Spieth takes another gut punch, but still standing

By Randall MellApril 6, 2017, 10:49 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Jordan Spieth got knocked on his butt again Thursday at the Masters.

He got busted in the chops again on the back nine at Augusta National.

Spieth, though, sounded undeterred after signing his scorecard, because he knows he wasn’t alone this time, and he knows there’s so much more time to recover this year.

With winds gusting up to 40 mph, the first round was mostly about who could endure a beating.

Spieth sounded like a guy eager to show he can take a punch, and that just might be what it takes to win this kind of Masters.

“Looks like something in single digits could win this,” Spieth said. “I certainly can still shoot single digits.”

A year ago, Spieth took the kind of punch that can dizzy a player for the rest of his career. He made a quadruple bogey-7 at the 12th hole in an epic final-round collapse that cost him back-to-back Masters titles.

Masters Tournament: Scores | Live blog: Day 1 | Full coverage

In his return there Thursday, Spieth safely navigated his way through the 12th with a par, but he got walloped with another punch on the back nine he didn’t see coming.

At the 15th, Spieth rinsed a wedge shot, spinning it off the front of the green and back into the water. He made another quadruple bogey, an ugly 9 there that included some uncharacteristically clumsy short-game mistakes.

Spieth shot a 3-over-par 75.

That’s the highest score Spieth has posted in his 13 rounds at the Masters.

No player has ever recorded a score higher than a 7 on any hole and gone on to win the Masters.

Still, Spieth was more defiant than disturbed.

“I'm going to probably need to play something under par tomorrow, which adds maybe bit of pressure that I wouldn't have put on tomorrow, because I was thinking even par for the two days was a good score,” Spieth said. “I feel like I need to snag something tomorrow, but do it through patience and taking advantage of the par 5s.”

There was so much focus on Spieth Thursday, with anticipation high for his return to the 12th.

The grandstand was packed full when Spieth got there. Patrons were lined shoulder to shoulder, teeming around the tee box, waiting to cheer Spieth through this.

It wasn’t exactly an ideal arrival, though,

Jeunghun Wang was making a mess of the hole in front of Spieth. Wang airmailed the green, searched the woods for his ball, then marched back to the tee box to play again. It added to the tension there with Spieth waiting.

When Spieth finally made his way on to the tee, he got a standing ovation.

“I always have nerves walking to that tee, I always have,” Spieth said. “It was a tough today, because you don't know exactly what the wind is going to do to the ball.”

Spieth wasn’t surprised at the welcome he got at the 12th tee. Past Masters champions are always welcome there. He was more surprised by the reaction his tee shot got when he hit the back of the green.

“I was a bit surprised at how loud the cheer was when my ball landed about 35 feet away from the hole,” Spieth said. “But I was relieved to see it down and on the green.  I guess everybody else felt that maybe more than I did.”

Spieth followed with a birdie at the 13th to get within one shot of the lead before fading.

At the 15th, Spieth laid up to 98 yards, looking to birdie the par 5.

“I struck the shot well, I just hit the wrong club,” Spieth said. “I struck it very solid, but I used a club that would spin instead of one that would maybe take the spin off.’

Spieth took a penalty drop and moved up to 78 yards, thumping that shot over the green. Then he chipped 30 feet past the hole and three-putted for his 9.

It didn’t take long for Spieth to rebound. He birdied the 16th and made a nice par save at the 18th to keep from drifting too far back.

“I got three rounds to go,” Spieth said.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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.

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."

Getty Images

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.