Karlsson puts yips behind, qualifies for British Open

By Rex HoggardMay 21, 2013, 1:51 am

PLANO, Texas – On the eve of last year’s Open Championship Robert Karlsson withdrew because, he tweeted at the time, he had acquired “some bad habits in my game.”

The square-shouldered Swede later admitted it was the yips that drove him from Royal Lytham & St. Annes, all of which made the scene late Monday at Gleneagles Country Club all at once surreal and special.

With a return trip to this year’s Open at Muirfield hanging in the balance, Karlsson raced his first putt on the first hole of a four-players-for-three-spots playoff some 15 feet past the hole.

“I had the same putt an hour ago,” Karlsson later admitted.

In regulation, Karlsson had three-putted for bogey on the penultimate hole and then hit into a water hazard at the last hole to finish in a four-way tie for sixth place at 4-under 136. So from virtually the same spot on the 17th green he had the opportunity for the ultimate mulligan.

But then the last year has been something of a career mulligan for Karlsson.

“I felt like I started from the beginning,” Karlsson said. “In August (2012), I didn’t know if I would ever play golf again.”

Karlsson overcame his bout with the yips, regained his PGA Tour card at Q-School in December and took another step toward closing that dark chapter in his career when he calmly rolled in the 15-footer for par at the first extra hole at Gleneagles to earn his 12th start at golf’s oldest championship.

“I didn’t want to hit it short,” Karlsson grinned when asked about his first putt that raced by the hole at the par-3 17th. “I had the same line up the hill that I had (in regulation play) and knew what I needed to do.”

Karlsson finished the 36-hole marathon tied with Bud Cauley (70-66), Luke Guthrie (65-71) and Andres Echavarris (67-69), who bogeyed the first extra hole to end the playoff.

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Josh Teater took medalist honors with rounds of 64-69 to qualify for his first major championship, while Johnson Wagner (68-66) and Camilo Villegas (68-66) tied for second place.

Brian Davis (66-69), who also qualified for the Open at Gleneagles in 2011, and Scott Brown (71-64) rounded out the top 8 to earn invitations to Muirfield in July.

It seems about right that on a day fit for flying a kite, eight players weathered the wind to advance to the ultimate wind-tunnel test.

“I’m quite surprised how good the scoring was,” said Davis, whose opening round featured a tee shot at the first that sailed out of bounds followed by six consecutive birdies. “It was blowing a hoolie all day.”

Not that Teater seemed to have much trouble with the winds after opening his day with a 64 and he was pleased with his closing card of 1 under considering the increasingly difficult conditions.

“I was just trying to hit shots in this crazy wind,” said Teater, who has never played a links course. “I wasn’t trying to attack any flags. Normally, in those 36-holers you have to go low but in that wind you just tried to hold on.”

And if dealing with the gale wasn’t challenging enough, Wagner had the added duties of also playing caddie for the day.

Wagner’s regular caddie, Matt Hauser, took the week off to be with his family following the death of his brother, Zack, two weeks ago; so Wagner’s trainer, Victor Trasoff-Jilg, stepped in at Gleneagles.

“It was the first time I had a yardage book in my hand since college,” Wagner said. “I may start carrying one all the time. It gave me a purpose walking up to the ball.”

Karlsson’s purpose since last year’s Open meltdown has been to savor how far he’s come. Following a pedestrian start to the season he withstood brutal weather on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Championship earlier this month to finish tied for fourth.

Quail Hollow was Karlsson’s first top-five finish on Tour since the 2011 Crowne Plaza Invitational. For a player of Karlsson’s caliber two years out of contention is an eternity and what makes Monday’s 37 holes so significant.

“I try to look at all the qualifiers as an opportunity,” said Karlsson, who tied for fifth in 1992 when the Open was played at Muirfield. “It’s a chance for me to go out and see what I can do without any pressure.”

He now gets to return to the Open Championship, where he hit rock bottom last year, with a similar attitude and, more importantly, without the “bad habits” that haunted him in 2012.

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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.

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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.


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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

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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."