Playing Through the Pain

By Randall MellApril 1, 2011, 12:12 am

2007 Kraft Nabisco ChampionshipRANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Reilley Rankin shows you the bloated blister on her left hand.

It hurts just looking at it.

She shot 3-under-par 69 with that hand Thursday at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, her best score in eight months in an LPGA event, her best in almost three years in a major. She’s tied for seventh.

Rankin pokes the blister with a finger on the driving range and winces.

Reilley Rankin
Reilley Rankin had five birdies and two bogeys Thursday at Mission Hills. (Getty Images)
“If you focus on it, it hurts more,” Rankin says.

Rankin knows all about pain, overcoming it.

A dozen years ago, during a vacation while at the University of Georgia, she broke her back in two places jumping off a cliff into a lake in Alabama. She also broke her sternum. After a couple months in a body brace, two years in rehabilitation, she came back to lead the Bulldogs to the NCAA women’s golf championship.

Rankin, 31, was hurt again last year, but the pain was different, not so visible. You can’t see bruises to the soul. You can’t see how worry and guilt wound the heart.

You can see bad swings, though, and Rankin was making a lot of them, missing the cut in 10 of 13 tournaments, her worst year on tour.

There was too much focus on pain on and off the golf course.

At the end of 2009, Rankin’s mother, Mary, was diagnosed with cancer in her neck.

Reilley’s father, Bill, who works in the restaurant business in South Carolina, didn’t have health insurance.

“Couldn’t afford it,” Reilley says.

Trying to find Mary Rankin help was nightmarish.

“You talk to hospitals, and you realize how much it’s about the money,” Reilley says.

Reilley’s father left his job to nurse Mary. So did Rankin’s sister, Caroline. Reilley led the charge trying to find care and the right treatment. It was maddening work, talking to health-care companies, doctors’ offices. But Reilley never felt like she was doing enough as she played through her mother’s illness. There was guilt feeling that way.

“It’s hard when a loved one’s hurting,” Rankin said. “My mother and father, they gave up so much for me to be able to play golf. We didn’t have much, and they gave up everything for my dream. I knew playing made my mom happy, but I really struggled with that.”

Reilley, with the aid of dear friends, Courtney Trimble, the head coach at the University of Central Florida, and Mary Bryan, the assistant coach there, found Mary Rankin help at Florida Hospital in Orlando. The hospital’s foundation stepped in to cover costs. Reilley’s mother, father and sister moved in with Reilley in Orlando and over several months, the treatment drove Mary’s cancer out.

“The cancer’s gone, but there are other health issues,” Rankin said.

Mary Rankin was well enough last December to watch Reilley play in the LPGA Tour Championship in Orlando. Reilley missed the cut. Her mother hugged her afterward with tears in her eyes.

“Does this mean you have to go to Q-School?” Mary asked Reilley. “It’s not fair, but I believe in you. I know you can do it.”

Believing again. Believing it as much as her mother believes. That’s become Rankin’s quest in rebuilding her game.

Rankin says her swing coach, Gary Gilchrist, is doing as much for her confidence as he is her swing.

“He knows more than my game,” Rankin said. “He knows my personality, what makes me tick.”

Rankin says Gilchrist is making her believe she doesn’t have to be technically perfect to play good golf. That’s what made her 69 Thursday feel so good. She said she put up a score feeling like she wasn’t hitting the ball that well.

“Everybody sees all the talent and ability in Reilley, but she doubts herself,” Gilchrist said.

Gilchrist is turning the focus away from Rankin’s blisters and pain and onto what’s right in her game.

“Gary’s been drilling into me that what I have is good enough,” Rankin said. “He’s building back my confidence.”

Mostly, Rankin says Gilchrist’s helping her play like she did as a junior and in college.

“Play like a kid,” Rankin said. “That’s what I’m trying to get back to doing.”

Rankin’s trying not to focus on the pain anymore, even in her bad shots.

“When you’re a kid and you hit a bad shot, you’re thinking, 'Great, now I get to go play a fun shot from there,’” Rankin said. “It’s about how you handle things, how you respond.”

Rankin knows her 69 was just one round at the Kraft, but it was a big step for her confidence. She reminded herself you don’t have to focus on life’s blisters.

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.