Johnson Jumps Out Front

By Marty HenwoodJuly 18, 2003, 4:00 pm
EDMONTON, AB -- Rob Johnson of Terre Haute, Ind., will go in search of his second win of the season when he takes the lead into the weekend at the Canadian Tours TELUS Edmonton Open. This time, however, he will have to play a little extra golf than he did in February if he has his sights set on some championship hardware come Sunday afternoon.
 
The reigning TravelTex.com Canadian Tour Challenge champion holed out for eagle from the fairway on his final hole Friday to put the finishing touches on a course record-tying 7-under 64 at Windermere G&CC. His two-day total of 9-under 133 is good enough for a one shot edge on Arden Knoll and Chris Wall. Jason Enloe and Stephen Woodard are two shots back at 7-under.
 
A total of 72 players were 1-over 143 or better and made the cut. John Mills, who won last weeks MTS Classic in Winnipeg, is at 4-under after a 67 Friday, while current money leader and fellow Oshawa native Derek Gillespie sits at 2-under 140.
 
Back in February, Johnson won his initial crown in the Lone Star State in what was the first four round event in Tour history to be reduced to 36-holes. In as complicated as a scenario as you will see in the world of professional golf, Johnson watched Sundays final round from the comfort of a Golf Channel broadcast booth after wrapping up his second round late on Saturday evening.
 
I dont think rain will be coming here, so it looks like I will have to play some golf this weekend, laughed Johnson, referring to the clear skies and mild temperatures that blanketed Windermere Friday. It was a little bit more relaxing watching on TV in Texas, but we should have some fun out here.
 
Knoll continued to be the feel-good story in Edmonton with his second consecutive 67. Since a hornet bite cost him 80 per cent vision in his right eye three summers ago, the 40-year-old has essentially taken a sabbatical from the game, taking part in just a pair of tournament rounds in the past two seasons prior to this week. His round may have lacked the tidiness and polish from Thursdays opener, but Knoll wasnt about to dwell on a few errant putts that got away from him in round two.
 
I played a scrappy round today, but hit enough good shots to keep me in position, admitted the 1996 Payless Open champion. I missed a couple of four-foot putts that didnt even sniff the cup, but I was able to do enough out there to get it around.
 
Should he win the tournament Sunday afternoon, dont assume Knoll will be in rush to return to the Canadian Tour ranks on a full-time basis. Now enjoying his new career as the Canadian representative for TaylorMade golf clubs, Knoll can still hold the same passion for the sport he loves without the worry of making cuts in order to take home a weekly cheque.
 
I had no realistic expectations at all coming in here. I know I can win the golf tournament, otherwise I wouldnt be here. I always thought I was a talented player, and I think I still have the game. But there is more to life for me now than playing golf. Well see in time, but that time is not now.
 
Wall had a career-best tie for third earlier this season at the Corona Ixtapa Classic and will be looking to move up the ladder in Edmonton over the next two days. He couldnt get up and down on his final hole Friday to save par, but will still be in the final pairing Saturday. Its an experience he is looking forward to.
 
Ive been close before, but I just cant seem to put four great rounds together, said Wall. Maybe this week I can get it done. Ive never really been in this position, so I dont know if it is better to be the hunter or the hunted. Well find out this weekend.
 
Sitting one shot behind Wall after his tee shot on his final hole sailed right into rough, Johnson scooped the ball out with a 9-iron from 157 yards, and watched as it bounced once before finding the bottom of the cup. The late two-shot swing guaranteed Johnson a spot atop the leaderboard with 36 holes to go.
 
That was an amazing way to finish, he said, adding he will not put any pressure on himself heading into Saturday. Anytime you can pull that off to get to 7-under for the round, it feels like a hole in one. Im not going to think about what it will take to win this weekend. I am hitting the ball well, and I gained a lot of confidence from the win in Texas. Well see where that leads us in the next couple of days.
 
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    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    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."

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    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    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.

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    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.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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    Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

    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."


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    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."

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    Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 10:33 pm

    After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.

    La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.

    "Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."

    Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.

    The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

    Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.

    "That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."