Full Monty This Week
And what do you know, Colin was more than accommodating. I was prepared for the worst, but instead got the best of him. And the best of Colin Montgomerie is actually a very pleasant fellow. I for one have certainly had my doubts, and a run-in as well a few years back. But after this, I'm willing to put the past thoughts aside and move forward - just as he says he's trying to do as far as support in the United States is concerned.
'When you've been at the bottom as far as that's concerned, there's no place to go but up,' said a smiling Montgomerie. 'It's been a good couple of weeks.'
And so with fans in his corner, Monty tries again this week to get a win on U.S. soil. 'I'm here to compete and win the Houston Open,' he said. 'This is not a preparation for the Masters. This is my job, to compete. That's why I'm here.'
True, but there are a few other reasons the trip to Houston made sense. Back in the 1980s, Colin played collegiately at Houston Baptist. At the time HBU was a Division I program with the likes of 2000 PGA Club Professional Champion Tim Thelan there as well. Now, the school has no golf team at all.
But Monty likes the area nonethelesss. He also likes the surroundings he sees on the practice putting green this week. Darren Clarke, Jos Maria Olazabal, Thomas Bjrn and Adam Scott are all here, making this a very strong field along the way to Augusta.
This marks the first time since 1991 that the Shell Houston Open has been on the calendar before Augusta. That's not a problem, according to Tournament Director Steve Timms, who told me that it has provided a reason for players to come when perhaps they'd have bypassed the event in prior years.
Normally, the tournament falls a few weeks after The Masters - a time when players are usually ready for rest before a run toward the United States Open. 'We're excited about the field,' Timms said. 'And we know a thing or two about hospitality, too - which doesn't hurt.'
Greg Norman is part of the reason for the excitement Timms feels. He hasn't been here since 1991, but is back remembering just how good the TPC at the Woodlands is. He's taking the opportunity to visit in-laws and hoping allergies don't blow him off course. As Norman put it, 'I usually load up on medicine at night, and then give it a go in the morning.' The fans are hoping a Sunday run is in the cards.
David Duval is here as well. Vijay Singh too. And David Toms and Fred Couples have made the trip. Point being: The Shell Houston Open is a good tournament that deserves support from the players. And so what if it falls a week after the Players Championship. Craig Perks is here. What other proof does one need?!
Perks made the short drive from Lafayette, La., to The Woodlands and will tee it up just before noon local time Thursday with Robert Allenby, who won here two years ago, and Darren Clarke. By the way, Perks' World Ranking is now a stout 64th, which is a far cry from the 203rd position he held last week.
'I'm playing well, so why not ride it?' he said. I agree. But I'm not picking him this week.
I'm picking rookie Texan Chad Campbell. That's right. You think I'm crazy? Have a look at the year's winners and find a trend other than 'unpredictablility.' A three-time winner last year on the Buy.Com Tour, Campbell is ready because he has no reason to believe he shouldn't be. That's the way things are these days.
And just for the record. I'm picking Australian Rod Pampling next week in Atlanta. But first things first. Let's give the Shell Houston Open its due. Should be a great one. And if Chad Campbell can't make me proud, then how 'bout Monty.
Now THAT would get people talking!
Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole
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.
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.
Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder
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.”
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.
Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder
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.
''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.
Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years
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.
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.