How Swede It Is
Neumanns consistent play - resulting in no bogeys and three birdies - positioned her in the lead by late afternoon. At 3-under-par 69, she was the only player in the field to break 70, and she did so in wind gusts up to 15 mph.
It was pretty solid golf and Im happy with my round, Neumann said. I had some long putts today ' got the speed down and putted really well.
Neumann, who admitted to playing the course approximately 10 times this January, recorded birdie on the 380-yard par-4 fourth, the 508-yard par-5 ninth and again on the 385-yard par-4 12th.
This is Neumanns 15th appearance at the Nabisco Championship. And although she has never won the title, she has finished in the top 10 twice. Her best finish was a tie for fifth in 1998 ' the same year she joined the LPGA Tour.
A native of Finspang, Sweden, she now calls Boca Raton, Fla., home for most of the year, but she makes a second home in Palm Springs - 'Palm Springs is beautiful, she said. Who doesnt want to live there?'
Defending champion Annika Sorenstam silently stalked the lead throughout her afternoon round, moving to 3-under by her 13th hole. The strategic way in which she attacked the course was almost visible on the scoreboard.
Sorenstam also recorded three birdies but made her second bogey of the day at the last to fall one stroke off the lead. Im very happy with my round, she said. I thought I played excellent golf and, as you know, the wind is howling out there.
The wind was a big factor from the first tee to the last putt.
Course conditions rapidly changed as night fell. The last groups faced high winds, plummeting temperatures and impending thunderstorms. I saw lightning before it was all through, Sorenstam continued. And I dont like lightning.
Already leading the LPGA Tour money list with $247,005 in winnings this season, Sorenstam is on the right track to repeating last years success. And tied just one stroke off the lead, she hasnt left much breathing room for her fellow Swede.
I was really focused, very patient, Sorenstam said. Today I was calm ' I was playing calm golf; not pushing it, not being too aggressive.
Early leader Amy Fruhwirth and Gloria Park recorded opening rounds of 2-under-par 70. They are tied with Sorenstam in second place.
I have to say putting was the key, Fruhwirth said. Every opportunity I had for birdie I took advantage of, which is important out here.'
Fruhwirth had a two-stroke advantage at 3-under until gusty conditions and an errant drive right set her up for bogey on the 18th. Early on the front nine it wasnt too windy, until the backside for my group, probably starting on 16, 17, 18.
Usually 18 is the only real scary hole, I think - coming in cross-wind, driving with the water on the left and the wind blowing left-to-right. That was probably the trickiest hole with the wind, just because its so severe and you have to be accurate on that hole on every shot.
A relaxed Fruhwirth is brimming with confidence this week. Ive played very well here in the years that Ive played,' she said. 'So, theres a lot of confidence with that coming into the tournament. Im pretty accurate off the tees, so I dont ' Im not finding myself in a lot of trouble.
Wind made already tough conditions more difficult, but the players caught a break this year with significantly shorter rough than theyve seen here in the past.
The rough this year is not as high, which is nice because when I did miss the fairway I was able to hit an iron out and actually get it on the green; whereas, in years past, pulling out a sand wedge was almost what I had to do, Fruhwirth said.
Hall-of-Fame member Betsy King recorded a 1-under-par 71. King has won this event three times prior in her career (1987, 90 and 97). Becky Iverson joined King late in the day along with Hall-of-Fame member and fellow 40-year-old Beth Daniel. Rounding out the group is 15-year-old amateur Aree Wongluekiet, who was at 2-under through the 16th.
Full-field scores from the Kraft Nabisco Championship
After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...
Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).
Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.
It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard
On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...
There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.
He sure looks like the real deal, though.
His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.
Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner
Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2
With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.
He picked up one more No. 2, too.
The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.
In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.
Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.
“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”
Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.
Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.
He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.
Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title
Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.
Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.
His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.
“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."
Tom Brady, postgame, on wearing the wrap on his hand: “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) January 22, 2018
Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.
Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.
Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:
Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)
What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.
Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.
Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.
Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.
Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.
Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:
Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry