Rahm (66) a Ryder Cup captain's dream come true

By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2017, 10:50 pm

FORT WORTH, Texas – Thomas Bjorn must be thinking he’s won the Ryder Cup lottery.

Although the incoming European captain probably already liked his chances next year in Paris since it did take a U.S. task force and Patrick Reed to end the Continent’s reign at the biennial matches; but imagine the Dane’s embarrassment of potential riches as he pencils in possible lineups for the matches.

Bjorn will have the staples – Rory, Sergio, Justin, Henrik – to depend on, but it’s the infusion of new blood that may have the captain wishing the matches were next week.

Thomas Pieters went 4-1-0 in his rookie start last year and was one of the few bright spots for the Europeans at Hazeltine National, and on Thursday at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational, Jon Rahm showed why he could be the most-anticipated addition to the European team since Sergio Garcia.

Rahm, fresh off his first missed cut as a PGA Tour member at The Players, was perfect on his outward loop at Colonial to turn at 3 under and made just a single bogey on his way to an opening 66 and a share of fourth place.

It’s a sign of his potential as a future cornerstone of the European team that Rahm easily admitted following his opening round at Colonial that Wednesday’s pro-am didn’t go well.

“One of the worst driving rounds I've had in a while,” was how he described his preparation for this week’s event, which would normally be a reason to start booking an early flight out of town at the iconic Texas layout.

But that only added to the Rahm legend, with the Spaniard hitting driver a dozen times, which is about a half dozen more than your normal bomber on the narrow and tree-lined Colonial confines, with impressive results.

It was quintessential Rahm, choosing to overpower a golf course that by all accounts can’t be overpowered.

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“I think the only time I didn't hit driver was [No.] 10 because you can't, and 17. The only two that I can't hit driver on, otherwise I probably would,” Rahm said. “I was smart about how I was hitting the driver, and luckily it paid off.”

Fearless and unflinching, exactly the ingredients Bjorn would start with if he wanted to conjure up a Ryder Cup player in a laboratory. That Rahm’s show came alongside Garcia on Thursday only showcased his potential as a future star in the transatlantic slugfest.

“We all know how good a player he is. He obviously could be very, very important to the team, and we're very thankful that he's European, Spanish,” Garica said.

Imagine the visions dancing through Bjorn’s mind of a new Spanish Armada to hang his captain’s hopes on.

While the U.S. team has its share of young blood – from Reed and Jordan Spieth to Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas – there’s something uniquely compelling about Rahm’s ascent and his possible future in the matches paired with Garcia.

“It's always special to play with one of your heroes, one of your idols. It's amazing,” Rahm said.

Nor is Garcia’s legacy ever lost on Rahm. In 2001, El Nino won his first Tour event at Colonial, a historical connection that wasn’t lost on the younger Spaniard following a wind-whipped opening day.

“It would be amazing [to win this week] for various reasons,” said Rahm, the only two-time winner of the Ben Hogan Award, which is presented annually at Colonial. “I've had some success in this clubhouse so far, and to be able to win with Sergio having won his first event here, to be able to win where Mr. Hogan won five times, it would be amazing to be part of that group.”

Garcia has been around the game and endured its ebb and flow long enough to know that Rahm’s Ryder Cup potential is just that – potential.

“There is still a year and a half to go until the Ryder Cup,” Garcia said. “We still all have to play our way on to that team. Then when we get there, we will try to figure out what to do to regain the cup.”

Contrary to popular belief, the Europeans don’t spend every waking moment conjuring ways to win Samuel Ryder’s chalice and much can change before next fall. But that doesn’t mean Bjorn isn’t contemplating the possibility of Rahm’s firepower in his lineup or how easily he and Garcia could be paired.

It’s certainly an understandable preoccupation considering you don’t often win the lottery.

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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.