Tough conditions continue on Day 1 in Tampa

By Jason SobelMarch 13, 2014, 11:33 pm

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – If you really think about it, there’s a line to be written about the PGA Tour enlisting paint manufacturer Valspar as title sponsor for this week’s tournament, only for the opening round to have all the entertainment value of watching paint dry.

There’s another about the fact that at least it dried quickly.

That’s what happens when an unsteady two-club wind whips through Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course like it did on Thursday.

There were more ugly squirrels – the ones around here have faces like rats – than birdies on the course. In a spot on the schedule in between Trumped-Up Doral and Arnie’s Place, the newly titled Valspar Championship doesn’t feature a major-quality field, but the scores look like something more familiar at one of the four big ones.

The foursome of co-leaders – Matt Every, Pat Perez, Greg Chalmers and Danny Lee – each posted 3-under 68, two strokes worse than the previous leading opening-round total. Only 25 players in the 144-man field broke par. By comparison, 30 guys couldn’t keep it under 75.

Forget offensive firepower. On a day that felt like football weather, most players were simply playing a version of the Tampa 2 defense.

Valspar Championship: Articles, videos and photos

How difficult was it? You’d be hard-pressed to find another recent leader who trudged off the course and said this: “I would have been satisfied with 2-over today.”

Those were the words of Every, who birdied three of his final four holes to shoot five strokes better than that number and post the lowest score in the chillier – and tougher – morning wave.

“This morning, you couldn’t feel your hands,” he said. “The wind was brutal. Then the sun came out and your body kind of adjusted to the temperature. It was definitely hard.”

There’s definitely a pattern forming here – and by here, I mean in the (ahem) Sunshine State. So far during the Florida swing we’ve endured wind at the Honda Classic (aka The Bear Trap), wind at the WGC-Cadillac Championship (aka The Blue Monster) and now wind at the Valspar Championship (aka The Snake Pit).

Can’t wait ‘til The Open Championship, so we can all finally enjoy some benign conditions.

The first-round scoring average was nearly two full strokes over par, thanks to Mother Nature’s incessant inhales and exhales.

“Two-club wind, at least,” said Kevin Na, who shot 1-under 70. “Maybe two-and-a-half at times. It was tough to judge.”

Even so, it paled in comparison to six days ago, when an elite field was at the mercy of blustery Miami that did a number on owner Donald Trump’s hair, not to mention his golf course.

If there was a benefit coming out of that, though, it’s that those who’ve competed both there and here owned an advantage of having been there and done that lately.

“I think the fact that we played in this last week at Doral helped today,” said Jordan Spieth, who shot even-par 71. “I didn’t hit very good iron shots, but controlled the ball better than I did last week.”

It can also serve as preparation.

Not that anyone will mistake the Copperhead Course for Augusta National, but exactly four weeks to the date of the Masters opening round, those with an optimistic viewpoint could understand how grinding for pars might help at that tournament and other majors down the road.

“Yeah, I’d say as far as playing for par – and I need to get better at it, because I hit some dumb iron shots – but yeah, I’d agree,” Spieth continued. “Definitely helps for the majors, the harder these courses play. I mean this course is a relatively difficult course in good conditions, so I think that helps for the majors, just playing harder courses. I don’t think Palm Springs is going to help anybody for the majors.”

All of which leads to another underlying subplot. There can hardly be a springtime golf story written without mention of the upcoming Masters, and the year’s first major might be on the minds of plenty of contenders, too.

It’s still early, of course. (As Every reminded us, “I’ve played enough to know the first round doesn’t matter that much.”) Through the opening 18 holes, though, only two of the top 25 on the leaderboard (Bill Haas and Matteo Manassero) are exempt into the Masters, which means Sunday afternoon could turn into a race to drive down Magnolia Lane next month.

If that happens, here’s hoping Valspar has a few cans of Masters Green available for the champion, who would likely be more than willing to sit around letting the wind blow while he watches it dry.



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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.