McIlroy poised to take No. 1 ranking

By Randall MellMarch 3, 2012, 1:10 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rory McIlroy is positioning himself to take over the world.

With an easy-looking 3-under-par 67 Friday, McIlroy moved a shot off the lead at the Honda Classic. Tom Gillis and Justin Rose are tied at 8 under, with McIlroy at 7 under. Tiger Woods, who shot a 68 on Friday, is at 1 under.

McIlroy, the 22-year-old wonder boy from Northern Ireland can seize the No. 1 world ranking by winning this event.

He isn’t sure it will happen this weekend, but he’s confident he is ready for it.

The two Rory-fanatics alongside the ropes at the 15th hole Friday can attest to that. Dressed in wild, curly Rory wigs, Brett Cairns, 22, and Andrew Zanatta, 26, of Toronto proudly waved down McIlroy to show off their crazy get-ups.

Stenciled on the front of their shirts were these words: “Kiss me, I’m Rory McIlroy.”

The Rory-fanatics spun around as McIlroy passed so he could see what they stenciled on the back: “Official World Ranking as of 3/5/2012 – 1. Rory. 2. Donald. 3. Westwood.”

McIlroy loved it.

“Shouldn’t be too long, fellas,” Zanatta said. “That’s what he told us.”

McIlroy’s confidence is blossoming, but he isn’t assuming anything, especially here on PGA National’s treacherous Champion Course. McIlroy remembers what happened here on Saturday last year. He was trying to position himself for a Sunday run when he stumbled through the Bear Trap with three double bogeys in a row. He rinsed three shots on that trio of holes.

“This golf course can make average golf look like very bad golf very suddenly,” McIlroy said. “So this course isn’t about making tons of birdies. It’s about keeping the big numbers off your card.”

McIlroy shot 77 here on Saturday a year ago and ended up tying for 70th.

“I got on a little run of pars there for a few holes today and just tried to keep telling myself not to get frustrated, because par on this golf course isn’t that bad a score,” McIlroy said.

With his eight-shot U.S. Open runaway victory last year, impressive in how it came in the major after his final-round Masters collapse, McIlroy has steadily prepared himself for this chance at No. 1. He started this year finishing second at the Abu Dhabi Championship, an event he might have won if not for a careless two-shot penalty in the second round. He tied for fifth in his next start at the Dubai Desert Classic and finished second at last week’s Accenture Match Play Championships.

In McIlroy’s last nine worldwide starts, he has finished T-5 or better eight times with a victory and five second-place finishes in that mix. McIlroy has four worldwide titles in his short career, but skeptics would like to see him finish off more victories before handing him the game’s crown.

McIlroy wants that, too. He believes he is strengthening all aspects of his game.

“I’m working harder than ever, I think, and I haven't really reaped the rewards of it yet,” he said. “I’ve played three tournaments this year and had a couple of chances to win.  I feel like it’s very close.”

Maybe as close as this Sunday.

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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 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.


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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.

@tommyfleetwood_1

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.