Scar tissue not an issue for DJ (66) at PGA

By Ryan LavnerAugust 13, 2015, 9:11 pm

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Prowling around Whistling Straits, Dustin Johnson doesn’t look and sound like a player burdened by his inglorious history here.

Before the opening round of the PGA Championship, Johnson’s swing coach, Butch Harmon, suggested that his prized pupil scale it back on his opening hole, the short 10th, and get into position with a 2-iron.  

“No, I’m gonna send it and drive the green,” Johnson woofed. “I’m gonna send it all day.”

He ended up opting for a 3-wood that set up an opening birdie, but his message was clear: Another layer of major-championship scar tissue wasn’t going to stop Johnson from what he does best.

Attack, attack, attack.

Time and time again Thursday he wailed away on driver, pounding tee shots into the throats of the fairways and setting up short birdie looks on his way to yet another lead in a major. His opening 6-under 66 was his best round ever at Pete Dye’s masterpiece, a round that surely stirred the golf gods.

There’s no hiding from the redemption storyline, not this week, not after what happened two months ago at Chambers Bay and what happened here at Whistling Straits in 2010. 

Johnson isn’t one for introspection, especially not in a news-conference setting, and when he was asked about his 72nd-hole bunker gaffe (over and over again), he replied with a grin: “I don’t really think about it unless someone asks me the question.”

Though Johnson might not say it publicly, there’s a sense that this place owes him. 

PGA Championship: Round 1 scores

At least he doesn’t have to worry about making the same mistake. A spectator grandstand now covers that sandy, trampled-down area, and on Thursday, when he played the hole in competition for the first time since, he bludgeoned a 313-yarder that sailed over the bunker complex down the left – a ridiculous line the rest of the field can’t even consider.  

Did he pull it? Sure. Did he get away with it? You bet. Oh, what he would have given for a prodigious pop like that 1,824 days ago.

“Right now,” Jason Day said, “he’s putting himself in positions where 95 or 99 percent of the players that are playing this week aren’t there.”

Another example: On the 489-yard fourth hole, and with the wind whipping into his face, Johnson ripped a 337-yard drive down the left side that left him only a sand wedge into the green. He made birdie.

“That’s just freakish to be able to do that,” Day said.

On the fifth, a dogleg-right par 5 that looks as though it was imported from South Florida, Johnson aimed at a row of lights in the distance and sent his drive at least 50 yards right of his fellow playing competitors, Day and Rickie Fowler, both of whom are long hitters. It didn’t work out – Johnson’s tee ball was knocked down by the wind and wound up in the fescue – but he didn’t catch all of it, either. He still made a routine par.

Indeed, Johnson’s 66 in increasingly difficult conditions was about the worst score he could have shot on Day 1, considering the number of putts inside 15 feet that didn’t drop. Overall, he averaged 312 yards off the tee, hit 15 greens and was only in trouble once, on the par-3 third, when he failed to get up-and-down from left of the green.

It was his third consecutive first-round lead at a major, the first time a player has completed that hat trick since 1958.

“Today was pretty easy, I have to say,” he said afterward.

But this has also been the easy part, at least lately.

In Johnson's last six major starts, he’s a combined 37 under par with a 67.9 scoring average in Rounds 1 and 2. 

Over the last two rounds? A scoring average that is nearly four shots higher (71.8), with a cumulative score of 6 over par.

The most curious case came last month at St. Andrews, where he opened up a one-shot lead at the halfway point, but went 75-75 over the last two days and faded to 49th.

“I know I was leading after two rounds,” he said, “but I didn’t feel like I was playing that good of golf. I wasn’t too comfortable with my swing. I wasn’t hitting the shots that I wanted to hit. I didn’t feel like I was too much in control.”

The same feeling existed last week at Firestone, a venue that should fit Johnson’s eye, for it rewards good driving. But he struggled off the tee and shot 11 over on the weekend, plummeting out of contention.

With Harmon’s help, Johnson tweaked his takeaway – he was picking up the club to the outside – and before long was back to the bombs-away approach that makes him the game’s most tantalizing tease.

Will another torrid start lead to his first major title, to a redemption story for the ages?

Johnson wasn’t ready to even consider the possibility. No outright first-round leader at the PGA has gone on to win since 1983, and besides, he knows better than most the potential trouble that lurks around every dune and bunker here.

“It’s only the first round,” he said. “We’ve still got a lot of golf to play.”

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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.