Four for First at Wachovia

By Sports NetworkMay 4, 2006, 4:00 pm
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Jim Furyk, Rory Sabbatini, Trevor Immelman and local favorite Bill Haas all posted 4-under-par 68s on Thursday to share the opening-round lead of the Wachovia Championship at Quail Hollow Club.
Davis Love III, Lucas Glover and Billy Andrade are knotted in fifth place at minus-3.
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson is three back after an opening 1-under 71.
World No. 3 Retief Goosen, Paul Azinger, 2003 PGA champion Shaun Micheel, Vaughn Taylor, Justin Rose, Stewart Cink, Robert Garrigus and Bo Van Pelt are tied for eighth place at 2-under-par 70.
The difficult Quail Hollow layout proved tricky once again on Thursday, with just 32 of the 155 players who teed off breaking par. There are 15 players within two of the four leaders.
Furyk, who lost in a playoff to Vijay Singh last year, started his opening round on the back nine at Quail Hollow. He tallied birdies at the 10th and 18th holes, but the 2003 U.S. Open champion surged up the leaderboard with his play on the front nine.
He birdied the third and fifth holes to get to 4 under, but was one behind Sabbatini at the time. Furyk drained a 10-footer for birdie at the eighth to join Sabbatini at minus-5.
The par-4 ninth proved to be trouble for Furyk, the seventh-ranked golfer in the world. Sabbatini bogeyed the hole before Furyk, who then drove into a right fairway bunker. His approach landed in a greenside trap and the best he could do was blast out to 24 feet. Furyk's par try missed, but he tapped in for a bogey and a share of the lead.
'I'll take it either way. It's 68. I think that's pretty interesting,' said Furyk. ' It's a very good, difficult golf course. It's demanding, and you really have to pretty much have all aspects of your game in good shape to play well here.'
Sabbatini, who is fifth on the PGA TOUR money list, mixed four birdies and two bogeys on his opening nine, the back side at Quail Hollow. He was the first player to reach 5 under par with birdies at two, five and seven, but problems were ahead.
At the ninth, Sabbatini drove into the trees and could not reach the green with his second shot. He hit a solid third shot 11 feet past the flag, but the South African missed the putt to fall into the logjam.
'Three weeks off so I was a little rusty out there today but managed to hang in there and played pretty solid golf the whole way,' said Sabbatini. 'I limited my mistakes to a severe minimum.'
Immelman, a South African, began on the back nine, and tallied two bogeys and two birdies. His biggest problem came at the par-4 14th when he drove in the rough, then his approach hopped into the water. Immelman made double bogey to make the turn at 2-over-par 38.
The second nine was a completely different story for Immelman. He knocked his approach to 5 feet to set up birdie at the first. The South African recorded back-to-back birdies from the third, both inside 10 feet, then did it again from the sixth.
At the par-4 ninth, Immelman hit a 6-iron to 4 feet and cashed in the birdie try. All tallied, it was six birdies in his final nine holes that gave Immelman a piece of the lead.
'I just caught some momentum there on that nine holes and it was nice to convert all my chances,' said Immelman, who is winless on the PGA TOUR. 'There's a premium on hitting the ball in the fairway and from there, you can take advantage of a couple of holes.'
Haas, who was born in the Charlotte area, teed off on the 10th and his front nine was horrible. He made bogey from the fairway at the 12th, and drove under a tree at the 15th. Haas made those two bogeys and made the turn at plus-2.
Like Immelman, the second nine was what put him atop the leaderboard. He tapped in a short birdie putt at the second, eagled the par-5 fifth, and recorded three birdies in a row to close his round.
Haas has struggled so far this season on the PGA TOUR. He has made only six cuts in 11 starts with his best finish a tie for 15th last week in New Orleans.
'It's only a 68. It's only 4 under,' acknowledged Haas, whose father Jay and brother Jay Jr. are also in the field this week. 'If it was 64 coming off the year I've had, that might surprise me a little bit.'
Defending champion Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson -- who owns the last two major titles -- and Ernie Els, playing here this week for the first time, highlight a group at 1-under-par 71.
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - Wachovia Championship
  • Full Coverage - Wachovia Championship
  • Getty Images

    Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

    “That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

    So was Woods.

    DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

    “His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

    Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

    “He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    “The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

    Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

    “Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

    “Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

    Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

    Getty Images

    With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

    SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

    The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

    Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

    It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

    “It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

    Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

    According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

    “I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

    And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

    As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

    He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

    “I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

    If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

    Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

    “I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

    Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

    Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

    “If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

    Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.

    Getty Images

    Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

    After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

    With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    “Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

    “I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

    Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. 

    Getty Images

    Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:53 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    “I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.

    “I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”

    Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”

    Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.

    “We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.”