Allenby On Course for Second Western Crown
Jerry Kelly and Bob Estes each posted rounds of 4-under 68 to finish tied for third at 12-under-par 204. Second-round leader John Cook carded an even-par 72 to finish alongside Davis Love III (68) at 11-under-par 205.
Allenby began the day three strokes off the lead and kept pace as several players jammed the top of the leaderboard. He picked up two birdies over his first five holes to climb to 10-under, but ran into trouble with a bogey at the par-3 sixth after he found a bunker off the tee.
The Aussie responded with back-to-back birdies from the eighth to move into a share of the lead at 11-under with Joe Durant, Jerry Kelly and good friend and fellow countryman Stuart Appleby,
Neal Lancaster soon took a share of first with three straight birdies from the eighth as Kelly faltered with a bogey at the 11th. Durant also found trouble on the back nine, falling from the top spot with a double bogey at the 11th and a bogey at the 13th.
Lancaster took the outright lead with back-to-back birdies from the 14th to reach minus 13, while Appleby's round fell apart. Appleby missed the green with his approach at the 13th and watched as his ball rolled down a slope and into the woods.
He chipped out to the rough and found the green with his fourth shot, then failed to convert from seven feet for bogey. Things didn't get better for Appleby, who followed the double bogey with a bogey when he missed a three-foot par save at the very next hole.
Allenby remained within one of Lancaster then leap-frogged the leader thanks in part to a tremendous drive at the par-5 15th. With a clear approach from the fairway, Allenby landed his second shot onto the putting surface and drained a 15-footer for an eagle and the outright lead.
At the 16th, Allenby knocked his approach within eight feet of the hole for birdie to add to his advantage.
'I was trying to make a birdie on 16 just to keep the momentum going,' said Allenby. 'A lot of times when you make eagles, you don't back it up with a good hole, so I thought it was important to get a good tee shot away and hit a great second shot in there and make a good putt, and that's what I did.'
He parred the remaining two holes to take a solid margin into the final round in search of his second Western Open title at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club's Dubsdread Course.
'My game is just slowly getting better and better as the year goes along,' said Allenby. 'I feel like it's just gotten better since the U.S. Open, just gained a lot more confidence with my game.'
Allenby, 30, captured this event in 2000 after surviving a playoff with two-time Western Open champ Nick Price, but missed the cut last year. He has earned three other PGA Tour titles, including two others in playoffs, and is eager to earn his first victory of 2002.
'I think maybe last year I was just too confident,' Allenby said of his Western Open performance a year ago.
Appleby never recovered from his blunder at the 13th en route to a round of 71. The 31-year-old finished at 10-under-par 206 alongside David Frost, Chris Riley, Duffy Waldorf and Scott Verplank.
Bob Tway, who shared low round of the day honors with Allenby with a 65 of his own, finished tied for 12th with Price, John Senden, Brandt Jobe, Paul Gow and Vijay Singh at 9-under-par 207.
Full-field scores from the Advil Western Open
Rahm (62) takes early lead at CareerBuilder
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
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
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.
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."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
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.
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.
Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta
Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.
The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.
It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.
"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."
Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.
Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.
"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."