Woods searching for confidence after 2-over 73

By Jason SobelJanuary 30, 2015, 1:39 am

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Tiger Woods spent the first two days of his much anticipated return to the Waste Management Phoenix Open bouncing around this TPC Scottsdale course. He smiled. He cracked jokes. He interacted with fans. Essentially, he was everything that he hasn’t been for years.

We can credit this attitude adjustment to a variety of factors – increased stability in his personal life; myriad injuries finally being healed; an improved swing taking shape. Really, though, all of it was instrumental toward one ultimate goal. He was finally confident and that confidence was lending itself toward a more relaxed nature, one that we’ve so rarely witnessed from Woods.

And then the tournament started.

Any confidence Woods brought into the opening round quickly evaporated into the desert air on Thursday, as he posted a 2-over 73 that left him not only well out of contention, but outside the potential cut line.

It was difficult to watch Woods compete and not think of a well-known quote from a man with whom he’s forever been linked.

“Confidence is the most important single factor in this game,” Jack Nicklaus once said, “and no matter how great your natural talent, there is only one way to obtain and sustain it: Work.”

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Woods’ natural talent has never been doubted. He understands that more work is needed in order to retain and sustain the confidence that he seemingly owned in the days leading up to the opening round.

Eight weeks after chunking an astounding nine chip shots on admittedly tight lies around the Isleworth greens, Woods appeared intimidated by similar shots on Thursday right from the start of his round. On the first hole, he used a 4-iron from 11 yards off the green. On the second hole, a wedge. On the fourth, something that looked like a 7-iron. On the sixth, his putter – from 13 yards off the green.

The latter was the kind of play that no other PGA Tour player would make; as if to prove that point, playing partner Jordan Spieth used a wedge from just a few yards away and nearly holed it.

Whether the chipping yips have led to a lack of confidence or a lack of confidence have led to the chipping yips, Woods continued searching for an answer throughout the round. His rationale afterward was that this occurred less because of mental issues than technical ones.

“I'm just having a hard time finding the bottom,” he explained. “Because of my old pattern, I was so steep on it, that I have a new grind on my wedge and sometimes it's hard to trust. This is a similar grind I used to use back in the early 2000s, but it's a different grind. Some of my shots were into the green with tight pins, and either I'll flop it or bump it, one of the two. I chose to bump it.”

It’s not as if the rest of his game was locked in, either.

He pull-hooked a few drives and ballooned a few others way right. His distance control appeared off, too, with many approach shots coming up short of their intended targets, leading to only 10 of 18 greens in regulation.

It showed on the scorecard.

Woods bogeyed each of his first two holes for a third consecutive tournament start. He needed 39 swipes over his first nine holes. And though he played much better on the back nine, that final tally represented the highest opening score in his first PGA Tour start to a season for his entire professional career.

“I didn't get into the mental rhythm of the round for a while,” he explained afterward. “It took a little time, and unfortunately I was making some bogeys through that stretch. But then I started finding the rhythm of the round, the rhythm of competing and playing.”

Therein lies the silver lining.

For as many poor drives and uninspired iron shots and downright ugly chips as he hit, a score of 73 really isn’t too bad. It was as if he took a round of 79, threw some spackle and paint over it, and somehow turned it into a respectable number.

If he wants to post a more respectable number on Friday and beyond, though, he’ll need to figure out both the technical mishaps in his swing and chipping motion, while also getting into the “mental rhythm” of the round.

It all comes back to confidence. For two days here, Woods smiled and joked and interacted because he was confident in himself. On Thursday, that confidence evaporated into the desert air and the smile faded along with it.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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.