Woods won't grow complacent despite big lead

By Jason SobelAugust 3, 2013, 11:54 pm

AKRON, Ohio – Tiger Woods bolted toward his golf ball with the intensity of a predator sizing up its prey. He examined it, nestled down in the rough just left of the 13th green, idling on a slight sidehill lie. He inspected his landing options on the green, then took a slow, brief, compact swing that propelled the ball directly into the hole. He turned toward the nearby gallery, punctuating the maneuver with an aggressive fist pump.

Just minutes later, Woods found his ball on the upslope of a bunker, left of the 14th fairway. Again, he inspected his options. This time, he took a mighty cut, flaring it well right of its intended target. He walked after it in disgust, fiercely ripping the glove off his left hand and muttering to himself on the way.

In case you were wondering whether a momentous lead would breed complacency for Woods in the third round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, these two brief snapshots of his day should serve to dispel any notion.

He entered the day with a seven-stroke advantage. He ended the day with a seven-stroke advantage. The score wasn’t as obscenely brilliant as one day earlier, but the tournament is just as much in control.

Mission accomplished.

Call it golf’s version of Murphy’s Law, but as anyone who has scored ridiculously low will easily confess, it’s nearly impossible to match such a total one day later. This even holds true for Woods, whose second-round 9-under 61 on Friday was followed by a 2-under 68 on Saturday that seemed monotonous only in comparison to the previous day.

“You know, it's dependent on the golf course,” Woods said of putting together back-to-back super-low rounds. “Here it's not going to happen. It's just not. This golf course is too hard.”

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That doesn’t mean he wasn’t trying.

Woods alternated between stepping on the gas pedal and playing prevent defense throughout the round, carding five birdies against three bogeys.

It’s a strategy he may employ on Sunday, as well, depending of course on the course conditions and his game and those of his challengers.

“Just go out there and execute my game plan,” he said of his mindset. “Whatever game plan I'm going to implement tomorrow, just go execute it. It all starts with what the weather is doing, and then I build it from there, and we'll see what I do tomorrow.”

Avid golfer (and yes, professional baseball player, too) Yogi Berra once determined that “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over” and, rest assured, this  golf tournament isn’t over yet – even if every other contender trudged off the course talking about playing for second place.

“If he's too far ahead, he's too far ahead,” lamented Henrik Stenson, who finished the round in solo second, but still seven shots behind. “It might be a race for second, but we'll see.”

“This will be a heck of a tournament for the fans and everybody out here if he wasn't playing, but that's not the case right now,” said Jason Dufner, currently eight back. “As players you've got to try and respond with what you can to try and catch him. It's a tough task.”

“Well, I want to finish as near as I can to him, really,” Chris Wood suggested, “because that's probably going to be second.”

In his younger days, Woods may have viewed a touchdown lead entering the fourth quarter as reason enough to step on the necks of everyone competing in the B Flight, but something – call it maturity; call it conservatism – has instilled in him over the second half of his career the rationale in these situations that it doesn’t matter whether he wins by two or five or eight.

In every instance, they still give you a trophy and an oversized paycheck.

There’s little doubt such riches are already being inscribed with Woods’ name, that a fifth PGA Tour victory of the season and a 79th of his career are an inevitability come Sunday afternoon.

That doesn’t mean he will become complacent on the course.

Woods has enjoyed his share of final-round victory laps over the years. This will undoubtedly become another coronation, but if we learned anything on Saturday, it’s that he won’t treat the round with any less importance.

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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.