With Harmon's help, Pettersen a winner again

By Randall MellJune 8, 2015, 12:13 am

Suzann Pettersen tends to win in bunches.

You can look it up.

When she wins, she can become a raging fire, consuming whatever’s in her path.

Her first victory under her new swing coach, Butch Harmon, couldn’t have come at a better time Sunday at the Manulife LPGA Classic. Pettersen will head to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship this week radiating with confidence. It’s the first of three major championships scheduled over the next eight weeks.

Harmon loved what he saw watching Pettersen end a 19-month winless drought.

“Suzann’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around in the golf business,” Harmon told GolfChannel.com in a telephone interview after her victory. “She’s very conscientious about her work. She puts in the time, and she loves the work. It’s great to see her get the benefit of all that hard work.”

It was Pettersen’s first victory since she went to work with Harmon last December. He watched the new swing they’re building together hold up under final-round pressure on the back nine at Whistle Bear Golf Club. After squandering an early lead, Pettersen eagled the 12th hole and then birdied two of the final three holes to beat Brittany Lang by a shot.

“I think something you’re going to see the rest of the year is that Suzann really believes in herself now,” Harmon said. “She was kind of lost when she came to me in December. She was lost with her golf swing, and she was lost with her confidence. She is 100 percent confident now. She really believes in the things she’s doing, and this win is just going to give her more confidence."

Pettersen made a bold move late last year. Nearing her 34th birthday, she decided to start over.

She left her swing coach, David Leadbetter, who helped her groove a swing that brought her to the brink of one of her dreams, to within hundredths of a point of the Rolex No. 1 world ranking. She won five times with Leadbetter in 2013, including her second major, the Evian Championship. She put on a clinic at Evian, knocking down flagsticks in a brilliant ball-striking performance. As a team, they were on fire together that fall.

There were frustrations, though, trying to follow up in 2014. There were setbacks.

There was Pettersen’s nagging back injury, and there were confidence-jarring final-round failures with chances to win at the Ricoh Women’s British Open and LPGA Championship. She squandered chances to win those majors closing with a 75 and then a 76.

Nearing that 34th birthday, Pettersen knew time was beginning to tick on her desire to finally reach No. 1, to win more majors and to win a gold medal with golf returning to the Olympics next year. She has been No. 2 behind four different players in the Rolex world rankings without being able to reach the top. There was great frustration in that. And while she has won two majors, she has finished second or third in nine others. She burns for a gold medal and knows if she doesn’t win one this next year, she’ll be 39 the next time the Olympics come around.

“She’s on course to accomplish all those things,” Harmon said.

Late last year, Pettersen decided it was “now or never” if she was going to make a big change. She huddled with Greg Norman and Darren Clarke in a pro-am in China in the fall of 2013. She picked their brains about Harmon, and then she asked for his help.

“I’d always been very curious about Butch,” Pettersen said.

Harmon limits his stable, but he welcomed Pettersen aboard.

“I have only good things to say about Butch,” Pettersen said after hoisting the Manulife trophy.  “He's been a great inspiration to me, to take my game to a new level. He definitely has the belief, and he's no sugar coater. He gives me what I need every single time, and what we've done so far is good. This is, hopefully, just a start.”

The KPMG Women’s PGA  will be played at Westchester Country Club in New York. It’s a special place for Harmon. “My old stomping grounds,” Harmon said. His father, Claude, won a bunch of times at Westchester, including nine Westchester Opens and Westchester PGAs.

“It will be a good course for her, the way she’s driving it,” Harmon said. 

When Pettersen wins an event, there’s typically another win right on its heels. She won three times in October of 2007. She won twice in August of 2011. She won in back-to-back weeks in October of 2012, twice in the spring of 2013 and three times in the fall of ’13.

Pettersen says Harmon has made the arc of her swing wider and more shallow. While she fights wanting to be more technical than she should, Harmon says she picked up his changes quickly. Her progress was slowed in the spring, when she battled more back and shoulder issues. She withdrew in the middle of the Lotte Championship with an inflammation of her left shoulder. She WD’d again from the Swinging Skirts Classic with the injury.

Through it all, Harmon said he saw a lot of progress.

“This has been coming for awhile,” he said. “She’s played so much better than her results have shown, even before her shoulder started bothering her.”

Healthy and pain-free again, Pettersen is eager to see what else she can do with this new approach.

“For me, it was a good move, just in time to kind of get going,” she said. “I'm excited to start playing well with a lot of majors lined up for the summer.”

Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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."