Kite Sails to Royal Caribbean Lead

By Sports NetworkFebruary 6, 2004, 5:00 pm
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Tom Kite carded a 4-under-par 68 on Friday to take the first-round lead of the Royal Caribbean Golf Classic at Crandon Park Golf Club.
 
Former U.S. Senior Open champions Bruce Fleisher and Don Pooley, Bruce Summerhays, J.C. Snead and NBC commentator Gary Koch share second place at 3-under-par 69.
 
Swirling winds made play difficult on Friday. Only 14 players broke par in the first round and Kite, a Texas native known for his strong iron play in the wind, took advantage.
 
Kite broke out quickly Friday with a 12-foot birdie putt at the par-5 first. He parred the next six holes but made a mess of the par-three eighth hole. Kite hit a 9-iron 50 feet long then missed an eight-footer to save par.
 
Kite was able to make the turn at 1 under thanks to an 18-foot birdie putt at No. 9.
 
The 1992 U.S. Open champion broke out of the gate right away on the second nine. He drained a 10-footer for birdie at the 10th, then added a 15-foot birdie putt at the next hole.
 
He mis-clubbed on the 13th hole and left a wedge short of the green. Kite chipped to five feet and missed the par-saving putt.
 
The end of Kite's round vaulted him into the lead. He sank a 19-foot birdie putt at the 16th and tapped in a birdie putt at the par-5 closing hole to shoot his 16th consecutive round under par, but post the highest score to lead this event after the opening round since 1992.
 
'It was a good solid round,' said Kite, a six-time winner on the Champions Tour. 'Anything under par is a good score today. This course is playing long. It was tough to get it close to the pin.'
 
Fleisher, a two-time winner of this event, collected three birdies in his opening 10 holes. He sprayed a couple of iron shots and made bogey at 11 and 13, but tallied a pair of birdies in his final three holes.
 
'There were really tough conditions out there,' said Fleisher. 'It's nice to get this one under your belt. The course played exceptionally long and we had some tough pin placements.'
 
Pooley and Summerhays each mixed five birdies and two bogeys on Friday but Koch, who ranked 73rd on last year's Champions Tour money list, was flawless with three birdies, all on the back nine, and no bogeys.
 
'I hit all nine greens on the front and all were two putts,' said Koch. 'I made a couple of nice up-and-downs.'
 
Tom Purtzer and Wayne Levi, both winners last season on the elder circuit, share seventh place after opening with rounds of 2-under-par 70.
 
Lonnie Nielsen, who earned his card through Qualifying School, Morris Hatalsky, Andy Bean, Dana Quigley, Joe Inman and Ed Fiori are tied for ninth at minus-1.
 
Former European Ryder Cup captains Mark James, who is making his debut on the over-50 tour, and Sam Torrance are part of a group tied for 31st at plus-1. Former U.S. Open winner Jerry Pate's debut was not as solid as James'. Pate shot a 7-over 79 and is tied for 75th.
 
Dave Barr, the defending champion, posted a 5-over 77 and is tied for 69th.
 
Related Links:
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    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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    Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

    When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

    Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

    "I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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    The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

    Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

    "It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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    DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

    World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

    Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

    "It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

    Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

    Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

    "I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

    Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

    "If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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    LPGA lists April date for new LA event

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

    The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

    When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

    The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

    The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.