After another mini-slump, Westwood back again

By Rex HoggardMay 8, 2014, 8:19 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The sun was just making its way over the treetops at TPC Sawgrass when Lee Westwood made his way to the first tee, which was not exactly center stage for a player who three years ago was the top-ranked golfer in the world.

“If they would have shouted out their names, I'd have known them all by name,” Westwood cracked about the handful of fans that braved the morning conditions when the Englishman set out at 7:15 a.m. (ET).

But if Westwood’s opening 67 at The Players is any indication, he seems at ease with obscurity, although his play of late suggests he shouldn’t get used to it.

The Players Championship: Articles, videos and photos

After a winless 2013 Westwood seems to have emerged from yet another swoon, this time thanks to something old.

Westwood split with his longtime swing coach Pete Cowen before the 2012 PGA Championship and spent about six months last year working with Sean Foley – whose stable of players includes Tiger Woods, Justin Rose and Hunter Mahan. He switched again in February when he began working with Mike Walker, a disciple of Cowen’s.

“I’ve always worked more in positions in the golf swing, and Sean would put on the TrackMan and maybe change my setup position,” Westwood said. “I’ve always done things a little unorthodox, bent left arm, and I’ve always had the ball quite a way back, and he wanted me to move it up, and I feel uncomfortable with my technique doing that.

“I like a lot of stuff we worked on, and I enjoyed working with him and really enjoy his company, but sometimes you and a coach don’t match up.”

With the move to Walker, Westwood won for the first time since June 2012 last month in Malaysia, but after a career filled with peaks and valleys he’s far from announcing himself cured.

“If I found something in Malaysia I lost it at Quail Hollow,” he laughed, referencing his missed cut last week in Charlotte.

This is nothing new, and it’s the kind of perspective that only comes from a man who has enjoyed and endured both ends of the success scale.

“I'm experienced enough now to have patience and wait it out. I know what golf is like,” he said.

Indeed he does.

Westwood began the 2001 season ranked fifth in the World Golf Ranking and slowly, sometimes painfully, nosedived to 219th in the world by the time the 2003 season closed. His climb back atop the marquee was just as languid until he took over the top spot in late 2010.

So forgive him if he doesn’t get rattled by a winless 2013 and another arid spell. Or when he tunes out the predictable noise that surfaces each year when the major championship season arrives.

In case you hadn’t heard, Westwood is the consensus “Best player without a major.” He’s done everything else, claiming half of the single-season Runner-up Slam in 2010 (second at the Masters and Open Championship) and has added third-place finishes at the ’09 PGA Championship and ’11 U.S. Open.

Even golf’s faux fifth major has eluded him, with four top-10 finishes at The Players but still no title.

Perhaps Westwood takes solace in the process, like he does with his fairways-and-greens approach to the game (as an aside, he hit 12 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens on Thursday).

“He’s a very rational person which not everybody is,” said Walker, who figures Westwood turned the corner with his swing thanks to a cross-handed chipping drill at the Shell Houston Open.

Nor does Westwood seem all that interested in Europe’s pedestrian record at the PGA Tour’s flagship event. Just three Europeans have won The Players, which was first played in 1974, although two of those three (Sergio Garcia in 2008 and Henrik Stenson in ’09) have come since the event moved from March to May.

Note to U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson: If you want to win the cup back have the PGA of America play the matches at TPC Sawgrass.

Part of this drought is the byproduct of inexperience and indifference. Westwood has played only six of the last 10 Players, and the two recent European victories have dovetailed with more of the continent’s players relocating to the United States.

“It’s not our style of golf,” said fellow Englishman Justin Rose, who is tied with Westwood at 5 under par. “We don’t grow up on Bermuda grass and the whole stadium type golf is not something we’re used to, so it’s probably that we’re not as confident here.”

But then confidence has never been an issue with Westwood, through good times and bad. Throughout it all, from the world’s top ranking to No. 219, he’s maintained his ballstriking superiority and his distinctly subtle sense of humor.

“I’m writing your lines for you now,” he joked with the media after another one-liner on Thursday.

He always has – another collapse, another comeback, another chance to claim that missing major, be it faux or otherwise.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.