Major champion Brooks caddieing for buddy Henry

By Jason SobelMay 10, 2012, 2:42 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- There's an annual tradition at The Players Championship, one of the more entertaining traditions on the game's most elite level. During the final practice round for the tournament, competitors reach the ominous 17th hole, stare at the daunting tee shot over water and ... promptly turn over ball-striking duties to their caddies.

J.J. Henry never made it to 17 on Wednesday, deciding to only practice on the course’s front nine. Even if he had, though, he wasn't going to let his caddie take a swing.

“I told him he wasn’t hitting that shot,” Henry said. “I’d be blackballed from the caddie wagon if he hit that shot close.”

As for his caddie? “I’d be embarrassed if I did hit a good shot,” explained Mark Brooks.

Yes, that Mark Brooks – the same Mark Brooks who won the 1996 PGA Championship and has competed in this very tournament on 21 different occasions during his career.

For the first time, Brooks is looping for Henry this week, a turnabout that features a major champion throwing the bag over his shoulder and advising a one-time PGA Tour winner.

“It’s not easy,” Brooks said. “It would be easy to carry the bag. It’s hard to caddie – there’s a difference.”

It’s an idea that the longtime friends and fellow Fort Worth, Texas, residents discussed a few years ago, one which came to fruition when Brooks found a few weeks off from his Champions Tour schedule.

“It’s not something we’re going to do every week, but if he can help me maybe a couple of times a year and he likes doing it, I think it’s neat for him,” Henry said. “Obviously, he likes seeing all of his buddies and he’s maybe not out here as much anymore, but he still feels like he’s in the game and he’s helping someone he enjoys helping. And on my side, I enjoy having him help me.”

Henry can use the help. After finishing 103rd on the PGA Tour money list last year, the 37-year-old is off to a slow start this season. In 14 appearances so far, he’s made the cut just seven times, with only one result in the top-25.

“It’s no secret,” Brooks explained. “He’s struggled a little bit several times in the last three or four years; he’s had stretches where he’s struggled. All of a sudden, it became like making the cut was an accomplishment. If you get in that very long out here, you’re gone. So that’s what we’re working on. It’s not really goal-setting. It’s doing the little things right – focusing better, not going through the motions.”

“I’m just trying to learn from him,” Henry said. “If there are one or two little things that click – especially for me, for whatever reason I haven’t played a whole lot of great golf yet this year, so to have him see what my tendencies are and see why things are off, we can go back and talk about it. It’s not just about this week. It’s about trying to help me out.”

And so in an effort to help a friend, a major champion is lugging the bag this week – albeit with one major caveat. Rather than the usual hefty staff bag, Brooks is shouldering a lighter carry bag, though that may change later in the week.

“He told me if I tee off at noon or later on Saturday or Sunday, he’s going with the staff bag,” Henry said. “So the pressure is on.”

Getting into that position would mean a paycheck for Henry, which in turn would mean a paycheck for his caddie, though as he said with a laugh, “We’ll figure something out. We haven’t gotten that far yet.”

That may be the only thing on which Henry and Brooks aren’t on the same page. Looking way ahead, if he can help his man not only make the cut, not only contend, but actually win the tournament, well, the major champion wants his cut of the treasure, too.

“Oh, hell yeah,” Brooks claimed. “He’s got to pay somebody. He might as well pay me instead of Uncle Sam.”

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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 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."

Getty Images

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.