Its Not Easy Being Green
Chris DiMarco is exhausted from talking about his putting grip. Bob Estes delivers that 'Here We Go Again' look when asked about his career turnaround. Pat Perez would prefer you never say the words 'Pebble Beach' to him again.
Asking a player to continuously tell their tale might bring about a sigh, even frustration. But it rarely requires soul searching. And it usually doesnt force a man to relive the worst time of his life.
Ken Green is a notable exception.
Since regaining his PGA Tour card at last years qualifying tournament, Green has been the subject of many a story, from local to national publication. And every time a microphone or tape recorder is placed in his worn face, he must discuss his demons.
The best way I can explain it is that there is a financial demon, a panic demon, a scare demon ' its all little voices, so to speak, that just keep pounding in your head while youre trying to play golf or while youre trying to accomplish certain things in life. Just basically everything fell apart and they took over, he again recalled on Wednesday nights Golf Channel Pre-Game show.
Green is making is 2003 PGA Tour debut this week at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
He opened in 4-under 68 at Pebble Beach Golf Links. On the surface, its something you might expect from a decorated veteran, but on deeper inspection its nothing short of exceptional.
Ken Green's Scorecard
Green was a regular on the PGA Tour for nearly two decades. He won five times and was a member of the 1989 Ryder Cup team.
Through all his talent ' Johnny Miller once described him as the best fairway wood player in the game ' Green was more noted for his personality, which was even more colorful than his name.
Green was, simply put, abrasive. He threw clubs and trash-talked fellow pros. He said he was fined 24 times by tour officials (an unofficial record).
But his on-course antics and altercations were nothing compared to what he was forced to reckon with in his personal life.
Depression, Debt and Divorce were his 3-D demons. He lost a child-custody battle; he lost his swing; he lost his mind.
I can admit I wasnt too far away from the psycho ward, he said.
But there was always the game itself. What once made him mad proved to be a passion that tried to keep him sane.
I actually love playing golf, I always have and I always will. Before I kind of went haywire, I was getting a little too hard on myself and beat myself up, he said.
I wouldnt quit.
Green lost his exempt status on tour after the 1996 season; his conditional status soon followed. He spent the next five years increasingly more on the Nationwide Tour.
From 1998 to 2001 ' the days of economic boom in the world of golf, he earned a shade over 100 grand ' tough times for a man still under the thumb of the IRS.
Then, for reasons he cant fully explain, things changed.
Those demons he likes to talk about gave him back control. While touring the less-than-glamorous developmental circuit in an RV with his girlfriend, he had four top-10s in 17 starts. He finished 41st on the money list ' with more money ($108,370) than he made the last four years combined. He then posted a pair of closing 68s at Q-School to regain his PGA Tour card.
Green is again at the wheel. But some of the demons are still along for the ride.
I can kid about it now, but Ill be on medicine for the rest of my life, and Im not ashamed of it. Its just something I had to deal with and because of it, Im a little better person, he said.
Lifes not meant to be easy all the time.
If you knew Ken Green then, you might not recognize him now.
The glasses are gone; green shoes, gone; hair, gone. Theyve been replaced by lengthening age lines and an expanding waistline.
His ego has also been tempered with caution: I definitely feel I can win again ' certain courses only, certain courses I dont have a prayer,' he admitted.
Hes not awash in 'change,' however. He still has his deadpan sense of humor: What you learn from the young guys is simply that they hit it too far and I dont like them, he said without a smirk.
Green cant hit it like he used. Shoulder surgery has forced him to alter his swing, thus taking away some of his power. But he has some intangibles, primarily his desire.
Im psyched about it, to be honest with you, Green said about his return to the big tour. Im probably more nervous now than I was when I first got my card back in 1982.
Thats not to say everyone else is psyched about his re-emergence.
Green alienated several people in his primary days: tour officials, players, tournament organizers and even volunteers.
Because of his status ' finishing tied for 26th at Q-School ' he might not play on a regular basis until the tour reshuffles its order for newly exempt players.
But hes not about to sweat the small stuff now.
Ive certainly had better trips than its been the last five years, but its something I look forward to this year, he said. Im just going to go out and play some golf, try to have fun and see if I can compete with the kids.
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.