Trump International Bears No Teeth For Top-30
I can think of no better venue to finish off the season than here, LPGA Tour Commissioner Ty Votaw said Wednesday. 'This event represents the essence of what the LPGA stands for -- the very best of women's professional golf: the top-30 players on the LGPA Tour; one of the finest golf courses in the world in Trump International; and a very gracious and committed host in Donald Trump.'
'We are so thrilled to return here in 2002.' Votaw said just prior to announcing that this event will be played here next year as well - the week before Thanksgiving.
This is the second time the LPGAs year-end championship is being played at Trump International and this year those returning will see a much friendlier course. Im going to make it easier on the ladies, Trump said. I just had to prove my point the first year.
Trump proved his point in spades in 2001. On the final day, only two players ' defending champion Karrie Webb and Annika Sorenstam - managed to record sub-70 scores on his new $40 million par-72 course.
It was such a shock to everyone that you actually had to work hard at the last tournament of the year, Webb said. I dont think there were any bad intentions, Webb, a member of the course said, I just think Donald didnt want to see 15-under or 20-under winning the golf tournament.
This year the course is much more forgiving. According to Trump, the banks around the 18th will not be shaved like they were last year.
No one will be happier about this than Annika Sorenstam.
Trumps mid-tournament changes to the course left Sorenstam in the drink, making triple-bogey during the third round. Sorenstam, shooting 65 in the final round last year, ended up finishing second and a mere two strokes behind Webb.
Sorenstam, going for her 11th win of the season this week, was undaunted by last years level of course difficulty. 'This is a good test, I think. You have got to hit the ball really well, especially iron shots - kind of target golf, so -- we'll see what kind of conditions we'll get,' Sorenstam said. 'Today was quite windy which makes the course a lot tougher.'
Players will also notice a change on the 17th. No. 17, a 166-yard, par-3, is considered the signature hole and one of the toughest - especially if the wind is blowing.
Last year the hole was marked as a hazard meaning players in the water had to drop near the tee. This year the hole is not nearly as penalizing to an errant shot. LPGA Rules official Jane Reynolds marked the 17th in red as a lateral hazard this week, which will enable some players to drop near the green.
So far they have been pleasantly surprised by the course conditions. The course set-up is pretty much the same as last year, Webb said after Tuesdays practice round.
While the elite field enjoys their stay at the opulent Mar-a-Lago, courtesy of Mr. Trump, they are ready to get serious and play the final event of the year. Im definitely excited to get going tomorrow, Sorenstam said.
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.