Expect another memorable major at Hoylake

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2014, 4:05 pm

HOYLAKE, England – The inherent dangers of expectations aside, history is made at Hoylake.

If all Grand Slam gatherings were created equal we wouldn’t talk about the 1986 Masters or 2008 U.S. Open in hushed tones, but on the eve of the 143rd Open Championship it’s hard to imagine all that rain and wind forecast for the week not sending all the cosmic tumblers into proper order.

Royal Liverpool, a leafy contrast to its gritty namesake city just across the River Mersey, has a history of delivering the Grand Slam goods.

In 1930 Bobby Jones won the second leg of the single-season Grand Slam (which included the U.S. and British Amateurs at the time) at Hoylake and in 1967 Argentine Roberto de Vicenzo hoisted the claret jug on the Wirral peninsula to dull the heartbreak that was looming at the ’68 Masters.

And of course Tiger Woods put on a major clinic the last time the championship was played at Royal Liverpool, dissecting the links with long irons and flawless ball-striking to win the last of his three claret jugs.

It is the kind of track record that defies the cynicism of lowered expectations and lures even the most jaded observer into thinking something special is afoot.

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Outrageous possibilities, like Martin Kaymer following in Jones’ footsteps to do what no player since Woods has done since 2002 and claim the first two laps of the modern Slam.

Or perhaps it would be a redemption Open, with Adam Scott putting the pain of his meltdown in 2012 at Lytham to rest for good.

“It was obviously not the finish I wanted there,” said Scott, who bogeyed his last four holes to finish a stroke behind Ernie Els in ’12. “But that gave me a lot of confidence not just about playing well in majors, but also that I had the game to win an Open Championship.”

For some, the ultimate reclamation project would be Woods, less than four months removed from back surgery and starting the week with just 36 competitive holes since coming off the DL.

That scenario seems about right since the last time Woods was in this corner of England in 2006 he picked apart this links like a surgeon, hitting 48 of 56 fairways for the week (first in the field), 58 of 72 greens in regulation (T-2) and just a single driver for 72 holes.

“Playing at (the Quicken Loans National) was a big boost to me,” Woods said on Tuesday. “The fact that I was able to go at it that hard and hit it like that with no pain. I've gotten stronger since then, I've gotten more explosive, I've gotten faster since then.”

Of course, a lot has changed since Woods dismantled a dusty Hoylake eight years ago. He’s dropped from No. 1 in the world to outside the top 50 and back again. He’s played five Opens without adding to his claret jug total and endured two major surgeries.

Scott has gone from a major championship afterthought to a perennial Grand Slam contender; Henrik Stenson has endured two slumps and emerged as a world-beater, again. Ditto for Rory McIlory and Kaymer.

And rain has fallen at Hoylake.

Unlike 2006, a traditional English summer greeted the field for this week’s championship via a forecast that calls for plenty of rain, wind and even the chance for a thunderstorm, which is anything but traditional in the United Kingdom.

“I think (golfers) change a lot. Everyone changes over eight years,” Scott said. “We’ve got a completely different golf course that we’re looking at this week. It’s a completely different animal.”

What doesn’t seem likely to change is Hoylake’s unique ability to deliver memorable finishes. In the 11 Opens played at Royal Liverpool, the list of winners range from Woods (2006) to Walter Hagen (1922) with few, if any, duds along the way.

Which makes the potential atop this week’s tee sheet that much more compelling. Few times over the last half dozen years have so many players arrived for the game’s oldest major playing so well.

Justin Rose – one of four players who can overtake Scott atop the ranking this week – may be the game’s hottest player having won his last two starts (the Quicken Loans National and last week’s Scottish Open); Scott hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since overtaking Woods atop the Official World Golf Ranking; Kaymer has won two of the year’s three biggest tournaments (the U.S. Open and Players); and Stenson has finished in the top 5 in his last three events, including a tie for fourth at Pinehurst, and will be paired with Woods for Rounds 1 and 2.

“I think it would have been a lot of sleepless nights for him as of late. When did the draw come out? He looked tired, didn't he?” Stenson smiled on Wednesday when asked about the pairing and whether or not Tiger feared him.

While the Swede’s take was tongue and cheek, his relaxed approach to a pairing that many players would have happily sidestepped just eight years ago is indicative to the increased parity in golf, if not Royal Liverpool’s penchant to produce memorable champions.

As a rule, Hoylake delivers history and it’s hard to imagine this year being any different.

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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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Mickelson 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.

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LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. 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.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.