Slam Skins or School
The PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Hawaii matched the years major champions in one foursome. Actually, wait a minute. Tiger Woods is just one man with two majors. And while Phil Mickelson is one man with one major ' he begged off the island before he got there. So the two-day battle gave us Tiger, Geoff Ogilvy, and non-major winners Jim Furyk and Mike Weir, who found a spot based on their consistency in the years majors.
Tiger wins. Did you watch?
The Skins Game provides another foursome in a made-for-television event that, over the last few years, really hasnt made much for television in more than a few peoples opinion. This year was the 24th for the Thanksgiving event and the ratings didnt exactly scream out for a silver anniversary edition in 2007; down a full ratings point on Sunday from a year ago, which basically means a million fewer people tuned in compared to 2005. Fred Couples, John Daly, Fred Funk and Stephen Ames tripped to the California Desert for 18 holes and a truckload of cash.
Stephen Ames wins. Did you watch?
The PGA TOUR Qualifying Tournament, or Q-School as it is most commonly referred, is just a 5-iron away from the site of the Skins Game. Same California desert, but hardly the same atmosphere. Six rounds of golf where each shot seems like it could be your last -- or the springboard to a PGA TOUR career that shows great promise, just as it did for J.B. Holmes a year ago. You might see a triple-bogey down the stretch when par would be plenty good enough to square off with Phil Mickelson at next years Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. You might see a putt fall in but pop out just as quickly as you can say Joe Daley (it happened to him a few years back at La Quinta, costing him his card). You might see a drop from the clubhouse roof that ultimately sends a player back to the minor leagues instead of up to the biggest show on earth (it happened to Roland Thatcher a few years back in Florida). Heck, you might see a player lining up a putt from just off the green ... only to lose his balance and fall backward into the greenside pond (it happened to Over The Cliff Kresge a few years back at La Quinta).
This year, what youll see in coverage on The Golf Channel are names like Lee Janzen and Duffy Waldorf, Chris Riley and Jonathan Kaye. Yep, theyre all out there in La Quinta, Calif., battling to keep going what once was a very good thing.
Somebody wins. Will you watch?
The beauty of Q-School is its unpredictability. The feeling you get at the Slam or the Skins is a feeling of predictability.
Finish among the top 30 and ties and you could be 2007s Holmes and win yourself a golf tournament. Lose your PGA TOUR card and you can be Riley, who just two years ago was playing in a Ryder Cup and this week opened with an eye-popping 83 amidst unpredictable 30-mile-per-hour winds.
Sure somebody wins. But 30 and ties consider themselves winners. Will you watch?
Ive covered the PGA TOUR Qualifying Tournament Finals on eight occasions during my time at The Golf Channel. For storylines, its easily as good as the Honda Classic and might just have the drama to (in its own way) rival a tight finish at The International.
This week is about jobs well-earned and opportunities lost.
Ill watch. But its my job. Will you? And if you do, is it better than the Grand Slam of Golf or the Skins Game?
Thats for you to answer, but Ill tell you that while the money hardly rivals the other two events, each of the lucky 30 who survive the School will feel just as good or better about what theyve accomplished.
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
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.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
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
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
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.
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."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
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.
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.