Double trouble: Rough start sends McIlroy to 73

By Randall MellFebruary 26, 2015, 11:57 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – A search party of marshals and spectators at the Honda Classic could not find Rory McIlroy’s first tee shot in his first start of this PGA Tour season.

After watching heavy, gusting winds push his 2-iron right and into trouble, McIlroy bravely forced his way into the thick, native vegetation at PGA National, looking for his ball in places only snakes and possums get comfortable. He ended up having to jog all the way back to the tee box to re-tee.

A double bogey wasn’t exactly the way the world No. 1 envisioned starting the Tour season.

“The conditions, obviously, were very tricky from the start,” McIlroy said.

McIlroy made another double bogey at the fifth hole, pulling his tee shot there into a pond.

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In the end, though, McIlroy managed a smile after closing with a pair of birdies to shoot a 3-over-par 73.

“I feel like I salvaged something out of the round the last couple holes,” McIlroy said. “It was just a day to keep trying, not to give up, and know that anything around level or 1  or 2 over par still isn't out of it.”

Stepping up to the 16th tee, McIlroy was tied for 104th. With his little rally at the end, he walked away tied for 79th, eight shots off the lead.

“Wasn't quite what I wanted, but, hopefully, tomorrow morning we get calmer conditions and we're able to give ourselves a few more opportunities and make some birdies,” McIlroy said.

The winds were up right from day’s start, but they were toughest in the afternoon, with gusts up to 34 mph. Scores were on average more than a full shot higher in the afternoon.

McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, the featured afternoon grouping, got beat up by Mother Nature.

McIlroy’s 73 was the low round of the group. Johnson shot 77 and Koepka 78.

At one point, the threesome was collectively 20 over par.

“It was tough,” McIlroy said. “When nothing's going your way, and you don't really have anything to feed off, you don't see many good shots, and we're all struggling, it was a grind out there. We'll all go home and put our feet up tonight and get ready for tomorrow.”

With winds even affecting putts, McIlroy wasn’t beating himself up after the round.

“Not at all,” he said. “I'm coming off a three-week break, and tough conditions to come back out in.  I knew that my game is there. Today wasn't, obviously, what I wanted to start with, but you know, if I can get it into red numbers tomorrow, I'm right back in the tournament.”

McIlroy is making his first start since winning the European Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic almost a month ago. He teed it up this week on a tear that extends back into last summer, when he won the British Open, WGC-Bridgestone and PGA Championship in consecutive starts. He has a victory and four second-place finishes in his last five starts.

There was something else McIlroy found to be upbeat about. His 73 was a shot better than he posted in the final round last year, when he couldn’t protect a 54-hole lead and lost in a playoff.

“So it’s a little bit of an accomplishment,” McIlroy cracked.

McIlroy won the Honda Classic three years ago, holding off a Sunday charge by Tiger Woods.

About that rough start Thursday, McIlroy said the wind fooled him. He wasn’t alone. Johnson also hit his opening tee shot over in the thick brush but was able to chip out.

“I felt like the wind was more into us, but once the ball, even Dustin's ball, once it got out there, the wind just took it to the right,” McIlroy said. “I was just trying to play a normal sort of straight shot there.”

Nothing was going straight in Thursday’s winds, until they started dying down near day’s end. McIlroy took advantage when they did late. He hit a 5-iron to 50 feet at the last hole.

“Two-putt and get out of there,” McIlroy said.

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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 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.


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.