Bunker Shots Remedy for a slow start

By Randall MellJanuary 26, 2010, 8:21 pm

Blasting into the week ahead, from Lefty’s debut to another strong event in the Middle East.

Farmers Insurance Open

The PGA Tour’s sluggish start might have a remedy this week.

Dr. Phil’s making a house call.

That’s the role Phil Mickelson served on the U.S. Presidents Cup team last fall. Captain Fred Couples kept throwing players who needed some medicinal aid at him and Mickelson kept providing the remedy required. Anthony Kim, Justin Leonard and Sean O’Hair all got healing help hitching their games to Mickelson’s in the team event. Nobody lost while paired with Mickelson in that week's victory against the Internationals.

Mickelson could give the entire PGA Tour a booster shot this week with a quick start.

Though Mickelson likes to play himself into shape early in the year, he knows fast starts. He’ll be looking to win his season opener for the fifth time in his career when he tees it up in Thursday’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. He’ll be looking to do it for the first time since he won the Bob Hope Classic six years ago.

If Mickelson can pull it off, he’ll have achieved a first in his 19-year professional career. Though he has claimed 40 titles worldwide since turning pro in 1992, he’s never won three tournaments in a row. Mickelson won his last two starts in 2009, the Tour Championship and the WGC-HSBC Champions.

Stance: With Tiger Woods turning Torrey Pines into his traditional first start, the event has come to feel like the start of the PGA Tour season the last few years. Woods made it a big-bang start winning his season debuts there in ’06, ’07 and ’08, but his recovery from knee surgery kept him away in ’09 and the troubles in his personal life are keeping him away again this season. He isn’t the only big name staying away this year. Mickelson is the only top-10 player in the world rankings in the event.

Takeaway: Four events into the new year, with January coming to a close, it still doesn’t feel like the PGA Tour season has begun in earnest. The PGA Tour’s season-opener may never feel like Major League Baseball’s Opening Day, but the Tour could use a big event earlier in its schedule. Why not move the Accenture Match Play Championship to this week, a week before the Super Bowl? The Accenture feels like an All-Star Game with some March Madness bracketing creating office pool fun. The action-packed first two rounds of Match Play and all their upsets rank among the most crazy days of the season. The game could use the energy earlier in the year.

Bunker shot: Mickelson believes his work with Butch Harmon is paying off with his driver becoming more dependable. He believes Dave Stockton’s making his putter more reliable. He made believers of fellow Tour pros beating Woods at the Tour Championship and whipping him head-to-head in the final round of the HSBC Champions in China. There’s evidence he’s poised for his best season yet.

Commercialbank Qatar Masters

Back in the day, pros used to say the golf season didn’t begin until the Florida Swing.

You could argue now that it begins with the European Tour’s Middle Eastern Swing.

The start feels so much more important over there.

The game’s highest ranked players are testing their games against each other in the desert yet again this week.

Stance: Eight of the top 14 players in the world teed it up at the Abu Dhabi Championship last week. By comparison, the PGA Tour’s Bob Hope Classic didn’t feature a single player among the top 14. The Qatar Masters boasts seven of the top 14 players in the world this week, nine of the top 20. Mickelson’s the lone player from the top 14 at the Farmers Insurance Open, with just three of the top 20 competing.

Takeaway: South African Charl Schwartzel will be looking to win his third consecutive European Tour start. After winning back-to-back events in his homeland, he took last week off. With a stiffer test this week, we get a better gauge of what to make of his start. Long-hitting Spaniard Alvaro Quiros is the defending champ.

Bunker shot: With his victory against a strong field at Abu Dhabi last week, Germany’s Martin Kaymer continued to build on his swelling reputation, leaping eight spots to No. 6 in the world rankings. He’s 25 but has won three European Tour events in the last six months, five for his career. He tied for sixth in his last major, the PGA Championship. His record over the last six months might be even more impressive if he hadn’t missed two months after breaking three bones in his right foot in a go-kart accident last August. Kaymer looks like the next European star in the making.

And also . . .

The Nationwide Tour’s 21st season begins with Thursday’s start to the Michael Hill New Zealand Open at the Hills Golf Club in Queenstown.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

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.

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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

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

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.