Fight club: Woods battles to 76 in Tour return

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 27, 2017, 1:44 am

SAN DIEGO – This was the kind of challenge Tiger Woods used to relish.

Narrow fairways lined with thick, gnarly rough.

Bumpy poa annua greens.

An emphasis on par.

And yet as Woods stood to the side of the 15th green Thursday at Torrey Pines, he looked completely exhausted.

Physical exhaustion was to be expected – this was his first PGA Tour round in 17 months, it was an arduous walk on the rain-softened fairways, and pace of play was agonizingly slow. But mentally, he was wiped out, too.

In his return to PGA Tour golf, Woods struggled mightily off the tee, made three birdies and labored to a 4-over 76. It was probably the best he could have scored.

“I fought my tail off out there,” he said afterward. “I fought hard.”

Woods didn’t ease into the new year, scheduling four events in five weeks, starting this week at brutish Torrey Pines. He didn’t ease into his first round, either. On the first hole, on his very first shot, he pushed his drive down the right side, his ball diving into the juicy rough. All he could do was hack out near the green.

“I’m like, OK, let’s not do this anymore,” he said. “Unfortunately, I did it most of the day.”

Unlike in last month’s event in the Bahamas – where he swung in rhythm and with confidence on the 50-yard-wide fairways – Woods couldn’t find his swing off the tee. He didn’t hit a fairway after the seventh hole. Some tee shots missed left. Most missed right. Even when he tried to lay back with 3-wood, he put himself in an awkward spot. By day’s end, he ranked 142nd in driving accuracy.


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Woods can’t simulate thick rough in south Florida, but he played creative recovery shots with a variety of clubs, from wedge to fairway wood. His closely scrutinized short game was tested early and often, and he responded with several nifty pitch shots and flops to keep himself around even par.

“It was nice to put together a round when I wasn’t hitting it that great early,” he said. “I was putting together the round.”

Woods finally hit a pair of solid iron shots, on Nos. 10-11, to move to 1 under. But he fell apart just as quickly, going 6 over during a six-hole stretch.

Most demoralizing was his play on the par-4 15th, where he sniped his drive into the canyon, took a drop, hooked his third shot around a tree, hit a mediocre pitch and two-putted for double bogey.

Overall, he lost nearly four strokes to the field with his ball-striking.

“It was tough out there, period,” he said.

And, no, not entirely unexpected. Woods has played only four competitive rounds in the past 522 days. Torrey’s South Course was the second-hardest on Tour last year. Should we have anticipated anything different?

“Joey [LaCava] kept telling me all day today, ‘Just be patient with it,’” Woods said of his caddie. “I didn’t quite smile at him a few of those times he said that. But I was fighting out there trying to get my ball around the golf course and score.”

Day preached the same word – patience – after the round.

“We can’t just break down everything he did today because it’s been 17 months,” he said. “Let him go a year, let him play and go from there. We can’t panic too much at the start of the year.”

To his credit, Woods is taking the long view. Thursday was the first round of what he hopes will be many this year. He didn’t play well – he’s currently tied for 133rd – but he didn’t embarrass himself playing alongside two of the top three players in the world, either.

All three players in the group made birdie on the final hole. When Woods’ putt disappeared, he tipped his cap to the crowd, smiled and hugged his fellow playing competitors.

More hard work awaits.

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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.”


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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.


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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.


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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.