Westwood again in position for first major

By Jay CoffinJune 17, 2012, 1:37 am

SAN FRANCISCO – Sometimes the scars beat you down and make you weaker, sometimes they make you stronger.

Meet Lee Westwood. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. He’s contended in more majors over the last four years than anyone else. He’s won none of them. He’s known as the best player never to have won a major championship. It does not bother him.

Doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to win. Means he’ll be content if he never does.

“It's a golf tournament,” Westwood said Saturday at the U.S. Open where he vaulted into contention with a 3-under 67 to stand at 2-over-par overall. “I go out and play golf for a living on the best golf courses in the world in the biggest tournaments. It's not a bad way to pass time.”

Westwood admitted that he didn’t prepare much heading into this U.S. Open. Sure, he won the Nordea Masters in Sweden last week but that was on a soft course that couldn’t be more different than The Olympic Club.

He showed up earlier this week and played a couple practice rounds then was thrown into one of the Open’s marquee groupings Thursday and Friday with Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy. Hemade double bogey on his opening hole Thursday and quickly snapped into U.S. Open mode. Since that first hole he’s played the next 53 holes in even par with nine birdies and nine bogeys, including five birdies Saturday for 67.

“I played nice for the first two days without too much reward but I that at 5 over par I was still not out of it,” Westwood said. “So as long as I shot a good score today then I was going to have a chance come Sunday.”

So, here Westwood is again – in contention. He has seven top-three finishes in major championships dating back to the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. So many close calls without success can be enough to drive a man batty. For Westwood, it only drives him.

“I'm half-full-glass-type person. Actually my glass is normally empty,” Westwood quipped, talking about his appreciation for a frosty adult beverage every now and again.

Westwood makes light of the situation but at 39, he doesn’t have a lot of time left to collect major loot. To be considered one of the best in his era he needs to win a major. He’s been ranked No. 1 in the world before, a major championship is the only thing missing.

He’s learned lessons from each of the previous defeats and he says he’s tried to apply those lessons to every major. At this point, there can’t be much more to learn.

“I pick little bits out of all of those, but the main this is just to go out there and believe that I’m good enough,” Westwood said. “I must be, I keep getting myself into contention often enough.”

That answer is almost not acceptable anymore. He’s contended at every major so there isn’t one that suits him more than the others. Aside from the ’08 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, Westwood tied for third place last year at Congressional, although he was never in contention because McIlroy rolled. He was second place at the Masters toPhil Mickelson in 2010 and tied for third place there again this year. He tied for third at the 2009 British Open and was second at the 2010 British Open. He tied for third place at the 2009 PGA Championship, which Y.E. Yang ultimately won.

You get the picture.

“Somebody might perform better, winning is so fickle,” Westwood said. “All I'm trying to do is play as good as I can play and get into contention and see if I can finish it off and have a bit of fun doing it.”

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Rahm (62) takes early lead at CareerBuilder

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.

@tommyfleetwood_1

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.

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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."