Driver is key to McIlroy's powerful start

By Randall MellAugust 9, 2012, 8:16 pm

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Rory McIlroy can make his peers shake their heads when he’s launching drivers across zip codes.

He made Jim Furyk marvel at the sixth hole Thursday in the first round of the PGA Championship. That’s where McIlroy bombed his driver over the corner of a dogleg, almost a football field in front of Furyk. McIlroy birdied the 480-yard par 4 without even needing to hit a full wedge.

“Rory and Dustin [Johnson] were bombing drivers around corners I can’t even think about,” Furyk said.

McIlroy opened the year’s final major with a bogey-free 5-under-par 67, a shot behind the leader, Carl Pettersson.

Craving the chance to win his second major, McIlroy shrank Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course with some titanic drives. Frustrated over his inability to get into contention on a Sunday in a major since his breakthrough U.S. Open victory at Congressional Country Club last summer, McIlroy looked confident again in his ball-striking.

“I sort of lost it a little bit in the middle of the season,” McIlroy said.

Since winning his U.S. Open, McIlroy hasn’t finished better than a tie for 25th in the five majors that followed. McIlroy looked like he was going to make a run at the Masters this past spring, entering the weekend tied for third, but he closed with a 77 and 76. In his title defense at the U.S. Open, he missed the cut.

“I just want to give myself a chance on Sunday,” McIlroy said.

This golf course looks like it might be perfectly suited to McIlroy’s big game.

Furyk found himself in the middle of a long-range missile demonstration watching McIlroy and Johnson. After the morning wave, Johnson led the field in driving distance, averaging 322 yards a drive. McIlroy was second at 313. McIlroy hit 10 of 14 fairways, two more than Johnson, who finished with a 71.

When McIlroy, 23, is this long and straight, he’s something to behold. He hit his driver 10 times in the first round.

“Rory is solid, and he drove it really well today,” Johnson said. “And that’s the key out here. This golf course sets up for big hitters, if you’re driving it well.”

McIlroy hit 15 greens in regulation on the way to his 67.

“It’s a great way to start,” McIlroy said. “It’s a great score to build on.”

McIlroy seemed most encouraged by his improved ball-striking.

“When you’re hitting it in the fairway, and you’re hitting it long, it gives you a big advantage over a percentage of the field,” McIlroy said. “Of course, you see a drive go down the middle of the fairway 330 yards, it’s going to give you a little bit of confidence, too.”

With his putter cooperating, McIlroy was able to take advantage of the chances he was giving himself. He said work last week with putting wizard Dave Stockton paid off.

“We made a slight adjustment to my routine,” McIlroy said. “It made a huge difference last week. I felt so much better on the greens than I did at the Open. He sort of just said to me, `Just go out there and have fun and enjoy it and smile.’”

McIlroy was the obedient pupil in Thursday’s strong start.

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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.