Current parity on Tour rivaling NCAA tournament

By Jason SobelMarch 26, 2014, 8:40 pm

Far be it from me to call out Warren Buffett, but I believe the Oracle of Omaha might have missed an opportunity. If he thinks offering a billion bucks for a perfect bracket was money (still) in the bank, he needs to check out the PGA Tour lately.

In case you dozed off somewhere along the West Coast, the four winners during the Florida swing weren’t exactly a Mount Rushmore of superstars. They’re not even the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, though you might have guessed differently after the reaction to wins from Russell Henley, Patrick Reed, John Senden and Matt Every.

No single-named heavyweights, no players with Q ratings that more closely resemble IQs, no one with a major championship to their resume. In fact, you could make the argument that each champion’s victory was the greatest of his career, which is saying something during a month known more as a bullpen session for the game’s elite before taking the mound at Augusta National.

Buffett’s offer of prosperity for perfection didn’t last three days in the annual hoops tournament, but golf’s parity party easily would have kept it from happening inside the ropes, too.

This is the part where I’m probably supposed to make some grandiose proclamation about fields being deeper than ever, young players being more prepared to beat proven competitors, tournaments being more difficult to prognosticate than in the past, and everything we’ve ever known about the world of golf being flipped on its axis.

Some of that might be true. All of it might be true. But such proclamations shouldn’t be offered in March, when – to employ another hardball analogy – the game’s best are still going through spring training.

If the four majors are won this year by aforementioned single-named heavyweights like Tiger, Phil, Adam and Rory, we’ll recall the Florida swing as a mere blip on the radar screen. Chances are, though, what we’ve witnessed not only in the past four weeks but in the entire season to date is less a deviation from the norm than the norm itself.

What we might have reached – and what we’ve gradually been heading toward for a half-decade now – is the “Any Given Sunday Era.” It’s a time when Henley can claim a victory after a two-time major champion falters, a time when Every can grab one after the reigning Masters champion does likewise.

All of which should lead to two questions:

1) Is this a good thing?

2) Why is it happening?

Each can be debated at length, until another era of dominance gradually forges into the forefront without us realizing it.

The first question is the result of a long-standing conundrum in golf. Despite annual celebrations of dynasties gone by, the NFL – everybody’s favorite equal opportunist these days – prides itself on parity and, judging by its growing popularity, fans wouldn’t want it any other way. When golf undergoes a period of parity, though, it’s treated as if something is wrong with the game. Think of it this way: Nobody ever speaks in glowing terms about the mid-to-late 1930s, when two dudes named Alf won major championships … or the Brewer-Goalby-Archer years at the Masters … or the half-dozen years before Tiger started winning majors, when 20 different players combined to win 24 of 'em.

The second question has likely already been answered by a few of those recent winners. Reed made international headlines when he clinched a third career title at Trump National Doral, then trumped any bold statement made by his clubs with one by his mouth, touting himself as a “top-five” player in the world.

Every is a guy who six years ago flamed out of Q-School, only to insist, “You know, 25 guys are getting through and I’m not. It’s 25 I’m better than, too.” Forget that the Class of 2008 included would-be major champions Webb Simpson, Jason Dufner and Y.E. Yang; this was Every simply letting his confidence shine through. While he didn’t echo Reed’s sentiments about being a top-fiver, he did understand them.

“What’s wrong in believing in yourself? There’s so many sensitive people that just get all torn up on the dumbest stuff. And it’s OK to believe in yourself,” he said after winning at Bay Hill. “What Patrick Reed said, I thought that was great. … I’m serious. That’s great he thinks he’s a top-five player; he probably is right now. What’s wrong with thinking good things about yourself?”

Therein lies the biggest secret as to why PGA Tour events have become less predictable than a roulette wheel. We’ve entered an era where players don’t just want to win each week. Nearly all of them really, truly believe they can win. There’s a big difference between the two. All you have to do is revisit the Florida swing to understand that.

It might not make professional golf more appealing to the masses, but it does make it tougher to figure out on a weekly basis. Predicting winners has never been an easy proposition, but lately it’s become downright impossible. How impossible? Well, I’d be willing to bet Buffett’s billion bucks you can’t do it. Hey, golf’s parity makes filling out a perfect bracket seem easy these days.

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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 played a six-hole stretch in 6 under and shot an 8-under 64 in breezy conditions Saturday to take the lead at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook began the run at La Quinta Country Club with birdies on Nos. 4-5, eagled the sixth and added birdies on No. 7 and 9 to make the turn in 6-under 30.

After a bogey on the 10th, he birdied Nos. 11, 12 and 15 and saved par on the 18th with a 20-footer to take a 19-under 197 total into the final round on PGA West's Stadium Course. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player is making his first start in the event. He won at Sea Island in November for his first PGA Tour title.

Fellow former Razorbacks star Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were a stroke back. Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 on the Stadium Course. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. They are both winless on the PGA Tour.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Jon Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium Course to reach 17 under. The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3, 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.

Scott Piercy also was two strokes back after a 66 at the Stadium.

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 PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course, and Harkins shot 68 on the Stadium Course.

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 Course 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. The Southern California recruit had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over for the week.

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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Mickelson 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.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

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LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.