West Coast swing feeling the pinch

By Randall MellFebruary 5, 2014, 10:35 pm

They’re juggling.

They’re experimenting.

They’re re-thinking how best to prepare for golf’s biggest events.

The game’s best players are finding their schedules becoming more complicated and challenging as golf’s “world tour” continues to evolve.

We’re seeing these challenges making an impact on the West Coast swing while bolstering the Florida swing. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson look like they will both make their fewest West Coast swing starts ever.

Woods may end up playing just once on the West Coast, Mickelson just three times.

Age and health are functions of new scheduling choices for Woods and Mickelson, but there’s more to it than that.

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“The year basically gets pretty congested for most of the players, starting at the British Open, and some who play the week prior to the British, because then if you play the British Open, then usually some guys have to go play Canada,” Woods said last week. “For me, I take that week off, but then it's Firestone, then it's the PGA, then a week off, then all four playoff events, and then for the Americans, there's a Ryder Cup and a Presidents Cup every year ...

“Now, with this new wraparound schedule going on, I think we're all trying to get our heads literally wrapped around it, and trying to get a feel for it. I don't know how far behind I was in FedEx Cup points when I came back, but Jimmy Walker already has won twice with this new scheduling system. It's very different.”

It’s another new twist players are figuring out.

Adam Scott is amid a six-week break. He’s skipping the entire West Coast swing for the first time since he joined the PGA Tour in 2003. He won’t tee it up again until the Honda Classic in three weeks.

“There’s got to be a break somewhere,” said Scott, who made the most of the Australian swing in December. “You can’t continue to perform at the level you want if you play all the time.”

Graeme McDowell is making his first start of 2014 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am this week. He’s ending a 10-week break.

“I’m actually scheduling myself to prepare myself more for the playoffs this year, because I feel I’ve been beat up by the time I’ve come to August, September, the last three years,” McDowell told the Irish Golf Desk. “My schedule revolves around being ready for the summer this year, being ready for August, September, the Ryder Cup.”

McDowell could be speaking for a lot of players.

With the PGA Tour’s new wraparound schedule, with rich international paydays waiting late in the season, the beginning of a new year is looking like the best time for elite players to get some rest.

Mickelson is skipping the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles, usually a staple on his schedule. He’s also skipping the WGC-Accenture Match Play. He has played as many as six West Coast swing events before the Masters in the past. This year will mark the first time he’ll play fewer than four times on the West Coast swing.

Woods is off to a sluggish start in great measure, it appears, because he took some extra time off in the offseason to rest. It’s carrying over to fewer starts on the West coast swing and fewer pre-Masters starts.

Woods used to play eight events at year’s start to get himself ready for the Masters. That’s how many times he played before he won at Augusta National in ’97, in ’01 and in ’02. He played seven times at year’s start before he won his last Masters in ’05.

With Woods looking as if he’ll join Mickelson in skipping the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship this year, it appears Woods will play just five times leading into this Masters, just once on the West Coast swing, his fewest starts out there. Well, that’s not counting 2010, when he was coming back from his personal woes and didn’t play anywhere before the Masters. Woods, Mickelson, Scott and Rory McIlroy are all scheduled to play Honda and the WGC-Cadillac Championship on the Florida swing.

With Woods 38 now, age is part of the function of his changing schedule. So is his health. The nature of the changing “world tour” is also a factor, with so many big events late in the summer.

So much has changed since Woods joined the Tour in ’96. With the launch of World Golf Championship events, with the creation of the FedEx Cup playoffs, with lucrative international opportunities growing late in the year, scheduling choices have expanded.

And the game’s best are still figuring just what their best choices are. So, expect more juggling and experimenting.

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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 played a six-hole stretch in 6 under and shot an 8-under 64 in breezy conditions Saturday to take the lead at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook began the run at La Quinta Country Club with birdies on Nos. 4-5, eagled the sixth and added birdies on No. 7 and 9 to make the turn in 6-under 30.

After a bogey on the 10th, he birdied Nos. 11, 12 and 15 and saved par on the 18th with a 20-footer to take a 19-under 197 total into the final round on PGA West's Stadium Course. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player is making his first start in the event. He won at Sea Island in November for his first PGA Tour title.

Fellow former Razorbacks star Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were a stroke back. Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 on the Stadium Course. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. They are both winless on the PGA Tour.

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Jon Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium Course to reach 17 under. The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3, 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.

Scott Piercy also was two strokes back after a 66 at the Stadium.

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 PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course, and Harkins shot 68 on the Stadium Course.

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 Course 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. The Southern California recruit had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over for the week.

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.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.