Woods shines on a surreal Saturday at AT&T

By Rex HoggardJuly 1, 2012, 1:47 am

BETHESDA, Md. – A little myth busting.

If a 100-year-old tree falls across Congressional’s 14th fairway no one hears it, but when Tiger Woods cut a swath across the baked-out Blue Course on Saturday with the absolute minimum of eyeballs on him the entire golf world sat up and took notice.

On a surreal day when cheers were replaced by chainsaws the guy in the green shirt made magic, not that many actually witnessed the AT&T National host roll his way to a 25-putt 67 that leaves him a stroke behind third-round leader Brendon de Jonge and closing on his second victory in as many starts at Congressional.

But Saturday wasn’t so much about what Woods shot as it was what it took to set the stage for his heroics and the precious few who actually watched it.

Late Friday a storm blew through Washington D.C., toppling trees and leaving more than a million homes without power.

The damage to Congressional was extensive and crews worked through the night to ready the layout for Round 3 play but officials never felt comfortable allowing fans onto the property so Saturday’s proceedings were something of a private affair.

As Woods readied for his third round your scribe asked one Tour type when was the last time he played without a gallery? “Yesterday,” he deadpanned. Fair enough, but Woods’ reality, at least between the ropes, is always inside the public domain.

As chainsaws and wood chippers echoed in the background, a threesome that included Greg Owen, George McNeill and Brian Harman teed off in the first group to begin what Tour officials say was the first tournament round closed to the public in recent memory.

After McNeill was announced to the tee first, which drew a round of strange looks considering the low-key nature of the event, he was forced to back off his tee shot as the cleanup effort buzzed around him.

“I knew it,” he laughed.

Who knew Woods, who has ignited galleries with his on-course theatrics for more than a decade, would be just as prolific in relative solitude?

The storm that whipped winds to 70 mph and ravaged the area is called a “derecho,” a native American word meaning straight. On Saturday Woods was wielding something of a derecho putter, which he established early with five consecutive one-putts to begin his day.

Statistically he’s posted three carbon copies on the Blue Course, 11 of 18 greens in regulation and 8 of 14 fairways hit each of the first three rounds. The difference on Day 3 was his putter, which dropped key par saves at Nos. 4, 14 and 17 and birdie putts at Nos. 1, 3, 6 and 10.

“I was fighting back and trying to make a run and I was able to do that,” said Woods, who won the 2009 AT&T National the last time this event was played at Congressional.

But if his putter was the meat and potatoes of Woods’ round, it was a delicate flop shot from left of the sixth green that was the highlight of day. Faced with a difficult par save after his approach bounced hard off of a ridge and ran into the rough Woods banged the shot off the flag for an unlikely birdie.

Quintessential Woods, only without the crowd-pleasing fist pump and cheers. It was just like Augusta National, only without the pine trees and roars.

“I felt like I got cheated on (No.) 6 when he chipped that ball in because normal crowds, that would have got really loud,” said Bo Van Pelt, who was paired with Woods on Saturday. “I didn't get to hear that cheer when he made that flop shot. Because it's fun; you take energy from that.”

Woods, however, was just as well with the serenity.

The host had an idea things were going to be interesting when he peeked out of his hotel window late Friday and “the (water) fountain, it's normally a fountain, but it looked like someone had turned the fire hose on.”

At 4 a.m. his cellphone began buzzing with messages from the tournament staff and when he arrived just past lunchtime to prepare for his round crews were still turning large, felled trees into mulch.

“I told Tiger that was a Bo Van Pelt crowd, so I was used to that,” Van Pelt smiled. “I was very comfortable with 10 or 15 people watching me play golf.”

Tour officials were confident the cleanup effort would be far enough along to allow spectators on the golf course for Sunday’s final round, setting the stage for a Tiger crowd and Woods’ third victory of 2012.

It would be a return to normalcy on many levels, particularly after Woods charged back into the hunt with no crowds and surprisingly little television coverage (CBS ended its telecast of the third round just as Woods was making his way around the back nine).

Here’s another myth that seems destined for busting: If Woods continues to putt the way he did on “Solitude Saturday” the competitive dominance that some figured would never return would seem closer than ever.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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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

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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.


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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."

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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.