Final Day Drama at Disney

By Rex HoggardNovember 15, 2010, 4:37 am

ChildrenLAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – On a sun-splashed afternoon adjacent a kingdom where time stands still, math gave way to money, the game’s original, and most reliable, litmus test.

As Mickey’s little hand inched its way home on Sunday, a cast of characters that even the imaginative Walt Disney could appreciate surfaced – complete with a genuine reclamation project hoisting the hardware, a rookie stick-figure lifting a $1 million lottery ticket and all manner of money list victories and defeats to fill the moments in between.

Briny Baird was the first to emerge from the fray, a perennial bubble boy who started the week 126th in earnings, left his 10 footer for birdie at the last on the low side of the hole and signed for his closing 68 at 12:45 p.m.

“I’m going to get in my car and listen to the Dolphins game,” said Baird as he eased his grey GMC Yukon out of Disney’s parking lot. At the time he was 125th in projected earnings – which, for a Tour pro, is as useless and gut-wrenching a statistic as exists – Miami was trailing Tennessee by a field goal and overnight leader Roland Thatcher was a shot clear of Robert Garrigus.

Before Baird made it to the Florida Turnpike for the four-hour journey back to Jupiter, Fla., his nomadic existence on the top 125 “bubble” had already started as he toggled between Nos. 125 and 127 for much of the afternoon.

By the time Joe Durant fist pumped his 9-foot par putt at the last at 2:42 p.m. he’d displaced Baird, temporarily, on the hot seat. In a moment of money list levity a reporter tried to cheer Durant up by telling him he was still in the race to win the ballstriking and total driving categories.

“I’d love to win putting just one year,” he smiled. Durant’s consolation prize is a 2011 Tour card, marking the first year since 2006 he’s finished inside the top 125.

Less than five minutes later (2:48 p.m.), Charles Warren, as haggard as any after a 5-footer for birdie at the last moved him to 14 under par, stood beside Disney’s scoring trailer studying the projected money. At 150th he didn’t have a Tour card, but he would avoid the second stage of Q-School this week if he could remain inside the top 150.

“I’m getting too old for this,” Warren sighed when the cash carrousel had finally stopped, leaving him $10,887 inside the top 150 and his tie for ninth assuring him a spot in the Sony Open to start 2011.

As the tournament tumbled along, largely a two-man race with Thatcher clinging to a one-stroke lead over Garrigus at the turn, a half dozen other less-obvious but just as emotional competitions came to dramatic endings.

At 2:56 p.m. Johnson Wagner double bogeyed the Magnolia Course’s 16th hole, dropped to 126th in earnings and staved off adrenaline, or fear, to hole a shaky 6 footer for par at No. 18.

“I’m about to break down right now,” said Wagner, who came up short at 126th but did avoid second stage with his tie for third place. “I’m just shaking. I love this job so much and you can’t try to protect your job.”

And so the timeline went – 3:05 p.m. cool-hand Michael Connell put the finishing touches on a 67-67 weekend to jump from 129th to 115th. Tom Pernice Jr. bogeyed two of his last three holes to fade to 139th.

At 3:45 p.m. Thatcher made a mess of the 17th, his second bogey in as many holes, to fall out of the lead and down to 131st in projected earnings. From tied for the Children’s Miracle Network Classic lead to bound for Q-School in 15 minutes – Space Mountain doesn’t bottom out that fast.

Ten minutes later a semi-surprised Garrigus gazed at the leaderboard adjacent the 18th hole, the math telling him he had 18 inches and two putts standing between himself and his first Tour title.

His final-round 64 was the round of the day, his climb from a drug rehab clinic in 2003 to Tour winner a comeback of epic proportions. Shame the Tour stopped handing out the Comeback Player of the Year award last season because few, if any, have rallied from so far.

“I was sitting on my couch in 2003. It was 3 a.m. and this info-merical came on about a drug rehab clinic in San Diego,” said Garrigus, who was 122nd in earnings starting the week and would have been remembered for blowing a three-stroke lead on the 72nd hole at Memphis this year had he not made Magic Kingdom magic. “Here it is, 3 a.m. and I’m high as a kite. I’m worthless. Something has to change.”

And the clock was still not finished. At 4:09 p.m. Troy Merritt tapped in for birdie from 1 ½ feet on the 17th hole, the winner of a three-man playoff for the $1 million Kodak Challenge over Rickie Fowler and Aaron Baddeley, not to mention the ultimate survivor at 125th in cash to close the year.

Earlier in the day Aron Price and Blake Adams, playing in the three-ball ahead of Merritt, teed off at No. 18 and ran back to the 17th green to watch the beanpole miss his 33-footer for the $1 million. Say what you will about the Kodak Challenge, there’s not much that can make the frat brothers sit up and take notice like a winner-take-all shootout.

In the final analysis, three players wedged their way into the top 125 (Thatcher, Connelly and Mark Wilson, who was already exempt for 2011 via his victory last year in Mexico) and three got bumped (Troy Matteson, who was already exempt via his victory at the 2009 Open, Michael Allen and Woody Austin).

“I’m disappointed but there’s no one I can kick but myself and I’m tired of kicking myself,” Baird said.

Baird was halfway home to south Florida when the dust and decimal points settled. He was 127th in earnings, $33,400 behind Merritt, but at least his beloved Dolphins were 29-17 winners over Tennessee. It’s not a Tour card, but it is something.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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.