A Travelin Fool

By Jon LevyApril 27, 2011, 3:33 pm

With his head half buried into an enormous Philly cheese steak, gingerly lounging in the back of a tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurant 45 minutes outside of San Francisco, it hits Benoit Beisser like a two-ton truck.

It doesn’t get much better than traveling and playing golf.

Sure, the pragmatic Arizonan has seen the country from his time in the junior ranks – plenty away from the game to boot. And he’s said how much he loves his life at home in Scottsdale. But his professional life has centered around a non-traveling tour there since he’s turned pro, so he’s not yet fully tasted the travel-play-travel lifestyle common to the top levels of professional golf.

That finally changed a couple weeks ago at the Nationwide Tour’s Fresh Express qualifier, which, oddly, for a player of his experience, was his first attempt at a Nationwide ‘Monday.'

“I think it excited me more to go get it done and just see what it’s like to do the travel and play thing in the middle of my schedule, than anything else,” explains Beisser of removing the proverbial monkey off his back. “I just haven’t done that as a pro, so I wanted that experience and I also wanted to see where I’m at with what’s out there, and whether that’s something I may want to do a lot more in the future.”

Beisser had just arrived to town – 4 p.m. on the Saturday before his Monday start – when that internal light flickered inside the restaurant so aptly named, The Philadelphia Steak Shop.

Amid all the success Beisser’s seen on the Gateway Pro Tour, he realized his love for traveling had been shirked off to the side; saved away for another place, another time.

But, with mom/caddie, Deanna, by his side – as always – deep in the hills of the Golden State, it donned on Wah he has the ability to encompass the best of both worlds. Right here. Right now.

“I’ve always loved to travel. I just love exploring,” Beisser says. “That’s half the fun. I love exploring little towns; finding cool, little places to eat and playing new courses. Anytime you can play a new course, as a player, that’s something cool. It’s a new experience and you’re able to test yourself with something you've never done before.”

Beisser finishes his epiphany-laden sandwich – for such a lean, yoga-enhanced health nut, the guy can put food down with the best of ‘em – before he heads out to the site of the qualifier for a little chipping and putting, and to get an overall feel for the place.

Off to bed early that night, he hits it first thing Sunday morning – a 6:30 a.m. practice round – with a few fellow Gateway buddies also set to tee it in the qualifier.

Two of his three partners had played the course before, making for a great measuring stick of how it might play and what score could light up the magic number.

“I’ve said it before about a lot of the guys I play with (on the Gateway Pro Tour) . . . we’re all buddies and we all support each other with our careers,” says Beisser. “It was great to play the practice round with those guys because I was able to listen to what they had to say (about the course) and we were all able to bounce ideas off of each other about how to go about it.”

Most professional golfers approach practice rounds in a scientific way. They map out a strategy and plan based on possible pin placements, weather/course conditions and different scenarios they might face while in the tournament – always living with the philosophy that the more prepared, the better.

Beisser squeezes every last drop out of this one, priming himself for a perfect Monday run to the finish line.

“It was great. Those guys walked me through (the round) perfectly and we all decided that probably four or five under would be the number,” he surmises. “I knew I could get to three of the four par 5s in two, so my plan was to stay aggressive on those, do what I could on the par 4s and try to get by on the par 3s.

“Most of the time in tournament golf it’s the par 3s that can be killers, so you take your medicine on those and do what you can on the other holes.”

As with everything else in his life, Beisser’s philosophical about his go-time plan.

“I guess you could call it trying to be ‘smart aggressive,’” he says. “You don’t want to be overly aggressive because you can shoot yourself out of it pretty quickly, but you still have to look at almost every hole like a birdie hole, because there’s no second or third round to make up ground if you’re not taking advantage on every hole.”

At 29, Beisser's a seasoned tournament veteran who has played plenty of one-day qualifiers. PGA Tour; U.S. Open; state Opens; other, smaller mini-tour events – just never a Nationwide Tour Qualifer. So, his plan's filled with qualified knowledge.

It's also filled with a twist of his personality.

“You always know what you want to do,” Beisser states, “and when you get out there, if it goes your way, it goes. But sometimes you may need to adjust and be more aggressive if it's not, and at that point you push it as much as you can and just go for it.'

The bell rings Monday and Beisser posts 2 under on his first nine – carrying out the plan to a T. A lipped out birdie effort on the ninth hole would’ve even put him ahead of the game.

But, then playing Nos. 10-15 in even-par and – exactly to his point – Beisser sees he’s running out of holes.

“I just couldn't get anything to drop,” he explains. “I knew I needed to press it on the way in.'

A par at the 16th results in going for a tough pin on the par-3 17th, which results in a missed green and bogey. He pars the last, signs for a 1-under 71 and, just as he predicted, 4 under gets into the event.

Nevertheless, Beisser takes away what he needs and, as always, remains optimistic about his game.

'This just showed me that I'm super close to where I need to be and motivated me to come back and work harder,' he says. 'Guess you could say it kind of lit my fire to go do these on more of a regular basis.'

Beisser will finish out the Gateway Pro Tour Arizona Series in its entirety – six more events – before trying his hand at more Nationwide Tour qualifiers in July, preceding his summer trip back to the Golden State to play the tour's California Series.

He hopes to improve on his maiden effort, and also hopes to improve on the overall flow of traveling and being ready – and energized – to tee it in the middle of a hectic schedule.

Beisser missed his second cut of the year on the GPT after returning from his trip, starting the event just a day after he got back.

'I had played the course plenty of times, so I was prepared for it that way,' he explains, 'and I held my own that first day (with a 4-under 67), but I think (the travel) caught up with me that second day. I had a hard time staying focused.'

Beisser posted a 3-over 74 – his second highest round of the year – in Round 2 to miss the cut by four. 

He rebounded last week in his next event, however, finishing tied for fifth with a closing round of 5-under 67.

His game's been there all year.

'It's going alright, right now,' Beisser says. 'I really want to win one before the (GPT Arizona Series) is done and then go do some more of those qualifiers this summer and see how far I can get.'

There's an old Mongolian proverb that says, 'A traveling fool is better than a sitting wise person.'

Beisser understands this now. He understands he can get pretty far with those qualifiers, too.

And he's no fool to think it doesn't get much better than traveling and playing golf.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

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

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

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.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

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.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

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.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

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."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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."