Few and Far Between

By Mercer BaggsJanuary 22, 2006, 5:00 pm
These opportunities dont come around very often. At least not for the average player. Or the good player. Or even the very good player.
For many, the opportunity to win a professional golf tournament is like the out-of-state grandmother visit ' from the one you like: it only comes around once or twice a year.
Amy and Chris DiMarco
Chris DiMarco gets a hug from his wife/caddie after his first win in four years.
It doesnt matter on which tour you compete, be it the PGA, European, LPGA or A.G. Spanos; most players dont get very many legitimate chances to win on an annual basis.
Of course, this doesnt include the Superstar player, i.e. Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson. Theres a reason that they rank 1, 2 and 3 in the world, and its because they not only win multiple tournaments each season, but they constantly put themselves in position to do so. They give themselves more opportunities to win than everyone else.
And they convert on quite a few of those occasions.
Since the start of the 2004 season, at least one of those three players has been present in 75 tour events. And theyve combined to win 26 times. That means when Woods, Singh or Mickelson is in the field, then the fields odds of winning are reduced to about 65 percent.
As if these three dont make it hard enough on everyone else to try and get a victory, the depth of talent from tour-to-tour is so deep that the average player ' or the good, or very good ' must really be on his game in order to put himself into prime position.
And we all know that golf is as fickle as the Scottish winds; a players game can come and go without warning, staying for an all-too-short amount of time and leaving for an indomitable period.
Players have to take advantage of those opportunities when they blow their way; not blow those opportunities. Chris DiMarco has done plenty of the latter; Sunday, he finally did the former.
Its easy to think of DiMarco as an unfortunate golfing soul over the last few years, what with his zero victories and his 11 top-3s since the 2002 Phoenix Open. But its actually just the opposite: hes been one of the lucky ones.
DiMarco has had more chances to win over the last four years than just about everyone not named Tiger, Vijay or Phil.
Over the last two years alone, hes four times held at least a share of the 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour. And, of course, hes had the success rate of Dan Quayle in the National Spelling Bee. Hes also been within three of the lead entering the final round three times during that stretch and has come up empty as well.
Now, he finally has something to take home with him other than a hefty consolation check.
DiMarco was once again in the pole possession at the European Tours Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. And instead of shooting something in the 70s and walking off the 18th with that Peyton Manning This-cant-be-happening-to-me-again look, he went out, carded a 67 and took home his first individual title anywhere in a long, long time.
Not that he was counting or anything.
This is four years to the month that I have not been in the winner's circle, said DiMarco, who credited his Presidents Cup performance a year ago with helping him finally come through in the clutch.
It just feels like a weight has been lifted off my back.
The monkey is gone ' but not yet dead and buried. John Daly broke a six-year winless drought when he captured the 2001 BMW International Open in Germany. But it took three more years before he would win again on the PGA Tour.
Mark OMeara won the 2004 Dubai Desert Classic for his first official victory since 98. He hasnt since won.
You would think that this wouldnt happen to DiMarco. You would think that he would certainly ride this momentum to at least one PGA Tour victory this season, perhaps before they even swing on over to Florida.
Hell likely have three or four good chances to win a PGA Tour event this season, which is actually really good for a guy who plays about 25 times.
If you still dont think that thats a healthy amount of opportunities to win on tour just ask somebody like David Toms. Toms is one of the 10 best players in the world. And when hes clicking, hes capable of beating everyone else ranked ahead of him, as he showed at the Sony Open.
Yet, hes seen his chances of winning dwindle with each passing season.
Four times in both 2002 and 2003 he either led or was within three strokes of the lead entering the final round. That number fell to three in 2004. And it was just one in 2005; though, he did make it to the finals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, where he routed who else but DiMarco.
So in essence, one of the 10 best players in the entire world had but two very good opportunities to win a tour event all of last season.
Hes already had one such opportunity this year and made the most of it in Honolulu. Hell being doing very well just to have a couple of more of them over the next 10 months.

That being the case, think about what it must be like for those guys outside the top 10 in the world rankings, outside the top 20, outside the top 50. Many of the players on the PGA Tour have to be thrilled just to have one shot at a title each season.
Chad Campbell was enthused to have had the chance to win the Sony Open a couple of weeks ago. And after getting dusted by fellow 54-hole co-leader Toms that Sunday in Hawaii, he was even more ecstatic to have a shot at redemption seven days later at the Bob Hope.
Prior to the Sony, it had been since the 2004 Bank of America Colonial that he held at least a share of the lead entering the final round in a tour event. Last year, his best final-round starting position was five strokes back at the Chrysler Championship. He did lose in a playoff to Adam Scott at the Nissan Open, but that tournament was weather-reduced to just 36 holes.
Now, he was in contention to win a tournament for the second straight week ' this time as the outright leader heading to Sunday.
And this time things fell in his favor. Despite a shaky start to his back nine, Campbell composed himself to shoot 1-under 71 and win his third career tour event, and his first in nearly two years.
Good thing, too, because, at best, hes looking at only one or two more solid chances to win over the remainder of the year.
These things are few and far between. You dont have to tell that to Scott Verplank, who started the final round at the Hope one back of Campbell and finished three in arrears, in a tie for second with Jesper Parnevik, thanks to a closing 1-over 73
Its been nearly five years since Verplank cashed in a winning ticket on tour. Since his triumph in the 2001 Bell Canadian Open, he has now nine times led or been within three of the lead entering the final round. That includes two times in 2003, two times in 2004 and two times in 2005.
Two times a year. Thats all a player like Verplank, a guy consistently ranked inside the top 40 in the world, gets a year to have a quality chance at winning a PGA Tour event.
Two times. Thats it. And, unfortunately for him, hes already wasted one of them.
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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.