D. Johnson bashes his way to victory at brawny Doral

By Rex HoggardMarch 9, 2015, 12:35 am

DORAL, Fla. – It’s official, the bigger, badder Doral is the Daytona International Speedway of the PGA Tour.

The latest iteration of the Blue Monster is a sprawling track that yields only to power and the looming notion that participants are always just a single turn away from disaster.

Consider that the final leaderboard featured Nos. 1 (Dustin Johnson), 2 (Bubba Watson) and 3 (J.B. Holmes) in driving distance for the week.

Consider that your win (Johnson), place (Holmes) and show (Watson) combined to hit 10,722 yards worth of drives for the week. Or, to put that in context, the PGA Tour’s original “bash brothers” hit over six miles of drives for the week.

“It lives up to its name. Before [the redesign] I didn’t think it did,” Holmes said of the new Blue.

More so than any other golf course on Tour, Doral rewards power. It was no surprise that the week ended with the game’s three longest dueling down the stretch on a windblown and rain-lashed layout.

Holmes began the day with a five-stroke lead. Within an hour he was tied with Watson after bogeys at three of his first six holes. Before the turn he was trailing Watson by two, a seven-shot swing in seven holes.

His closing 75 was 13 strokes higher than his course-record tying 62 and left him alone in second place at 8 under par, a stroke behind Johnson.

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“I knew if I shot 72, that would probably be good enough. That's kind of what I was going to, to be honest with you, I thought probably 2 or 3 over would have been enough,” Holmes said.

Watson was next to stumble with back-to-back bogeys after finding five bunkers in two holes (Nos. 11 and 12). Consider it karma, either instant or otherwise, for a player who just two days earlier squared his relationship with the redesigned Blue Monster by saying, “I can't stand the golf course. It's way too tough for me.”

But then Bubba was hardly the only frat brother grousing about Gil Hanse’s handiwork. Few could have blamed Rory McIlroy for a well-placed shot or two considering for the week he pumped nearly two sleeves of Nike golf balls (five, to be exact) into Doral’s murky lagoons, not to mention a rather well-traveled 3-iron.

On Sunday before McIlroy teed off, Doral owner Donald Trump presented the world No. 1 with the 3-iron he deposited into the lake adjacent the eighth fairway during Friday’s second round. The Don had the club fished from the depths by a diver and returned to the Northern Irishman.

But McIlroy was more interested in rediscovering his dominant form in the run up to the Masters than a rescued club following a solid, if not spectacular, week in South Florida.

“[Caddie J.P. Fitzpatrick] said to me on the last green, ‘I think we left our game in the desert [Dubai and Abu Dhabi, where he won and finished second, respectively, to start his year].’ It’s still back there,” said McIlroy, who closed with an even-par 72 to tie for ninth. “Just playing quite conservatively which is very much unlike me.”

With the golf gods being how they are it was also no surprise that Holmes, who blasted the nip/tucked first hole on Friday, would eventually fall away, as well.

That left Johnson, who holed a crucial 10 footer for par at the 14th hole, and he pulled away with a 13 footer for birdie at the next.

“I really wasn't paying much attention. I knew Bubba was playing well. I knew where I was, I was playing pretty well,” said Johnson, who closed the week with rounds of 69 to extend his winning streak to eight consecutive years, the longest active streak on Tour. “This golf course is so tough, you never know what's going to happen.”

For Johnson, however, his ninth Tour victory went well beyond the box score. The last 12 months have been the most tumultuous of his professional career, a span that included a six-month, self-imposed hiatus from the game to deal with “personal challenges,” and a published report, citing an anonymous source, that he had been suspended by the Tour for failing a drug test.

Johnson denied the report. The Tour denied the report, and when he returned to the fold last month at Torrey Pines he talked of self-improvement and misplaced priorities.

“I've been working hard on my game and been working hard on me, and so it means a great deal to have some success right out of the gate. It gives me a lot of confidence,” said Johnson, who won in his fifth start back on Tour.

Late Sunday as he finished his round by bashing his drive 317 yards into the heart of the toughest par 4 on Tour this season, the undisputed king of the long ball put away any lingering doubt regarding his future or Doral’s status as golf’s preeminent super speedway.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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.