Good times lead to good scores for Spieth, Thomas

By Nick MentaJune 1, 2017, 8:26 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – Jordan Spieth found the front bunker at the par-3 12th at Muirfield Village, his third hole of the day, and started forming a plan with caddie Michael Greller.

“I told Michael, I’m going to aim for the steepest slope, get it to about 15-18 feet and knock it in there from there,” Spieth said after his round Thursday.

But he wouldn’t need the putter.

“The last thing I said before I hit it was, ‘The idea is to have the pin stop it.’ And I hit it and it landed right in the hole. I’ve never done that before.

“So that was awesome.”

The hole-out was one of the highlights of a round of 6-under 66 that put Spieth just one off the early lead held by David Lingmerth and Jason Dufner at the Memorial. But Spieth could only enjoy his good fortune for a moment, because he knew what was coming from his playing partners, Justin Thomas and Kevin Kisner.

“I knew that I would immediately take crap from Kis and Justin. Justin said he was so flustered that he wanted Kis to putt first. They already give me the nickname ‘Golden Child,’ so they were feeding off that from that hole on.”

If Thomas was actually flustered, it was only for a moment. He rolled in an 18-footer for birdie on the 12th as part of a four-birdie run from Nos. 11-14.

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Later on, as Golden Child was detailing his hole-out, Thomas was just a few feet away, working through his own round of interviews following his round of 5-under 67.

Spieth, Thomas and Kisner, who signed for 2-under 70, are all friends. Spieth and Thomas’ relationship dates back to their time as junior golfers. In their short PGA Tour careers, the duo has combined for 13 wins, two Spring Break trips, and one round of 59, fired by Thomas earlier this year in Hawaii, when he was playing in the same group with – guess who – Spieth.

“I don’t know, I guess [it helps],” Thomas answered when asked about playing with Spieth. “It’s easy to say that since I’ve had some good rounds and success with him. But I’ve had poor rounds with him, too.

“The easiest part is just between the shots and being able to talk and catch up because there’s not too often we get to sit down and relax. But that’s kind of the closest thing we have to it is walking the fairways and … just kind of BS-ing a little bit and having fun. Between him and Kis, we had a good time out there today.”

While Thomas started hot early, Spieth made the turn just 1 under after back-to-back bogeys at 17 and 18. But he “stayed patient, set a goal for the back nine,” and circled five holes on his second nine, including four of his last five, to close in 5-under 31.

As he was waiting to clean-up a 2-footer for birdie at the par-4 ninth, the group’s final hole of the day, Spieth watched as Thomas tried to finish with a birdie of his own from 20 feet. When the ball just missed on the high side, Spieth’s knees buckled as if he was watching his own ball miss the hole.

“I guess at times you can get caught up,” Spieth said, “but that’s also really fun. Thursday, Friday, the intensity is not quite as high. It’s more fun-loving. And Kis, coming off the win last week, and all of us kind of having good years, it was pretty even-keeled out there and a lot of fun to be playing.”

The group has enjoyed its fair share of success this season.

Kisner is coming off a victory last week at Colonial, where he edged Spieth by a shot when he got up and down for par on the 72nd hole.

Spieth, who won at Pebble Beach, has enjoyed success on this golf course. He's never missed the cut and finished T-3 during his stellar run in 2015.

But Thomas, who won three times in the early part of the season, has missed the Memorial cut the last two years. That said, he was once victorious on another Columbus-area track, when he won the Tour’s 2014 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship on the Scarlet Course at Ohio State University Golf Club.

“I’ve had success in Columbus, but not at this event, for sure,” he mused. “It’s just nice being here. This is as close I can get to a hometown event, unfortunately. And I’m very fortunate to have some friends come up, and my mom and dad. It’s an easy drive for them and my grandparents. I don’t get to see them very often. It’s a lot of fun."

Spieth, Thomas and Kisner will continue their good-time-had-by-all on Friday when they rejoin for their second round at 1:16 p.m.

“Playing with both of those guys, you have to back off a little bit and get refocused,” Thomas said, “because you’re joking around and trying to enjoy it, and almost forget that you’re in the middle of a golf tournament. There’s times like that where it’s difficult.

“But it’s easy walking down the fairways and having conversation. It keeps the mood light.”

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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.”

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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.

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''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

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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.