Woods has major appreciation for Old Course

By Rex HoggardJuly 14, 2015, 11:38 am

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – This is for all practical purposes an old fashion love story, with a heavy focus on old.

From the first time Tiger Woods walked the ancient pitch at St. Andrews his affinity for the place was piqued and it’s only grown with time and titles.

“I’ve always loved the course from the first time I saw it in ’95,” he said on Tuesday at the Home of Golf.

The theme continued moments later when he was asked the basis for his affection. “I love the creativity,” he said. “You have to hit all kind of shots.”

For a player whose relationship status with the game of late could best be described as love/hate, those are strong words on the eve of the year’s third major.

It was here hard on the shores of the North Sea where Woods first etched his name into the claret jug in 2000 and he added his second Open Championship at the Old Course in 2005.

In five starts on the Old Course – four previous Opens at St. Andrews and the 1998 Alfred Dunhill Cup, which was a team event – his average finish is 21st place.

He was here in 1995 when Arnold Palmer took his last stroll across the iconic Swilcan Bridge. He was here when Jack Nicklaus made his Open current call in 2000 – and then again in ’05. He was here when the winds blew so strong in 2010 officials stopped play and in ’98 when the round was delayed because of frost.

For all the focus on Woods’ relationship with the Masters and Augusta National, where he has won four of his 14 Grand Slam tilts, it is St. Andrews where he has cemented his legacy.

It was a fondness that emerged immediately, when the then amateur ventured to his first Open in ’95. For most players, St. Andrews is an acquired taste – Bobby Jones tore up his scorecard after just 11 holes in his first start on the Old Course in 1921 but went on to earn the endearing nickname “Bonnie Bobby.” But for Woods it was love at first sight.

Not that he found the winding layout particularly easy considering his initial glimpse was very much a harsh introduction.

“I just happened to get the tide when it changed out there at the loop, so I played all 18 holes into the wind, and so I’ve always said it was the longest short golf course I’ve ever played in my life,” he recalled.

He quickly learned that the Cliff’s Notes take on the Old Course, which goes something like just hit it hard and left, was very much a misnomer. The nuances are much more subtle than that.

“You need to have the right angle,” said Woods, who arrived on Saturday in Scotland to begin his preparation for this week’s championship. “Over the years of learning how to play the golf course under all different types of wind conditions, it changes greatly, and it’s based on angles.”

The ninth hole, for example, is a microcosm of the Old Course’s ever-evolving complexities, with Woods explaining that the par 4 “is a driver all day.” Unless, of course, the wind shifts into, which requires a more measured layup short of the cross bunkers.

Even the seemingly simplest of elements is compounded at St. Andrews, as evidenced by Woods’ reaction when asked which is the hardest wind direction. “Depends on how hard it’s blowing,” he finally allowed after a long pause.

His affection for St. Andrews at least partially explained his confidence heading into just his eighth tournament of the season and after two of his worst starts on Tour as a professional.

Despite having almost as many rounds in the 80s (two) as he does in the 60s (three) in his last 10 competitive outings, Woods’ optimism was evident as he prepared for his 19th start at the game’s oldest championship.

Part of that improved outlook is born from his tie for 32nd in his last start at The Greenbrier Classic, where he led the field in proximity to the hole, and a swing that is much further along in the evolution of change than it was when he benched himself earlier this season.

“Being able to shape the golf ball not only both ways but also change my trajectories and being very comfortable changing my trajectories,” he said. “That’s something that I feel you have to do here on this golf course.”

But competitive baby steps aside, it’s less about improved versatility than it is this historic venue for Woods.

Woods, who turns 40 in December, has never been interested in sentimentality, opting instead to maintain his focus on the next shot, the next tournament, the next major. But on Tuesday he took a rare nostalgic turn when asked where his affinity for the Old Course is born?

“It’s brilliant how you can play it so many different ways,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to play it one time before I die backwards. I want to play from (No.) 1 to 17, 2 to 16, so forth and so on. I’d love to be able to play it that way, just one time.”

For Woods, St. Andrews is a love story that endures.

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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

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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.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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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.

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.