Par 5: Match Play From Spain to N.J.

By Randall MellMay 17, 2011, 7:23 pm

Setting the week’s agenda with five questions for tournament golf at large . . .

Is Luke Donald the man to beat at the Volvo World Match Play?

After winning the WGC-Match Play Championship in February, Donald should bring a lot of confidence to this week’s Volvo World Match Play Championship at the Finca Cortesin Golf Club in Spain.

The event, by the way, feels like a celebration of what’s right with European golf.

Five of the top six players in the world rankings are scheduled to play in the European Tour event. They’re all Europeans.

No. 1 Lee Westwood is in the 24-player field along with No. 2 Donald, No. 3 Martin Kaymer, No. 5 Graeme McDowell and No. 6 Rory McIlroy.

The unique format features eight groups of three players. The top two players from each group will advance to Saturday’s quarterfinals from a round-robin format over Thursday and Friday. Winners of group matches earn two points for a victory, one for a halved match. Head-to-head records will be used to break ties in the group matches. If there’s still a tie, a playoff will decide who advances.

The semifinals and finals are scheduled for Sunday.

Despite his stellar play winning at Accenture, Donald is not the man to beat this week, according to Ladbrokes. Westwood is the betting favorite at 6-to-1 odds. Donald is next at 7-to-1 with Kaymer at 8-to-1. Donald is in a group with England’s Ross Fisher and American Ryan Moore.

Will the memory of The Players Championship motivate or haunt Toms?

David Toms jumps right back into competition at this week’s Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial looking like a man determined to give himself another chance to make a clutch putt.

Toms, 44, has a history of riding hot streaks, and he looks like he’s heating up again.

He loves Colonial, where he has done just about everything but win. He’s finished T-2, T-3 and T-4 there. In the aftermath of Sunday’s loss at The Players, Toms radiated with the aura of a man on the rise, not a man crushed by the disappointment of a blown chance.

“I think I’m going to win again soon,” Toms said. “Playing great [at The Players] gives me that confidence.”

Colonial seems like the perfect place for Toms to give himself another chance to win his 13th PGA Tour title. His run at The Players shouldn’t have surprised. He is second on the PGA Tour this season in driving accuracy, second in greens in regulation and second in total putting despite his short miss at the end of The Players. Those aren’t the stats of a guy who just caught lightning in a bottle. He’s in strong form.

Who is Toms’ most formidable competition at Hogan’s Alley?

Zach Johnson will be looking to become the first player to repeat as champ at Colonial since Ben Hogan won in 1952 and ’53.

Ten players have won multiple titles at Colonial since the tournament launched in 1946. Hogan, Julius Boros, Billy Casper, Lee Trevino, Ben Crenshaw, Corey Pavin, Nick Price, Bruce Lietzke, Phil Mickelson and Kenny Perry have all won it more than once, but Hogan’s the only player to win it back-to-back, and he did it twice. He also won it in 1946 and ’47, the first two years of the event.

So look for players who have won here before to get themselves in the mix. Johnson, Rory Sabbatini and Sergio Garcia could be factors as former champs.

Who are the players to beat at the Sybase Match Play Championship?

The LPGA returns to action with 64 of its top players competing at Hamilton Farm Golf Club in Gladstone, N.J., Thursday through Sunday.

The top 32 seeds will be based on the Rolex Women’s World Rankings with each of those seeds choosing their opponent in a blind draw on Tuesday.

With so few events this season, it’s difficult to know who’s arriving in the best form, but here’s how this reporter handicaps the favorites:

  • 3/1 Brittany Lincicome – Swept through the field winning at Hamilton Farm in ’06.
  • 5/1 Yani Tseng – World No. 1 highly motivated after Kraft loss and missed cut in last LPGA start.
  • 6/1 Jiyai Shin – Will wear out opponents hitting fairways and greens.
  • 8/1 Angela Stanford – Lost in finals in this event last year.
  • 10/1 Stacy Lewis – Ball striking, confidence make Kraft champ tough to beat.
  • 10/1 Karrie Webb – Two victories on the board already this season.
  • 12/1 Na Yeon Choi – Finished T-3, T-5 and sixth so far this year.
  • 12/1 Michelle Wie – Record shows she steps up in match play.
  • 15/1 Sun Young Yoo – Brings some serious mojo as defending champ.
  • 15/1 Cristie Kerr – Coming through a sluggish run, but if her putter gets hot ...
  • 18/1 Paula Creamer – Solheim Cup practice session this week may light a fire.
  • 18/1 Morgan Pressel – Match play brings out the best in ‘05 U.S. Women’s Amateur champ.
  • 20/1 Suzann Pettersen – Putter’s temperature determines how far she advances.

Will Alexis Thompson bounce back strong in Europe?

Alexis Thompson will make her first start since she lost a share of the 54-hole lead in a final-round stumble at the Avnet LPGA Classic three weeks ago.

The 16-year-old American will tee it up at the UniCredit Ladies German Open Thursday looking to become the youngest winner of a Ladies European Tour event. Amy Yang holds the mark having won the ANZ Ladies Masters when she was 16 years and 192 days old. Thompson would be 16 years and 101 days old on Sunday.

Thompson made a strong run at winning in Europe last year before finishing tied for second at the Evian Masters.

The Ladies German Open field includes Sandra Gal, who will be popular returning to her homeland after winning the Kia Classic earlier this year. Gal’s the highest ranked player in the field at No. 34 in the world. Laura Davies is there to defend her title.

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMellGC
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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.

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."

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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.