McIlroy does enough to keep Grand Slam hopes alive

By Rex HoggardApril 9, 2015, 9:33 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – You know what they say, you can’t win the career Grand Slam on Thursday at Augusta National.

Not that Rory McIlroy drop-kicked his career Grand Slam chances into the azalea bushes on Day 1 at the Masters, but his opening 71 under sunny skies in the first round certainly narrowed the margin of error in his historic pursuit.

In what turned out to be more of a battle than he would have liked, the world No. 1 chipped a few like Tiger Woods, hit a few iron shots like Natalie Wood and ended the day the way it began – a green jacket away from becoming the sixth player to win the career Grand Slam.

In a game that defies instant analysis, a single round is well short of an honest sample size when it comes to something as endearing as the career Grand Slam, but for many – maybe even McIlroy – Round 1 at Augusta National was a measure of how much pressure is seeping its way through Rory’s tightly confined circle.

When McIlroy pulled his drive at the second into the “Delta Counter” – the wooded area left of the fairway where lore has it that players can book their tickets out of town and out of contention – it prompted more than a few raised eyebrows.

When he bogeyed the sixth after hitting a chip that inched just onto the putting surface and then rolled back down the slope, some even wondered if he’d spent too much time near Woods this week in the short game area.

But on cue he did what potential Masters champions do, hitting a 322-yard drive at the 13th hole to set up a two-putt birdie and get back to even par.

A deft chip from right of the 15th green led to another birdie and left him under par for the day, if not under the radar.

“I haven't put too much pressure on myself. Look, I obviously know what I can achieve this week, but I'm not letting myself think about it too much,” said McIlroy, who hit 12 of 18 greens in regulation on Thursday and cut short his time with the media to work out the issues on the practice tee.

“Today was a pretty good day. I feel like I can do better. But happy after Day 1 and go out and just try and do a little bit better tomorrow.”

The truth is, the world No. 1 will have a lifetime of opportunities to etch his name into the history books and become the sixth player to win all four major championships. And most consider McIlroy’s quest an inevitability.

“With the type of length and ball-striking he has and putting touch, I think this is a course he'll be tough at the rest of his career,” said Phil Mickelson, McIlroy’s playing partner on Thursday, who also just happens to be one trophy shy of the career Grand Slam (U.S. Open). “I'm sure he'll win, whether it's this week or not, you never know.”

Still, history is littered with players who finished their careers one good bounce away from the career Grand Slam – Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson immediately come to mind – and of the five who do own the major four-pack, only Gene Sarazen secured the final leg at Augusta National, back in 1935 when this event went by the less-intimidating title of Augusta National Invitational.

“Rory has had his adversity on the golf course having led, so now he's got a big challenge,” said Gary Player, who completed the career Grand Slam when he was 29. “So he's going to feel that stretch, but he's ready to tackle it and very, very fit. I think fitness and patience.”

The fitness portion is not up for debate, as anyone who has glanced at the cover of this month’s Men’s Health can attest, but the patience portion of that equation is still to be determined.

While the current version is far more poised then the 2011 model that imploded on Sunday for a closing 80, evidenced by his Zen-like temperament in the last two majors, there has never been this much on the line.

“The only thing is the pressure,” Ernie Els said recently. “The pressure he puts on himself is one thing, but I think the outside pressure, the media is going to be scrutinizing him, so it depends on how he handles it. He’s got a little bit of fire in him, if he can control that I think he’ll have a good week. If things don’t go his way and he loses it, it will be tough.”

In many ways, Thursday was an interesting litmus test for the Northern Irishman. While most agree the immediacy of what he can accomplish is measured in decades, not days, there is no ignoring that a round that “could have gotten away from me” didn’t.

McIlroy didn’t win the career Grand Slam on Thursday, but somehow he seemed to move closer to that milestone.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”


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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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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 hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.


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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked 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.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

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 the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

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 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. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

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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Phil 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.