Spieth starts Masters Sunday on top ... again

By Rex HoggardApril 12, 2015, 12:53 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – When Jordan Spieth set out on Sunday 12 months ago at Augusta National, there were 11 players within four strokes of the lead. When the final turn begins this year at the Masters, only one player will be within four, and he’s not named Bubba.

Playing the role of Bubba Watson this year will be Justin Rose, who carded a quintessential closing nine to turn a boat race into . . . well, something that at least resembles a race.

Whether Rose will enjoy a similar Sunday to Watson, who closed with a 69 last year to out duel Spieth for the coveted green jacket, will depend entirely on young Spieth.

On Saturday, the 21-year-old was not as efficient as he’d been for the first two days – making his first bogey in 24 holes at No. 4 on Day 3 and opening the door by making a mess of the 17th hole – but he grinded his way to a 2-under 70 for a lead that is nonetheless commanding.

“Two under [par] I thought would be a good score,” said Spieth, who made double bogey at the penultimate hole after missing the fairway left, the green right and a 3-footer.

“Obviously being 4 under at one point in the round and closing it out at 2 under is disappointing. You would have liked to have finished the round a little bit better, but it also could have been worse.”

While the conversation eventually drifted to last year’s final round, when Spieth closed with an even-par 72 to tie for second place, this time feels different, and it’s not just that four-stroke cushion that gives Sunday a different vibe.

For three relatively flawless days, this is after all Augusta National, Spieth weathered his early miscues at Nos. 4 and 7 with more clutch putting, holing birdie putts of 10 feet (No. 12), 15 feet (No. 13), 2 feet (No. 15) and 14 feet (No. 16).

If not for Rose’s late inning heroics – he birdied Nos. 13-16 and holed a 20-footer for birdie at the last to secure a spot in Sunday’s final pairing – Spieth’s advantage would have been essentially insurmountable.

Round 4 pairings, tee times

“You want to be in the last group. You want to be seeing what you're up against; you want to feel the atmosphere,” said Rose, who shot a third-round 67 and is at 12 under. “You want to get a look at how the guys play next to you, especially when you get to [Nos.] 12, 13, 14, 15 on the back nine.”

There was a time just past noon when the Jordan Spieth Invitational began to look more like the Masters, with familiar names like Tiger, Rory, Phil and Dustin closing the gap, but if you walked to the kitchen to make a pimento cheese sandwich, you probably missed it.

McIlroy, vying to complete the career Grand Slam with a victory this week, got off to a solid start with an opening nine of 32, eight strokes better than his Day 2 tour of the outward loop, and moved to within six strokes of the lead with a birdie at the 15th hole. But the world No. 1 struggled with two late bogeys and is among a group that includes Woods at 6 under.

“I'm going to need something basically around 61, 62 to have a real chance,” McIlroy said. “I'm not sure that's going to happen but we'll see.”

Mickelson was only slightly more optimistic about his chances following an inspired 67 that was his lowest card at the former fruit nursery since Round 3 in 2012.

“I think he's playing very good golf and I think he'll have a good round tomorrow,” Mickelson said of Spieth. “If he were to come out on top, it would be great to have him in the Champions Dinner every year.”

Golf eschews the early coronation – see McIlroy, Rory (2011) and Norman, Greg (1996) – but those meltdowns took rounds of 80 and 78, respectively, which are numbers Spieth doesn’t appear familiar with.

“I think the good thing for him is he's already experienced it once. He's played in the final group at the Masters before. It didn't quite happen for him last year, but I think he'll have learned from that experience,” said McIlroy, who led by four shots through 54 holes in ’11. “I think all that put together, he'll definitely handle it a lot better than I did.”

Perhaps, but then again, names like Mickelson, Johnson, McIlroy and Woods have a tendency of making pillows a little more lumpy.

It’s tough to snooze when you’ve got a combined six majors and three greens jackets in pursuit in the day’s last two groups. It’s not the quantity of Spieth’s lead, so much as it is the quality of those arrayed behind him that may make Sunday something less than a forgone conclusion.

You know the deal, objects in the rearview mirror appearing closer and all. It’s a reality Spieth seems to have already embraced.

“There's going to be roars. Phil is going to have a lot of roars in front. Obviously a few groups up I think is Tiger and Rory,” said Spieth, who will head out in the day’s final pairing for the fourth consecutive Sunday. “But especially in the group in front of us, everyone loves Phil. Why wouldn't you love Phil? And he's going to make some noise and he's going to make a run.”

On Saturday at the 11th hole, Spieth’s caddie Michael Greller urged his man to “see a small target” as he prepared his approach, a swing cue from coach Cameron McCormick.

On Sunday, there will be no escaping either the big target on his back or the big expectations he’ll start the day with.

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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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.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''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.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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.