Demolished Down Under

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2011, 7:19 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – The most anticipated handshake since the Hatfields and McCoys decided to call it a feud begat one of the more stunning routs in recent cup history.

The title bout everyone anticipated, sealed with a handshake between Tiger Woods and his estranged former caddie Stevie Williams on the first tee, was a resounding TKO for Adam Scott and K.J. Choi over what had been America’s untouchable twosome during the last Presidents Cup-by-the-Sea.

At San Francisco’s Harding Park Woods and Steve Stricker paired to odd-couple perfection, blanking Greg Norman’s International side 4-0 in team play and being pushed to the 18th hole just once.

On Thursday at Royal Melbourne it wasn’t that Woods and Stricker lost, it was that they lost big.

The end came with Choi’s 6-footer for birdie  . . . at the 12th hole. Rope-a-doped and reeling, the two were sent to the bench well short of a “quality start,” 7-and-6 road-kill on a day that otherwise went to the U.S. side, 4-2.

Hoggard: Day 2 match-by-match predictions

Day 1 match-by-match recap

Woods hasn’t had his hat in hand that early since The Players Championship and that, of course, was due to injury. The only thing injured on Day 1 in Oz was Woods' and Stricker’s psyches.

The Harding Park honchos lost for the first time in their last five Presidents Cup matches together, and for just the second time in their last eight team pairings counting last year’s Ryder Cup.

The small print is jarring. It’s the worst team loss in Presidents Cup history and the walkover equaled the shortest match in Presidents Cup history.

Williams, the undercard in Thursday’s bout because of his checkered history with Woods and his racial comments three weeks ago directed at his old boss, didn’t stop to talk with the media following play. Had the Kiwi taken the time to chat he may well have adjusted his comment made earlier this summer following Scott’s victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. This may have been the best win of his life.

On Wednesday both captains figured it would be best to get the Woods-Scott pairing out of the way early. A little over 24 hours later it got late early for the Americans, as Yogi Berra once famously opined, with the International duo making quick work of the U.S. flagship with birdies at Nos. 2, 6, 11 and Choi’s walk-off at the 12th.

If that doesn’t exactly seem like the groundwork for a historic victory it’s because the Internationals had plenty of help. Stricker pulled his drive left at No. 2, Woods fanned his drive right at the seventh and the U.S. two-ball made three bogeys.

“K.J. and I didn't get it out of position today, which is a good thing on this golf course. They got out of position a couple of times, and you know, they didn't play their best,” Scott said. “They were a tough team last time, took a lot of points off us, so it was pleasing to get one up there.”

Maybe the bigger concern, at least for U.S. captain Fred Couples, is that Woods’ putting woes appear to have rubbed off on Striker, the unofficial boss of the American moss in recent years. Who knew that type of thing is a communicable?

“The last couple of times we went out, we have not been good. Just one of those things; we were a little off and they played great and that combination led to a lopsided defeat,” Stricker said.

Woods, however, was much more concise when asked his thoughts on his partnership with Stricker, the only two-ball on Thursday not to win a hole or even make a birdie. “It's one of those things where we got down a little bit early, tried to make up some shots and these guys were playing well,” Woods said.

Some scoffed at the hyperbole created by the Woods-Scott pairing, wisely pointing out Williams’ job is only to carry the bag, not play any of the implements contained within. The way Woods and Stricker played, the looper could have stepped in for Choi and the result may not have changed.

“Tiger and Steve did not play well today. Adam and K.J. were much better. But in the long run, you know, we have four points, and some of our young guys played extremely well,” Couples said.

The match went to Scott-Choi, and by default Williams, but style points should go to Norman. Many expected Scott to play with fellow Aussie Jason Day, including Day, but in Choi the Shark delivered an unflappable fairways-and-greens sidekick with plenty of experience playing with Woods.

“This is perfect for K.J.,” the South Korean’s swing coach, Steve Bann, said. “He could just go out and keep it in play which is what you need to do on this golf course.”

Fortunately for Couples the rest of his squad was undefeated on Thursday, with the U.S. side winning three matches and halving two for a 4-2 advantage. Captain America is not the most studied man when it comes to golf history, but no one needs to remind him that the Day 1 winner has gone on to win six of the eight Presidents Cups.

As for his uber-tandem, Boom Boom now has other plans. Woods will set out with Dustin Johnson in Friday’s second fourball match, his first Presidents Cup partner not named Stricker since 2007 at Royal Montreal, and Stricker will play with Matt Kuchar.

“We were going to do that Tuesday and Wednesday, we were going to put Tiger with Dustin in best-ball, and that's what we did and we stuck to that,” Couples said.

Perhaps, but it seems likely Woods and Stricker’s Melbourne meltdown expedited the move. The world saw the “handshake” and Couples had seen enough.

Watch wall-to-wall coverage of the Presidents Cup live on Golf Channel. Tournament air times: Golf Channel Thursday 5:30PM-midnight, Friday 3PM-midnight and Saturday 6:30PM-12:30AM. NBC coverage Saturday at 8AM and Sunday at noon. (Note: all times are ET)

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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 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."