Friends Watt, Goss set to meet in U.S. Am semis

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2013, 10:38 pm

BROOKLINE, Mass. – This has the potential to get very awkward.

The week began with 312 players, and Brady Watt and Oliver Goss are among the final four at the U.S. Amateur.

They’re good mates, frequent combatants in Australian events.

And this week, they’re housemates, staying with the same host family in nearby Wellesley. Their bedrooms even share a wall.

On Friday night, they’ll attend a Red Sox game together. Prime seats, too – first or second row, down the third-base line. Maybe they’ll snack on peanuts and taunt A-Rod.

And then the next morning, they’ll pile into their Volvo station wagon and make the 25-minute drive here to The Country Club, where they’ll compete against each other with a trip to the U.S. Amateur finals – and a spot in the year’s first two majors – on the line.

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All of this just might be too much for Brad James, the high-performance instructor of Golf Australia, to handle.

“I might just catch a flight and go home,” he joked.

The uber-talented Aussie duo is part of a decidedly international flair at this year’s U.S. Amateur, which for the first time in the event’s 113-year history does not have an American-born player among the semifinal participants. That historical factoid has prompted more than a few spectators to quip that this must be payback for the 1999 Ryder Cup staged here.

Anyway, Americans or not, there is no shortage of intriguing stories heading into the final two days of play.

We can start with semifinalist Corey Conners, who is a member of the six-man Canadian national team that has churned out several world-class players in recent years – guys like Nick Taylor (former world No. 1 amateur) and James Lepp (former NCAA champion) and Matt Hill (former NCAA Player of the Year) and PGA Tour players Graham DeLaet and David Hearn. Conners, a senior at Kent State, knocked off U.S. Walker Cupper Patrick Rodgers in the Round of 16, and then made quick work of co-medalist Neil Raymond in Friday's quarters, winning, 5 and 3.

No player thus far has impressed quite like 18-year-old Matt Fitzpatrick, the incoming Northwestern freshman who was the baby-faced low amateur at this year’s British Open. At just 5-foot-9 and 135 pounds, he sure doesn’t look like golf’s next big star … until he stripes his drive, hits a precise approach shot with a tight draw and cleans up with the remaining work with a tidy short game.

They’re nice stories, both of them, and surely they will have a spirited and well-played semifinal match.

But make no mistake, all the attention Saturday will be on Watt and Goss – Nos. 9 and 13, respectively, in the world rankings – who in the past 16 months have had three high-profile showdowns.

Last May, Goss not only nipped his mate in the stroke-play portion of the Western Australian Amateur, but then he rubbed it in with a 1-up victory in match play.

A few months later, they went head-to-head once again at the Western Australian Open, a professional event on the Australasian Tour. In that tournament, both players finished birdie-birdie to force a playoff, and then they ran off four consecutive birdies in the overtime session before Goss eventually won with a par on the fifth extra hole.

“I think coming down the stretch I’ve just been able to get that 1 up on him every single time,” Goss said. “It’s always really close.”

“I guess he owes me a couple,” Watt said, smiling.

Late last year, Goss made the cut at the European Tour’s Perth Invitational, finished third behind Tianlang Guan at the Asia Pacific Amateur, and also played the weekend at the Talisker Masters in Australia. The 19-year-old is entering his second year at the University of Tennessee.

Watt, 22, meanwhile, had no intentions of playing college golf and has only been in the States since June 28, teeing it up in the Sahalee Players, Players Amateur, Southern Am, Porter Cup, Western Am and, finally, the U.S. Amateur. He’s the higher-ranked player of the two Aussies, despite working a 4:30-9:30 p.m. shift as a professional cleaner at the BankWest Tower in Perth. He has cleaned office spaces and toilets five days a week for the past three years.

“It’s a casual-based job,” he said, “so I can kind of float in. I have a really good supervisor.”

Wonder if his boss knows what’s at stake here Saturday.

As Goss spoke to the media here after his quarterfinal victory, Watt sat in the back of the room, iPhone held horizontally, recording the news conference and chuckling at some of his friend’s answers. When it was over, they walked out of the curling building together, their next stop Fenway Park.

“It’s going to be a normal night,” Goss said. “We’re going to wish each other the best of luck and see who comes out on top. But we’re definitely going to come out and give it all we’ve got. We just want to beat each other at their best.”

If not, it could be a somber Saturday night at their host family’s house.

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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 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.


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.