Dramatic finish draws Tiger closer to Open lead

By Jay CoffinJuly 20, 2012, 7:05 pm

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – Hand it to Tiger Woods, he’s stuck with his game plan come hell or (pun intended) high water.

Woods hasn’t necessarily been forthright with his M.O. but best guess is he arrived at wet Royal Lytham & St. Annes this week with several strategies, none of which were drawn up for such benign conditions. Through 36 holes of this Open Championship Woods has shown flashes of his 2006 victory at Royal Liverpool, where he hit irons off the tee all week and shot 18 under par and won by two shots.

But let’s not call this Hoylake 2.0 just yet. The strategy is “brilliant” as they say in these parts, but only if Woods wins claret jug No. 4 and major championship No. 15. Anything other than that, and he likely will be criticized – rightly or wrongly – for being much too conservative.

Woods birdied two of the last three holes Friday to shoot a second consecutive 67 and is alone in third place at 6 under par. Brandt Snedeker is the leader at 10 under. Adam Scott is second at 9 under.

“My mantra all week has been to get the ball on the greens as fast as possible,” Snedeker said. “Once I'm on there I have a pretty good hand for the speed of the greens. I'm making every 25-footer I look at, so that makes it a lot easier. Just going to try and keep doing that over the weekend.”

There hasn’t been a lick of wind here in northern England for two days, only a few sprinkles during play and a heavy overnight storm Thursday that made these links soggy for the second round. Mostly, the conditions have been calm, making Lytham more vulnerable than could have been imagined.

Still, a stubborn Woods has hit driver precisely three times in two days – twice on Thursday, once on Friday. He’s content with hitting his “spots” and staying away from danger, a noble option. Woods confided Friday that he’d love to hit driver on both par 5s but the shot doesn’t suit his eye.  

While Woods is playing a version of hit-and-giggle, Snedeker and Scott have been more aggressive and haven’t been afraid to go flag hunting. Granted an iron off the tee rolls miles here but Woods has often left himself more than 200 yards into greens, making it difficult to hit the ball within birdie range.

Meanwhile, Snedeker has hit many drivers off the tee and has made 10 birdies and zero bogeys. He also hasn’t found one bunker. He’s hit a couple wayward drives but each time has been able to put a good strike on the approach. Scott has done much the same and played impressively Friday despite his lead being wiped out before he ever hit a golf ball.

“There’s only a couple of holes where I could have hit driver,” Woods proclaimed. “I had a game plan that I thought would fit well on this golf course, and I figured I could execute it.  And I've done that so far.”

It is hard to hammer the man. He has, after all, won 14 majors including three jugs on this side of the pond. And he’s done it with different methods. Through two rounds, Woods has hit 26-of-28 fairways and 29-of-36 greens and has taken 58 putts. He’s found only one bunker and that ended in birdie when he holed out from the side of the 18th green Friday, sending the British gallery into a roar.

It’s stating the obvious but we have no clue where Woods would be if he took more chances hitting driver from the teebox. More than perhaps any other time in his career, Woods is driving the ball on a rope so it’d be fun to see him test those skills here.

Part of the noise too is a competitive deal. We’re so used to watching Woods overpower a course during his heyday that it’s difficult to watch playing partners Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose consistently bomb it 50 yards past him even if they did both miss the cut by a shot.

On the par-4 15th hole, Woods hit iron off the tee and was left with 222 yards into the green, too long a distance to expect anything better than par. Iron worked off the tee at 16, where Woods drained a 20-footer for birdie and it worked off the last only because he holed out a vintage Woods bunker shot.

Woods made it clear that the leaders are not going to change his strategy, no matter how well they play or what the conditions are like over the next 48 hours.

“I'm hitting the ball in the fairway, and that's the thing around this golf course, you just have to do that,” Woods said. “You can't control it out of the rough here.

“So yeah, you can hit drivers down there, and some guys did. Or you can be more conservative.”

Come hell or high water.

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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.


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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.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."