Park Leads LPGA Back to Tulsa
This year, Park leads a stacked field of 144 players to the 54-hole, $1 million event having picked up her second win earlier this season at the Sybase Big Apple Classic Presented by GOLF MAGAZINE in New Rochelle, N.Y. Joining Park in the field are nine other 2002 tournament champions: six-time champion Annika Sorenstam; three-time champion Se Ri Pak; two-time champions Juli Inkster, Mi Hyun Kim and Rachel Teske; Cristie Kerr; Meg Mallon; Janice Moodie; and State Farm Classic champion and Rolex First-Time Winner Patricia Meunier-Lebouc.
Also in this year's field are leading LPGA rookies Beth Bauer and Natalie Gulbis, who have been battling all summer long for supremacy among the Tour's talented rookie class. The Williams Championship is the second-to-last tournament in which LPGA rookies can earn points toward the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, which will be decided at the conclusion of the Safeway Classic, Sept. 13-15, in Portland, Ore.
A pair of talented sponsor's exemptions will also be taking on the par-70, 6,233-yard Tulsa Country Club course. Four-time All-American and University of Tulsa graduate Stacy Prammanasudh is competing, along with 2001 U.S. Women's Amateur champion and 2002 Nancy Lopez Award winner Meredith Duncan. Both players are coming off of last week's LPGA Sectional Qualifying Tournament in Venice, Fla., where Prammanasudh finished among the top 30 players to advance to the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament.
In last year's event, Kelly Robbins and Park shared a one-stroke lead after a pair of opening-round, two-under-par 68s, one shot clear of Susie (Redman) Parry and Teske. A career-low 62 in the second round gave Andrews a 132 (-8) total and propelled her into a four-shot lead over Wendy Ward, Rosie Jones and Teske heading into the final round.
Park, who started the day five strokes behind Andrews, took over the lead after four birdies on the front-nine. A double-bogey sidetracked Park for a few holes, but she quickly regained her composure with back-to-back birdies on 12 and 13. A two-foot birdie putt on 16 caught Park up with a charging Andrews, then took the lead for good on 17 after sinking a three-foot birdie putt.
Andrews had a chance to tie Park at nine-under-par 201, but her 50-foot birdie putt on 18 rolled just past the hole, leaving her a shot behind in second place. Park's 64 in the final round was a career-low for the young champion. What truly cost Andrews a spot in a playoff with Park was a one-stroke penalty, which she called on herself, on the 18th hole during her second round for double-hitting her final putt.
Teske finished third at 207 (-3), while Nancy Scranton was fourth at 208 (-2).
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.
Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta
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."
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."