Woods' game showed more promise than pitfalls

By Rex HoggardAugust 23, 2015, 11:19 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. – There were no last-minute heroics, no distinct Tiger roars – except for on the third hole on Sunday, but that was for playing partner Scott Brown’s hole-in-one. There were no turn-back-the-clock performances and, finally, no more chances.

The end of the 2014-15 PGA Tour road awaited Tiger Woods late Sunday at the Wyndham Championship, a journey that at times has felt like a test track with as many twists and turns as he’s had to navigate this season.

He did not go quietly.

The game’s most high-profile enigma turned back the clock with an opening 64, teased us on Friday with a 65, and even showed flashes on promise on Day 3 with a 68, considering how many birdie opportunities refused to drop.

After more than two winless years, Woods’ decision to play the Wyndham Championship appeared inspired, a spirited final swing to prolong a season that in all honesty would probably be best left in the rear view.

He needed something magical, something straight out of the memory banks, to survive the FedEx Cup playoff cut. Instead, he got more of the same on Sunday.

Woods played his first six holes with all pars on a Sedgefield Country Club layout that is more mad dash than major test in terms of scoring. He then turned where he’d started the day, at 13 under and three shots out of the lead.

A birdie at the par-4 ninth offered a glimmer of hope, but he ping-ponged across the 11th green on his way to a triple bogey-7 and an early off-season.

He needed to win – or to finish alone in second place with a monsoon of help from those around him – to secure himself a spot in next week’s playoff opener in New Jersey. He tied for 10th.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Instant analysis demands a hard appraisal of Woods’ season – 11 starts, five missed cuts and just one top-10 finish – but there is no ignoring how far he has come since February, when he played just 11 holes at the Farmers Insurance Open before "deactivated glutes” and a defective short game drove him into a self-imposed hiatus.

The troubling trifecta of back surgery, a major swing overhaul and a suddenly absent short game prompted him to miss two months while he searched for answers in the south Florida dirt.

When he did return, things weren’t much better with Woods missing the cut at the year’s final three majors.

But the Wyndham Championship provided hope even before he ignited the North Carolina faithful with a chip-in birdie at his opening hole on Thursday.

Woods’ decision to play an event outside his wheelhouse was a sign that, deep down in the recesses of an admittedly complicated mind, he believes he is as close to regaining his form, as he has regularly suggested.

“I just couldn't get anything out of my rounds and a couple lucky bounces here, take advantage of those opportunities. It's just the flow,” he said on Friday. “It's so close to going either way and this week I've done a pretty good job of handling it and positioning my golf ball around the golf course.”

Baby steps aren't what the golf world wants from the former world No. 1 – as an aside, his tie for 10th place at the Wyndham did move Woods into the top 250 in the World Golf Ranking – but even the most jaded observer must acknowledge that his week in the Piedmont Triad was progress.

Not that the week transpired without a few bruises. The short-game woes from earlier this season surfaced again at the 11th hole in his final round, and he appeared to be moving gingerly the last two days.

“It’s not my back, no,” he said when asked his health status. “Just my hip.”

For a player who has been sidelined for all number of reasons in his career, any health issue is troubling. It's also worth considering that the Wyndham marked only the second time this year he’d played back-to-back weeks.

But that likely isn’t an immediate concern for Woods, with his schedule now clear until the Frys.com Open to start the 2015-16 in October, followed the next week by the Bridgestone America’s Cup in Mexico.

On Sunday, Woods’ focus was on a week that showed more promise than pitfalls.

“I gave myself a chance and I had all the opportunity in the world today to do it. I didn't get it done,” Woods said. “I had some makeable putts early I missed. I just wasn't able to get any kind of roll early.”

Maybe expecting a ninth-inning walk-off from a player who has resided below the Mendoza Line for two years was too big of an ask.

It’s similar to how every fan clings to the notion that next season is when things turn around for the home team. Woods’ long-term competitive fortunes after a solid, though not spectacular, week suddenly don’t seem so bleak.

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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.