Attitude key to Villegas' performance at Disney

By Randall MellNovember 8, 2012, 10:32 pm

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – As final exams go, this week’s PGA Tour event at Disney World may not be as hellish as the rocket propulsion final at MIT . . . but it’s close.

When you’re the “bubble boys” in the season’s final PGA Tour event, the game asks hard questions.

Camilo Villegas found some answers in Thursday’s first round of the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic with a 7-under-par 65 on the Palm Course. He's tied for second, one shot behind Charlie Wi.

Villegas is No. 150 on the PGA Tour money list, the last spot eligible for conditional status next year.

Bill Mayfair didn’t get off to quite the same hot start, opening with an even-par 72 on the Palm Course. He sits near the projected cut line.

Mayfair is No. 125 on the money list, the last spot eligible for exempt status next year.

With a short season ahead in 2013, cracking the top 125 has never seemed more important.

The nature of next year’s schedule, with its more limited opportunities, only ratchets up the pressure this week with Tour pros on the bubble looking to make sure they can win as many playing opportunities as possible next season.

“I can control my own destiny at 125,” said Mayfair, a five-time PGA Tour winner. “I’ve been through just about everything, and I’ve missed finishing in the top 125 before, but this isn’t fun.”

Mayfair was reminded how the spotlight burns on the “bubble boys” in the season finale when he looked at the tee times this week. He was paired in the first two rounds with Rod Pampling, who is No. 124 on the money list.

Mayfair, 46, was asked if he was bothered by a pairing that only adds to the pressure.

“No, the Tour wanted it, TV wanted it, and I understand,” Mayfair said. “I’m OK with it.

“Rod and I are good friends.”

Pampling opened with a 70.

Villegas, 30, is a three-time PGA Tour winner who has struggled re-tooling his swing the last two seasons.

Villegas’ last victory came in the 2010 Honda Classic. The two-year exemption that came with that title runs out this year.

“Equipment-wise, there were a few changes this year, but the biggest change is definitely mental and attitude,” Villegas said. “Sometimes, we take certain things for granted, and that’s what happens. The game comes and kind of bites us.

“The last year and a half hasn’t been pretty, hasn’t been too much fun, I can tell you that, even though I kept putting in the hours. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter, you put in the hours and you’re not having fun and you’re not going to get much out of it. So, I’ve definitely changed a little bit of the attitude. I’ve been playing a lot better now and only having more fun.”

After winning a pair of FedEx Cup events in 2008, Villegas climbed to No. 7 in the world rankings.

Today, he’s No. 214.

“I’m a very passionate guy, but I beat myself up too much sometimes,” Villegas said. “When you beat yourself up a little bit too much, there are little things that make you miserable.”

Villegas is seeing a new attitude affect his performance. He has recorded three consecutive top-30 finishes this fall.

“I’ve proved to myself that I’m a good player,” Villegas said. “I’ve proved I belong on the PGA Tour, and I’ve done it before, so why not do it again?”

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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.


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


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."