#AskLav: Looking back on early-season predictions

By Ryan LavnerJune 5, 2014, 1:32 pm

The year’s second major is upon us, and the storylines heading into the U.S. Open at Pinehurst are exactly what we expected back on Jan. 1 … 

OK, maybe not.

Prediction No. 1: Third in 1999, second in ’05 … yep, this is finally the year that Tiger wins at Pinehurst!

Reality: He went under the knife in March, remains sidelined indefinitely, and will have to wait at least another eight years, probably more, for a third crack at No. 2.

Prediction No. 2: A bridesmaid no more! One win away from the career grand slam, Phil will complete the storybook ending where all of this U.S. Open heartbreak began.

Reality: Lefty has dealt with back and oblique injuries, is still without a top 10 on Tour during his worst season as a pro, and now is one of the subjects in an insider-trading investigation. All of which clouds his chances for championship glory.

Prediction No. 3: His personal life in order, Rory will return with a vengeance in 2014!

Reality: OK, so the engagement lasted only 4 ½ months, but McIlroy picked off a surprising victory at the BMW PGA and hasn’t finished outside the top 25 since September. That said, he remains as maddening as ever, posting nine-hole scores of 40 or worse in four consecutive Tour starts. 

Prediction No. 4: Adam Scott? Pssh! He’s too nice to ever reach world No. 1! 

Reality: Well, he’s No. 1 now, though for how long remains to be seen. Positioned to give the rest of his OWGR pursuers the stiff-arm, he instead retreated on the back nine at Jack’s Memorial. Cutthroat, not yet.

Prediction No. 5: Waste areas? Bunkers? Dustin Johnson is going to be SO confused at Pinehurst! 

Reality: We’ll find out in a week if this is true, but, yeah, this seems likely.

One Jan. 1 prediction that came true: There will be an all-U.S. Open #AskLav mailbag. So, without further ado, here are your questions:



Admittedly, my confidence is waning – the anticipation for the Open is building and Phil’s game is stagnating. Last week’s T-49 at the Memorial was his 16th consecutive start on the PGA Tour without a top 10, and that runner-up in Abu Dhabi feels like eons ago. He raved then and now that he’s driving the ball better than he ever, yet he ranks 131st in total driving. That’s problematic, of course, because putting the ball in the fairway is imperative at Pinehurst. We’ve been surprised before, of course, and Lefty could muster one of his most unexpected performances ever at No. 2. Though his focus and desire figure to be at an all-time high, it’s simply a matter of whether his game is sharp enough to stand up to a major test.



Nah, none of that nonsense. During U.S. Open week I usually try to stretch out my fingers and wrists, stock up on pens and notepads, and make sure the fridge in the rental house is stocked with beer. This year’s preparation has been a little bit different. I’ve been taking doxycycline hyclate pills twice a day to knock out the Lyme disease I contracted while covering the NCAAs in Kansas, so, truthfully, I haven’t really gotten much time to work on my game heading into the Open.



Actually, I’d expect the sandy areas to play easier. The hack-out rough we’ve seen in recent years has more or less been a penalty stroke. That’s not much fun for players, spectators, viewers or physical therapists. For men of a certain skill, however, playing from the waste areas at least offers a few options on how to make par. Rough or sand, the Open’s No. 1 rule will still apply: Find the fairway off the tee.

Instagram#AskLav: Who wins, OWGR top 10 or the field? – Chad Howat, via Instagram

Normally, I’d say the top 10, because the last three U.S. Open winners have been ranked 13th or better. But this major feels different. Because so many players will miss greens at Pinehurst – a course that will play as the third-longest U.S. Open in history, and longest in terms of yardage per stroke as a par 70 – it becomes, essentially, a 156-man short-game contest. That significantly grows the list of contenders, more so than just the 10 biggest names.



That’s the line he used at the end of the commercial – “Like I need some more pressure” – but how can it be bad timing? Phil clearly OK’d it. It’s a cute gimmick, but let’s be serious: If he’s coming down the 18th fairway with a chance to win that elusive Open, his 8,290th thought will be about the lucky soul about to cash in. So bad timing? No, that’s Marketing 101, capitalizing on a potentially momentous occasion.

Unfortunate timing, of course, was the feds hunting him down at Memorial – two weeks before the Open – to ask more questions about the insider-trading investigation. That’s more nuisance than distraction, especially if, as he contends, he did nothing wrong. But it’s a nuisance nonetheless.

Instagram#AskLav: How much work will be needed to get ready for the girls? – WPHS_T_Bird, via Instagram

Hopefully not much, but this is the USGA’s Great Experiment and no one is really quite sure how it will work out. LPGA players have already expressed legitimate concerns about divots in landing areas and around the greens. Bigger issues for Mike Davis & Co.: weather delays or 18-hole playoffs.



No, I have not, but only because friends don’t let friends buy VW Beetles.



It’ll present a different challenge, no doubt, with the confounding greens and sandy waste areas and new emphasis on the ground game. It’s more of a strategic test than one that will repeatedly kick you in the groin. That always makes for better drama.



Definitely! That’d mean one less U.S. Open scripting email to delete.

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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.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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.


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.