McIlroy grabs Rd. 1 lead in return to Honda Classic

By Randall MellFebruary 28, 2014, 12:00 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Call off the search party.

Bring home the bloodhounds.

Even with all the stars packed into the Honda Classic, none could be found on the leaderboard Thursday, not until Rory McIlroy bolted up it in a back-nine blitz late in the afternoon.

With a 7-under 63, McIlroy moved himself into early position to win this event for the second time in three years. He ended the day a shot ahead of Russell Henley and two ahead of Rory Sabbatini, William McGirt and Jamie Donaldson.

“I felt like I was in control of my ball all day,” a beaming McIlroy said after signing his scorecard. “I hit a lot of fairways, hit a lot of greens and actually made quite a few putts. It's a golf course where you can't really fake it around. You have to play well to shoot good scores, and I was able to do that today.”

McIlroy, 24, can’t seem to step foot on the Champion Course without creating high drama.

Two years ago, he held off a hard charging Tiger Woods in the final round to win, the victory boosting him to No. 1 for the first time in the Official World Golf Ranking.

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Last year, amid struggles adjusting to new Nike equipment and all the expectations that accompanied the multi-million dollar deal, he walked off the course in the middle of the second round. He cited a toothache before later admitting the real pain was wounded pride over his inflated score.

Through the equipment switch, through management and contract disputes that led to lawsuits, through rumors about impending breakups with his high-profile, tennis star girlfriend, McIlroy’s game swooned last year. His swing was a mess, his mojo was gone, but he sent another message Thursday at PGA National that his game’s coming back strong.

“I couldn’t be in a better place,” McIlroy said.

He wasn’t just talking about the positions of his swing. He was talking about his marriage plans with Caroline Wozniacki, his new home in Palm Beach Gardens, the new management team around him.

“I couldn't be happier,” McIlroy said. “We've got a home here. Personal life is great. Looking forward to getting married at some point in the future, and I feel like if everything's settled off the course, then it helps me perform better on it.”

McIlroy is beginning to perform again like the young phenom who generated so much excitement winning a pair of major championships in runaways and being named PGA Tour Player of the Year in 2012.

Reigning Masters champ Adam Scott is seeing McIlroy’s re-emergence more closely than he would like.

Back in December, McIlroy denied Scott the Australian Triple Crown, coming from four shots behind Scott in the final round of the Australian Open to beat him with a birdie at the last. Scott was paired with McIlroy again at PGA National, the first time they played together since the Australian Open.

“He’s looking pretty sharp if you ask me,” Scott said. “He just didn’t make an error when I needed him to [in Australia]. He just wore me out there. Today, he was very good as well.”

McIlroy birdied the 10th, 11th and 12th holes to get onto the leaderboard at PGA National. He seized the outright lead closing with birdies at the 17th and 18th holes.

“I've reached a point now where I'm very comfortable with everything in my game and my swing,” McIlroy said. “I feel like the scores are just a byproduct of all the hard work.”

McIlroy said earlier this week that he should never have walked off PGA National last year, even though he felt like he just couldn’t cope with everything going on in his life. He said it would never happen again.

On Thursday, McIlroy said there is no attempt to redeem himself this week.

“It’s not like I was out there thinking about what had happened last year, or what had happened the year before that, when I won,” McIlroy said. “It's a new tournament. It's on a tough golf course, and I need to focus all my energy and thoughts into playing these 18 holes. You can't really let any other thoughts creep into your mind, because it is such a tough golf course.”

For better or worse, it’s a course McIlroy can’t help creating high drama upon.

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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.