WGC-HSBC likely last stop for fatigued players

By Rex HoggardNovember 5, 2014, 5:55 pm

It’s early in the week at the Tour Championship and the number of PGA Tour players in East Lake’s training room out number those on the practice tee by a 2-to-1 margin.

As one longtime Tour trainer clocked in for work early on Wednesday at September’s finale he opined, “There are some grumpy guys in there, man.”

Still, the trainer knows the 29 surly Tour types assembled in Atlanta have come by their less-than-hospitable disposition honestly.

It’s the small print of too much golf – something has to give. Yet just a single turn into the circuit’s wraparound schedule, where exactly that weak point will come is still very much a mystery.

In real-time, the traffic jam that is the tail end of the Tour’s schedule – a lineup that included eight must-play events for many of the top players in an 11-week stretch that, perhaps poetically, began and ended in the United Kingdom – is on display this week at the WGC-HSBC Champions.

The year’s final World Golf Championship will largely be the last start for many marquee players.

“That’s all I’m playing,” Gary Woodland said of the Tour’s two-event Asian swing back in September. “I’m not going to play very much (in the fall). I’ve played so much, I’m tired. The last four weeks have been brutal.”

That “brutal” stretch actually began at Royal Liverpool at the Open Championship on July 17, and didn’t subside for many players until the final putt dropped at the Ryder Cup in Scotland on Sept. 28.

The answer for some is to simply take more time off in the fall, limiting their early season starts, like Woodland, to this week’s World Golf Championship and perhaps last week’s CIMB Classic.

But as players ambled about East Lake in September in a daze, it became clear that it’s just not the fall events that will be impacted by a schedule that has become increasingly back-loaded in recent years.

Consider Jim Furyk, who missed just one event (the Wyndham Championship) the last two months of season.

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“I did take a month off before coming into this stretch,” said Furyk, who didn’t make a start between June’s U.S. Open and the Open Championship and yet echoed a familiar refrain at East Lake, “I'm definitely a little tired. I'm a little worn down.”

Woodland made a similar adjustment to his schedule entering the fall portion of this year’s dance card with familiar results.

“I knew it, that’s why I took off a lot,” Woodland said. “This (the Tour Championship) is only my 24th week for this calendar year, which is down like five tournaments for me. I knew it, but I just didn’t think I’d be this tired.”

Neither player participated in the first three domestic fall events on this season’s Tour schedule (and Furyk did not make the trip to China this week), but as players learned last season a restful fall doesn’t exactly translate to being fresh in the late summer.

There will be some relief next season, when the circuit’s playoff “bye” week returns between the Deutsche Bank Championship and the BMW Championship with an additional week off before the Presidents Cup is played in Korea, but as Furyk figures, “I think that we're going to be tired one way or the other, either way you look at it,” he said.

At issue for most top players is a distinct lack of wiggle room when it comes to scheduling after the Masters is played in April.

With the Tour’s move of The Players to May, the calendar is dotted with can’t-miss stops every month in the build up to the FedEx Cup playoffs; and without the ability to take weeks off players have settled for trying to tune out before tournaments.

“I've been limiting the amount of time really not for physical fatigue but more mental,” Furyk said at East Lake. “Just spend so much time with the game you get tired, worn down, you make silly mistakes. I've been trying to keep those at a minimum and just play.”

Still, those who found themselves pinched by this year’s season-ending crunch were quick to put their plight in perspective.

“Ask some of those journeymen that are playing 33 events each and every year trying to scrap it out to get in the top 125 and keep their job and see how bad they feel for us that we have to play four tournaments in a row,” Furyk figured. “There is probably no one worrying about it too much.”

Perhaps not, but with this week’s WGC-HSBC Champions marking the unofficial start of a long winter for the game’s best and brightest it may be the Tour, and not the players, who grow tired of the wraparound schedule first.

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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 played a six-hole stretch in 6 under and shot an 8-under 64 in breezy conditions Saturday to take the lead at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook began the run at La Quinta Country Club with birdies on Nos. 4-5, eagled the sixth and added birdies on No. 7 and 9 to make the turn in 6-under 30.

After a bogey on the 10th, he birdied Nos. 11, 12 and 15 and saved par on the 18th with a 20-footer to take a 19-under 197 total into the final round on PGA West's Stadium Course. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player is making his first start in the event. He won at Sea Island in November for his first PGA Tour title.

Fellow former Razorbacks star Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were a stroke back. Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 on the Stadium Course. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. They are both winless on the PGA Tour.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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Jon Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium Course to reach 17 under. The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3, 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.

Scott Piercy also was two strokes back after a 66 at the Stadium.

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 PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course, and Harkins shot 68 on the Stadium Course.

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 Course 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. The Southern California recruit had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over for the week.

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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Mickelson 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.

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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.

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LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. 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.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.