Tougher course, same old party for players in Phoenix

By Ryan Reiterman February 7, 2016, 12:53 am

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – When Tom Weiskopf toughened up TPC Scottsdale two years ago, he hoped players would never reach 20 under again.

It looks like he will get his wish for another year.

Danny Lee stayed calm and collected while surrounded by a record-setting crowd of more than 200,000 people Saturday to post a 4-under 67 for a three-shot lead over Rickie Fowler (1-under 70) and Hideki Matsuyama (3-under 68) heading into the final round at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Lee’s at 13 under par, so rest easy Phil Mickelson and Mark Calcavecchia, your record total of 28 under par is safe ... probably forever.

But don’t worry low-score lovers, this is still the Phoenix Open. It’s just going to be a little harder to win the trophy on Sunday.

Bryce Molder (7-under 64), Mickelson and Boo Weekley (6-under 65s) showed there are still low scores out there.

There was still an insane amount of people at the event. For the first time more than 200,000 fans came through the gates. The final number was 201,003, which shattered the one-day record of 189,722 set in the third round two years ago. Outside of auto racing, it was the highest-attended day at a U.S. sporting event.

And all those fans meant there was still a gigantic party going on all over the course on a cloudless, 70-degree day. It was a really good day to be an Uber driver.

Waste Management Phoenix Open: Articles, photos and videos

But for the players in the final two groupings, the birdies were much harder to come by after Weiskopf redesigned several greens, moved a few tees back and tightened some landings areas to put more of a premium on driving, even for the longer hitters.

“Making birdie out here is not easy because of the greens being so firm,” Lee said. “But the good side is greens [are] so fast and rolling really truly. If you just know where to putt it, I think you have a good chance to make long putts out here.”

While Lee is in the ideal spot, a Sunday charge will be more difficult to pull off for players like Mickelson, who will start the final round five shots back.

“It's a lot harder to catch somebody,” said Mickelson, a three-time Phoenix Open champ. “I don't know what the number is going to be tomorrow. I just know that I'm starting to play well. There is a lot of holes here where you simply cannot get the ball within 15, 20 feet. So it's going to come down to the putter.

“A lot of the nuances and subtleties in the new design are taking balls away from the hole, so I have to make a lot of putts,” he said. “If I get hot with a putter like I did today and make a few 20-, 25-footers, I can have a really low round. But it's not the course where you can just knock down the pin all 18 holes. There's maybe 10, 12 that you can, but not all of them.”

That could be good news for Matsuyama and Fowler.

It’s a familiar spot for Fowler, who has won four of his five trophies coming from behind, the only exception being his win two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi.

“I have been in both positions,” Fowler said. “I feel really good about tomorrow. Ultimately, like I said, I wanted to be out front because I felt good in Abu Dhabi, kind of controlling the tournament from up front. But the way I played today that's not the case, so excited to go chase them down tomorrow.”

Fowler, Matsuyama and the rest of Lee’s challengers have history on their side, too. Five of the last six Phoenix Open champions have rallied to win on Sunday.

But Lee has some solid stats on his side. He leads the field in driving accuracy, strokes gained-putting, and is tied for most birdies made.

“I always struggled [with driving] out here before, but seems like this week I have been driving it really nicely, which you need to do out here, and that's the key of my game this week, I think,” he said.

Lee broke through for his first PGA Tour title last year at the Greenbrier, but he’s never had the 54-hole lead resting on his slender shoulders.

Lee admitted he’s not exactly sure how his game will hold up in what’s going to be another crazy day in Phoenix with Fowler once again in his group and Mickelson, a former Scottsdale resident and Arizona State alum, in the group ahead.

“I don't know,” Lee said on how he will sleep tonight. “I’ve never been into this situation before, so I will tell you tomorrow morning.”

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.