C. Woods' road to LPGA begins on Symetra Tour

By Randall MellFebruary 20, 2014, 3:39 pm

Cheyenne Woods is giving the Symetra Tour’s season opener a bonus billing.

It’s also now Cheyenne’s homecoming.

After a big breakthrough winning the Australian Ladies Masters two weeks ago, Woods comes home to tee it up in Friday’s start of the Visit Mesa Gateway Classic, the launch of the Symetra Tour’s new season. The developmental tour is known as “The Road to the LPGA,” and that’s exactly where Woods hopes her commitment to the Symetra Tour leads.

Woods, 23, couldn’t ask for a better place to start the journey. She grew up in Phoenix, just down the road from Mesa’s Longbow Golf Club, home to this week’s event. She has her own apartment in Phoenix. Her mother, Susan, picked her up at the Phoenix airport Monday afternoon after a 22-hour, two-legged flight back from Australia. Friends were waiting for Cheyenne when she got to her apartment.

“It was so exciting,” Woods told GolfChannel.com. “Everyone was so excited, and it was nice to see that.”

The only time Woods got emotional in her media interviews immediately after her win Down Under was when she thanked her family back home. She choked up.

“Growing up, my family was so supportive,” Woods said in a telephone conversation Wednesday with GolfChannel.com. “They were my No. 1 fans. My mom was everything, in terms of taking me to golf lessons, supporting me at junior events. She made sacrifices to get me where I am today. I got emotional because my family wasn’t able to travel with me to Australia, and they didn’t get to enjoy that moment with me after all the hard work we’ve all put into my game.”

Photo gallery: Cheyenne Woods through the years

Woods is niece to Tiger Woods. Her father, Earl Jr., is Tiger’s half-brother, born into Earl Woods Sr.’s first marriage. Cheyenne’s parents divorced when she was young. Both Susan and Earl Jr. will be following Cheyenne at Longbow this week. So will lots of other family and friends. Cheyenne has two older half-brothers.

“My family doesn’t get a lot of chances to see me compete,” Woods said. “They don’t travel a lot. Some haven’t seen me play since high school. Some have never seen me compete. For them to be able to come out this week, it will be special.”

While Woods’ victory at the Australian Ladies Masters earned her a two-year exemption on the Ladies European Tour, it did not gain her any status to play the LPGA, and that’s the destination Woods is working toward. That’s why she’s making the commitment to the Symetra Tour. She plans to play some more LET events this year, too, but it won’t be her primary focus.

“I’m going to focus on the Symetra Tour,” Woods said. “As of today, my plans haven’t changed. I think long-term, that’s the best decision for me. I’m able to play their entire season, with a chance to earn my LPGA tour card with a top-10 finish on the money list. I also have European Tour status, and I’ll play there when I can, but for now my plan is grinding out here on the Symetra Tour.”

Woods is also planning to play the Volvik Championship next week at Industry Hills Golf Club’s Eisenhower Course outside Los Angeles. It will mark Woods’ fifth consecutive tournament. That’s a long haul given three of those events were international.

“I took a day to rest when I got home,” Woods said.

Woods credits her breakthrough Down Under to the work she did on her short game with her long-time coach, Mike Labauve.

“In the offseason, we didn’t really focus on much other than wedges and short game,” Woods said. “That’s something that I think really made the difference for me.”

Woods failed in her first two attempts to get through LPGA Q-School in 2012 and ’13, but she went overseas and earned a spot on the LET, playing it as a rookie last year. With the Symetra Tour expanding opportunities this year, Woods could get up to 20 starts on that tour. The Symetra Tour schedule was boosted from 15 events a year ago.

While the Aussie Ladies Masters triumph might not have gained Woods an LPGA tour card, it did enhance her attractiveness as a draw for LPGA tournament directors with sponsor exemptions to fill. Woods played the LPGA co-sanctioned Women’s Australian Open on a sponsor’s exemption last week, tying for 23rd, her best finish in seven LPGA starts as a pro.

Woods is represented by Mark Steinberg, also Tiger’s agent at Excel Sports Management. His team is helping her sort through opportunities, including a likely flood of sponsor invites.

“We’ve received a tremendous amount of interest in Cheyenne,” said Andrew Kipper, Woods’ day-to-day manager at Excel Sports Management. “We’re evaluating the best path.”

As an LPGA non-member, Woods is allowed to accept six sponsor exemptions this year. Her win Down Under also gets her into the Women’s British Open and the Evian Championship through LET eligibility criteria. Those starts won’t count against the five sponsor invites Woods has left this year. Also, she plans to try to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open. If she does, that also won’t count against her limit of sponsor invites. That’s nine potential LPGA starts in 2014.

Basically, there are four ways Woods can earn LPGA membership, but only one way she can earn status to play that tour as a member this season:

• By winning an LPGA event this year, Woods would gain a two-year exemption as a tour member. She could accept immediate membership, or defer membership until the start of next year.

• By accumulating non-member winnings that are the equivalent of top-40 money on the final LPGA money list, Woods could claim LPGA membership for 2015. Non-member money winnings only count in events with a cut.

• By finishing among the top 10 on the season-ending Symetra Tour money list, Woods would earn LPGA membership for 2015.

• By advancing through LPGA Q-School’s final stage at season’s end, Woods would earn membership for 2015.

Wherever Woods path leads, she starts with terrific momentum from her LET victory.

“It was a huge accomplishment for me,” Woods said. “I just gained so much confidence in my game and my ability.”

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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.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''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

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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.