Pursuit of No. 1 unites new Big 3

By Randall MellSeptember 3, 2015, 7:52 pm

They are from such different parts of the world.

There’s the Ulsterman, Rory McIlroy, and the Texan, Jordan Spieth, and the Australian, Jason Day.

They speak with distinctly different accents from cultures with such different views of the world, and yet they’re alike in so many ways.

These three young stars atop the world of golf share a charm, an eloquence and an openness that make the game feel accessible in ways it hasn’t since Arnold Palmer ruled over it. They’re Palmer-esque in so many ways.

Day, 27, feels that in the youthful energy running through the top of the sport.

“I think it’s kind of refreshing for the game of golf right now,” Day said Thursday at the Deutsche Bank Championship. “The kids these days, especially Jordan, Rory and Rickie [Fowler], it’s a very approachable group of kids, who you can easily be fans of.

“I feel like back in the days 10 or 15 years ago, it was harder to approach the top players in the world. For me to be able to be in that trio, it’s neat.”

McIlroy, Spieth and Day may share a certain charm, but it’s another quality that is driving their names together.


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They share an ambition that belies their generous dispositions. They share an ambition that doesn’t want to share this grand stage in golf at all. Day will tell you this in the same breath he shares his admiration for his rivals. He wants to rule more than he wants to share.

“I want to be on top of the trio,” Day said. “That’s what I’m shooting for. It’s going to be tough for me to do that, but it’s going to be a lot of fun trying to top those guys.”

We heard McIlroy, 26, and Spieth, 22, present the same bold desires in the same gentlemanly language.

“Golf is in a cool place right now with young guys who aren’t afraid to win,” Spieth said.

McIlroy returned to No. 1 in the world rankings this week, with Spieth falling back to No. 2 and Day holding firm at No. 3.

They’re here at TPC Boston, though, to take what the others covet most.

They’re here to plunder trophies, FedEx Cup points, money and rankings.

“No. 1 is my No. 1 priority in life,” Day said of his career goals. “Rory and Jordan are the two I’m shooting for. I’m just a little bit behind them. It makes me hungry to try and go catch them.”

Spieth said Day is probably already the real No. 1 in the game, given his current form. Day is looking this week to win for the fourth time in his last five starts. Spieth is enjoying a terrific year, too. He won the Masters and the U.S. Open and was in the hunt until the end of the Open Championship and the PGA Championship.

McIlroy, who missed much of the summer with an ankle injury, won the last two majors of last year.

Together, this trio has combined to win five of the last six majors.

“Seeing Jordan and Jason being in contention so much over the summer, definitely it's motivation for me to get out there and try to play the best that I can,” McIlroy said. “I'm with those guys for a little bit, and I'll obviously try to surpass them.”

McIlroy said one of his goals this year was to build his world ranking average to further separate himself from challengers.

“The guys are coming at me,” McIlroy said. “I don't mind being in this position. It's a good thing. It makes it competitive. It gives you guys a great narrative to run with. I'm just enjoying being part of that conversation.”

Last week, Spieth downplayed giving the No. 1 ranking back to McIlroy, but he acknowledged Thursday he didn’t part with it as well as he made it appear.

“It stinks to lose that position, it really does,” Spieth said.

Spieth finds the Big Three talk motivational.

“It's enjoyable,” he said. “It was the Big One. And after the Masters, it was the Big Two. And Rickie won The Players, and then it was the Big Three. The U.S. Open happened, and it was the Big Two again. And Jason won three out of four weeks, and it was the Big Three again. I just hope I stay in the `Big’ moment, whenever it changes next. I hope I'm the one staying in that space.”

Or, preferably, atop that space.

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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.


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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.”


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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.


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''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.


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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.