For one day at least, things looking up for Woods

By Rex HoggardJuly 31, 2015, 12:55 am

GAINESVILLE, Va. – Maybe his chip shot on No. 5 to 5 feet for birdie was the key up and down he talked about earlier this week. Maybe that approach to 1 1/2 feet at the 12th hole was the metaphorical fork in the road he’s been waiting for.

Maybe, just maybe, that scrappy 68 on Day 1 at the Quicken Loans National will be recounted as the epiphany that wrested Tiger Woods from his long competitive swoon.

He’s certainly been waiting for it. We all have.

Waiting for the guy who has won 79 PGA Tour events and 14 majors to play like it. Waiting for the player who spent more time at No. 1 in the world than anyone else and not the guy who has plummeted to 266th.

Not that Thursday’s opening round was perfect. In fact, for the better part of four holes it felt like more of the painful same.

Woods missed the fairway and green at No. 1. Bogey. He needed four shots to reach the green at No. 3. Bogey. He needed three putts from 46 feet at the fourth hole. Bogey.

His work week had hardly started and many figured he was heading for another early exit, 3 over par, 11 shots out of the lead and 119th out of a 120-player field.

Just like that, however, the old guy made a cameo with birdies at back-to-back par 5s, Woods’ calling card when he was collecting titles and chasing ghosts not so many years ago.


Quicken Loans National: Articles, photos and videos


From there it was something off a 2006 highlight real. He birdied four straight after the turn, marking the first time he’s run off four straight birdies on Tour since the second round of the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and he missed numerous birdie attempts coming in for a closing nine of 31.

“That's what scoring is all about. You got to score and I made a lot of key putts today,” said Woods, who is tied for 28th place and five strokes off the lead. “I ran them by the hole but I made all the comebacks and overall I felt like I hit the ball well enough to turn it around. It was nice to actually turn it around.”

Throughout Woods’ long summer of discontent he’s preached patience and process. He’s embraced the long view and stressed the fact that “scoring” will come. On Thursday, at least for one cloudy afternoon, he offered a glimpse of that progress.

The timing of Woods’ improved play at the Quicken Loans National is particularly interesting given the rumors that swirled around Robert Trent Jones Golf Club this week.

Chris Como, Woods’ swing consultant since last November, was not on site this week working his star pupil through the transition like he had been since the two paired together and numerous sources told GolfChannel.com that a split may be looming.

When asked about a possible split Woods said he and Como were still working together and his agent Mark Steinberg confirmed that the partnership continues.

Como was even scheduled to arrive at the Quicken Loans National on Friday to continue his work with Woods, an indication that Tiger won’t be spending Thursday evening basking in the glory of his newfound form.

The last 24 months have been too trying for that even after his second-lowest round of the year.

There is something to be said for good vibes. Woods has a 5-4-1 record in two Presidents Cups at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, but then there are few places on Tour where he doesn’t have some sort of favorable history.

No, there aren’t any easy answers for why Thursday was different than so many other rounds that had similarly unraveled. In simplest terms Woods explained it’s just “tournament golf.”

On Tuesday Woods talked of the need for momentum, something to build on following months of pedestrian play. One putt, one chip, one sign things were trending in the right direction.

“I'm not making that one key up and down or a bad shot instead of hitting it on a spot where I can play, rounds that should be 74 or so which I used to turn into 70s,” he said. “You need to have those opportunities and I've had chances to make those runs and I just haven't done it.”

Asked on Thursday following a round that had been delayed 90 minutes by an early afternoon thunderstorm if his play in Round 1 was an example of that type of pivotal turning point, his grinning response suggested his first-round 68 was more than the sum of its parts.

“Yup, this is one of those days,” he smiled.

After so many of the other days, Woods’ relaxed demeanor following his round was understandable. There is still plenty of work to be done but for at least one day the climb back didn’t seem as daunting. 

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 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."

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.

@tommyfleetwood_1

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.

Getty Images

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."