A familiar duel

By Rex HoggardMay 10, 2011, 9:54 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – On Tuesday at Quail Hollow Lucas Glover and Jonathan Byrd dueled Davis Love III and Charles Warren in a friendly match, part of an ongoing bout that stretches back decades.

“Jonathan birdied the last to tie it,” Warren said in even tones. “Still hot about that.”

It likely gave Warren little solace that Glover and Byrd could have clipped any combination of PGA Tour two-balls this week – and did.

On a golf course fit for a major and against a leaderboard straight out of Grand Slam storage a pair of major players needed extra frames to settle things, with Glover edging his Clemson stable mate with a par on the first extra hole for his first victory since the 2009 U.S. Open.

It was a familiar outcome for the duo, who have been trading birdies and trying to get the best of each other since their junior days.

“In the South Carolina State Amateur one year we dueled it out all 18 holes,” Byrd recalled. “He won three years in a row, so obviously same outcome; Lucas won then. Lucas won today.”

But this one was anything but preordained.

Entering the Wells Fargo Championship Glover had missed three consecutive cuts and had posted just six top-10 finishes since Bethpage. In short, the swagger had faded, however slightly, and his soaring draws had been flying far too straight.

In the offseason Glover set about retooling his once-simple action with swing coach Mike Taylor but progress had been slow, if at all. His Tuesday draw against Love and Warren may have been worth a few style points, but there was little reason to have high expectations.

“As of Tuesday afternoon it was still kind of a struggle,” Glover admitted following his third Tour victory. “But I found something Tuesday afternoon.”

The key, as simple as it sounds, was to square the clubface at address. The result was four rounds in the 60s (67-68-69-69), the first time ever at the Wells Fargo, and an afternoon two-ball with Byrd. But he had predicted that.

As Byrd and Glover were warming up for Round 3 on Saturday the latter smiled, “Let’s get a tee time around 2 o’clock tomorrow.” He was only off by five hours, but it was worth the delay.

Playing in the group in front of Byrd, who began the final round with a one-stroke lead over Pat Perez, Glover birdied Nos. 7 and 8 to pull within a stroke of the top spot.

At the par-5 10th Glover walked in a 22 footer for eagle to move one clear of Byrd. What transpired the rest of the way probably looked a lot like that South Carolina Amateur, with the two trading birdies and bogeys with equal abandon.

Glover, who won a U.S. Open with his driver, rode his short game to Quail Hollow gold, putting on a clinic over the final three holes that would have made the late Seve Ballesteros, who was honored with a moment of silence midway through Sunday’s final round, proud.

Quail Hollow’s famed “green mile” turned out to be the longest mile for Glover – an up-and-down from behind the green at No. 16, a two-putt from 75 feet at the 17th and a nervy, dry-mouthed par at the last.

Clinging to a one-stroke lead Glover pulled his drive into a fan’s hip pocket, or so it seemed, at the last, flirted with Rule 18-2b (see Simpson, Webb) and managed a fist pump when his 10 footer for par dived into the cup.

Minutes later Byrd followed him into the hole for a birdie and the two marched back down the par 4 finishing hole. In OT, however, Byrd ran out of magic, hitting his drive into a bunker right of the fairway and narrowly missing a creek with his approach, leaving Glover a two-putt for victory that on Tuesday didn’t seem likely.

“He's had a difficult time the last year now, you know, off the golf course,” said Byrd, who closed with 72 to tie Glover at 15 under. “He's had to play through some things, and for him to come back and play as well as he did this week . . . I'm really proud of him.”

If Glover, whose three Tour tilts have all come from behind, doubted his ability to climb out of the depths of a misfiring game, those who know him never did.

“The dude’s got so much talent, he’s making up shots as he goes along,” Warren said. “He’s a pure athlete.”

If Tuesday’s epiphany gave him some much-needed confidence, his second-round 68 was a reason to forget the last 22 months. “He has that look in his eye,” Glover’s caddie, Don Cooper, said on Friday. “He’s hungry and it’s not for food.”

Glover’s victory capped a week filled with all manner of subtexts, silly and otherwise.

On Tuesday news swept over Quail Hollow that Rory Sabbatini had been involved in kafuffle with Sean O’Hair last week in New Orleans and would be suspended. He was not, at least according to the Tour’s “you can ask but we’re not telling” policy, and he closed with a round-of-the-day 65 to finish alone in third place at 14 under.

Perez, who ballooned to a closing 75 and was paired with Sabbatini and O’Hair in New Orleans, seemed to put the dust up in perspective.

“Sean O’Hair is one of the greatest guys in the world. I love playing with him,” Perez said. “And Rory has his moments. I’ve always gotten along with Rory, and I know how to deal with him and stuff like that.”

On Wednesday news from Spain that Ballesteros was struggling in his duel with a cancerous brain tumor further cast a pale over an event that is viewed, at least by many Tour frat brothers, as a bonifide mid-major.

“It's a sad day,” Ballesteros protégé Sergio Garcia said a day later after the legend had died. “We're all feeling for Seve's family. He's been suffering for quite a while now, so probably better that he's resting now.”

Players and caddies wore black ribbons to honor Ballesteros and the moment of silence, which came at 3:08 p.m. (ET), also served to give fans a respite from a revolving leaderboard.

Fittingly, it was two of their own that finished the story – one dressed in pink paints for Mother’s Day and the other sporting a beard that is on the Grizzly Adams side of rustic.

On the eve of Sunday’s fireworks Glover gathered with some friends at a house adjacent Quail Hollow’s 15th hole. Included in that group was a collection of Clemson fraternity brothers who began chanting “fear the beard” and “Go Tigers,” a call that’s been missing from Tour circles for some time.

At golf’s “Grand Slam light,” however, the hobbled guy in the red shirt, not to mention world No. 1 Lee Westwood, may have been the only thing missing. But that’s a debate for next week.

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Rahm (62) takes early lead at CareerBuilder

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.

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.


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.

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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."