Am Tour: San Diego's Jason Meijers working overtime to perfect his game

By Mike BaileySeptember 11, 2014, 6:08 am

So you've thought about playing golf for a living? How much do you think you'll need to practice?

Every day after work?

Twenty hours a week?

Not even close.

Try quitting your job and making golf practice your fulltime occupation. And that'll only work if you have talent.

That's what 24-year-old Jason Meijers has going on right now. Meijers, who lives in San Diego and recently earned a business degree from the University of Southern California, is taking his shot, and he's in full pursuit. What's amazing, though, is that Meijers, who is playing in the Championship flight this week at the Golf Channel Am Tour National Championship, didn't play college golf and 18 months ago was a 10-handicap. Now he plays to a plus 2. He'll be the first to tell you that making that kind of improvement doesn't come easy.

"My head pro told me that I can't take days off," Meijers said. "He told me, 'You need to be playing every day, every tournament you can get into. Even if you're sick, you need to be putting."

So for the past year, Meijers has done exactly that. He practices and plays pretty much seven days a week, seven to nine hours a day and works with a Titleist Performance Institute trainer.

This year, he's played in around 20 events on the Golf Channel Am Tour. Over the summer, he fired several rounds around or better than par to finish near the top of the leaderboard.

"Because I didn't play college golf, I'm looking to gain that tournament experience that I didn't get in college," said Meijers, who also plays in every USGA and Southern California Golf Association event he can get into.

This journey really began a little over a year ago when his father, Neville Meijers, a senior VP at Qualcomm, made a generous offer. Seeing the potential in his son's game (he had already started to improve from the 10-handicap and played high school golf), the elder Meijers asked his son how good could he get. If he heard the right answer, he would offer to sponsor his quest to become a professional player.

"I thought he was joking at the time," said Meijers, who was born in South Africa, but has lived all over the world because of his father's career. "I just kind of laughed it off."

But a couple of months later, the father repeated the question. Jason thought about it for a minute and told him, "If I did this (practice) every day, I could probably get pretty far with it."

And so here we are.

For the past year, Meijers has worked with teaching pro Derek Uyeda at Grand del Mar Resort in San Diego. They work on everything, of course, but if you were thinking the short game is what separates handicap players from elite players, think again.

Truth is it really is about ball-striking. Once you become a plus handicap, great putting or pitching separates the elite, but to get there, forget about the "drive for show, putt for dough" adage. If you can't drive the ball well, you won't make it to scratch, much less a plus handicap.

"I went from a 10 to a 3 in one or two months, just straightening out that driver," Meijers said. "Because once you start avoiding O.B. or the hazards, you start shaving off those strokes."

And you'll also avoid the big numbers, which is critical. Players just can't make enough birdies to negate two or three double bogeys.

Meijers knows that firsthand. After a 71 on Tuesday on the North Course at Talking Stick, he followed with a 76 on the South Course, a round that included two doubles. He's now tied for 15th. 

"Those are the big numbers you have to avoid," said Meijers, who averages about three or four birdies a round. "It's just getting rid of those mistakes."

 

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

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

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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.


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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.

@tommyfleetwood_1

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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."


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


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."