, Luke to be playing at their best; and whether that creates a three-, four- or five-person rivalry at the top, or if it comes back to one person dominating, I'm not opposed to either situation.”

With a half-dozen professional victories and a dominant triumph at last year’s U.S. Open, McIlroy still maintains a large advantage over Fowler – or any other would-be rival from the young 20-something set.

That doesn’t mean we can’t root for those rivalries to develop, to be forged on the grandest stages this season and next season and for years to come.

If you don’t want to see it happen, well, there’s at least one main character in this ongoing tale who disagrees with that notion.

“For me,” McIlroy said, “if I was a golf fan, I'd like to see a rivalry.”

He’s not alone. Now we just have to hope it happens.

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.