Will anyone step up in Tiger's absence?

By Randall MellMay 12, 2014, 7:50 pm

Martin Kaymer found his way out of the fog.

He emerged from his funk Sunday, claiming The Players Championship with the return of his best form.

Maybe in a larger sense, he will inspire the game to follow him out of its own funk.

Bravo to Mr. Kaymer, who showed such fortitude holding it together after Sunday’s weather delay at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course, but he takes this season on yet another tangent.

This continues to look like such a rudderless year, a season meandering aimlessly from one storyline to another with no theme emerging to tie it all together and no protagonist equipped to lead us to one.

Where are we going? Where is this PGA Tour season headed? What’s going to ultimately define it. Hey, as humans, it’s only natural to search for meaning.

More than halfway through the 2013-14 wraparound schedule, this season still feels lost.

More than anything, the year is defined by the absence of Tiger Woods.

It craves a compelling understudy to fill the void, and nobody’s stepping forward.

In that respect, it’s becoming a year of lost opportunity, from Jordan Spieth’s near misses, to Adam Scott’s backpedaling stumble to No. 1, to Phil Mickelson’s lost weekends, and Rory McIlroy’s maddening flirtations with form.

It’s a year so far defined by what refuses to develop.

“The game of golf is, unfortunately, a game of losers,” Sergio Garcia said Sunday at The Players. “We lose a lot more tournaments than we win.”

With Woods around, we forget sometimes. Without him, we’re constantly reminded.

There was McIlroy’s Sunday failure at the Honda Classic, Scott’s weekend collapse at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Mickelson’s Sunday fade with a chance at Wells Fargo and Spieth’s inability to close out on Sundays at the Masters and The Players.

The PGA Tour turns to the Lone Star state this week, which intrigues, because the tour feels like it’s in a No Single Star state. And yet maybe this is where Spieth follows Kaymer’s lead and seizes the opportunity. After frustrating falls short at the Masters and The Players Championship, Spieth returns home to Texas the next two weeks, looking to win the HP Byron Nelson Classic and the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

Now there’s a hometown sweep that would give this year some definition, especially if it thrusts Spieth into position to become the youngest No. 1 in the history of the Official World Golf Ranking.

Scott isn’t playing this week, but he will overtake Woods as the new No. 1 sitting on his couch. That’s a perfect turn to the year, because Scott’s ascension won’t be about the direction of his game as much as it will be about the direction of the game in general, without Woods leading it.

It would have been so much more compelling if Scott would have seized the No. 1 ranking after defending his Masters title, or by winning The Players Championship for a second time.

We’re a month away from the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, and that brings us to Mickelson, who missed the cut at both the Masters and The Players Championship. In a year of aches and pains, Mickelson would cure what’s ailing him and the game itself by winning at Pinehurst.

If he claims that elusive U.S. Open trophy after a record six second-place finishes in the event, it’s a story that will tower over the year.

McIlroy has teased us with flashes of returning form, and he’s certainly capable of still becoming the story of the year with three majors, a World Golf Championship event and the FedEx Cup still looming.

If Bubba Watson adds to his win at Riviera and the Masters, this year might end up being all about Bubba Golf.

But this all inevitably boils down to Woods and just how successful that microdiscectomy surgery was on his back.

His much anticipated return, whether it’s at the British Open, or the PGA Championship, promises to shape whatever else this year gives us.

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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.

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.


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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.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."