Holiday Cheer Rooting for the Stories
This was a great year for golf. Vijay Singh gave us a terrific story. The shelf life of his victory parade was the perfect thread to a year full of columns or Sprint Pre-Post Game shows. Ditto for Annika Sorenstam. Same goes for Tiger Woods and his quest to return to the winners circle. What was the years greatest moment? Youd be hard pressed to convince me that it wasnt Phil Mickelson at the Masters.
So lets look ahead together to 2005. Lets root for the best story and come up with a way that makes it a year to top 2004. Given the holiday spirit Ive got 12 possible headlines in my stockingin no particular order.
WOODS YOU BELIEVE IT?
Tiger Woods wins the Mercedes Championships, signaling his return. With confidence suddenly booming he wins two more before the Masters and then two majors (British and PGA.) And I firmly believe that Tiger at his best would make Vijay and Ernie and Phil happy and excited about the challenge of seeing how good they really are.
Bill Haas wins three times on the Nationwide Tour earning the instant promotion to the PGA Tour and a chance to tee it up with his Dad, Jay. Keep in mind that Bill has as many as seven sponsors exemptions on the PGA Tour to earn money to crack the Top 125. But wouldnt we like to see them together?
BEAT THE PARENT
Likewise, the family tandem of Kevin and Craig Stadler. You can bet Craig, whos actually exempt on the PGA Tour this year because of his BC Open win of 2003, will play a bit on the PGA Tour for the chance to be with his son. The dream story for each is a Sunday pairing with something at stake. But lets have Kevin win it.
Now that Paula Creamer has an LPGA card, lets have her make some serious noise. In 2004 Annika Sorenstam had her hands full to some degree with the likes of Grace Park and Meg Mallon. If Annika really is intent on leaving in the near future, then let it be Creamer who wows us.
FUTURE IS NOW
How about Michelle Wie winning an LPGA event this year. Not that she needs any pressure, but a Wie win coupled with Creamers emergence would make for some great LPGA promotion.
Its been a while since Charles Howell III sipped the victory beer at the Michelob at Kingsmill for his lone PGA Tour win so lets get Charles going! He is as likeable as they come on Tour. His star fell a bit in 2004 so lets bring it back. After all, America needs some new blood in Cup Competition. So Zach Johnson, Chad Campbell, Bill Haas, Hunter Mahan start racking up the wins.
The Masters was just the beginning for Phil Mickelson. He does what he wasnt able to do last year at the U.S. Open and wins it in 2005. Interesting that this years U.S. Open is back at Pinehurst where Lefty was edged out by Payne Stewart.
GREEN WITH ERNIE
It is about time Ernie Els gets a green jacket. The Big Easy has been as consistent in the majors as anyone. Hes been as close in the Masters as anyone. Last year was tough for Ernie to take. This year he takes home what Im guessing would be about a 46 long.
Lets get Laura Davies the necessary points to find her way into the LPGA Hall of Fame without the need some year for a veterans committee to find her a spot. She doesnt need much so let her catch lightning in a bottle for a week or two, win a major and get what she deserves.
KING DAVID FOR A WEEK
As long as were rooting for the story hereI think it would be great to have David Duval back to some semblance of his former self. A win for Duval would be a win for all those whove lost it and struggled to find it again. It would actually be a nice example to talk to our kids about.
HAILING A NEW CHAMPION
Hale Irwin has been the best the Champions Tour has ever known. Youd be crazy to bet against him staying near the top out there, but how bout a new sheriff? How about Peter Jacobsen winning eight times out there? How about Craig Stadler taking it up yet another notch and winning eight? Look out when Loren Roberts hits 50!
Whoever wins The Big Break II on Tuesday night, lets have them do the show proud. Justin Peters gave it a go but it hasnt yet panned out. Don and Kip have their chance nowso how about making three of the four cuts on the Nationwide Tour and actually contending one week. Now that would be a story! Am I dreaming?
Im sure youve got stories that would be great too. On a personal note Id like to say thanks for the great fun Ive had writing this column in 2004. Your response has been overwhelming and I appreciate your support. This week I officially hit 10 years at TGC. Come January 17 The Golf Channel celebrates the 10 year anniversary of its launch. Its been a great ride and much of all of our success has been because of your support.
Happy Holidays, well do it together again in 2005!
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
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.