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Rosaforte Report: Walker stepping out of 'Lyme fog'

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 8, 2018, 1:30 pm

The scouting report on Jimmy Walker’s return to competition from Lyme disease goes like this: “Physically 80-90 percent. Mentally hard to say. Lyme fog; you can read about it. I am excited to play. Been a while. Nervous. I’ve put on 10 pounds since September. Been eating good.”

The 2016 PGA champion typed those words in a text on Sunday in Hawaii, where he is readying for the Sony Open, his first competitive event since the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open last fall.

Along with aches and pains, the “Lyme fog” reference is one of the symptoms that accompany the diagnosis Walker received during the 2017 Masters and fought most of the season. Physically and mentally there were issues that affected his performance. He dropped from 15th in the world after winning the PGA at Baltusrol, to 68th going into the new season. While part of him enjoyed being at home in Texas with his family – wife Erin also announced last week that she, too, has Lyme disease – Walker also missed the competition and being with his buddies out on Tour.

“I play golf for a living,” he said. “I’m used to all kinds of emotional roller coasters. It’s just life and you’ve got to deal with it.”

With the right meds and treatment program, Walker had enough strength to visit instructor Butch Harmon in Las Vegas before Christmas and begin prep for the 2018 campaign. It was his first practice session in four months.

“Jimmy Walker is the one I’m looking forward to,” Harmon told me when going through the off-season work of his players. "He’s healthy again and we had some really good sessions. It’s probably the best I’ve ever seen him swing it. Last year was tough on him physically and mentally it was a big strain on him. He’s done some great work and he’s ready to go.”

DJ, THE GREENS MONSTER: Putting statistics on the monstrous greens at Kapalua are skewed, especially when they’re distressed as they were during last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions. But the fact Dustin Johnson was second in the field on the Plantation Course with a make ratio of 91.9 percent was an indication that the time Johnson put in at the TaylorMade putting lab in December was well spent.

Keith Sbarbaro, vice president of tour operations for Johnson’s equipment company, sold DJ on the idea to stop by during one of his trips to visit family on the West Coast. Seeing Johnson constantly miss putts and change putters after returning from his rib injury prior to the Masters led Sbarbaro and TaylorMade fitter Duane Anderson to get Johnson into trying 12 different putters, all with different sight lines, from dots to straight lines, and recording the results on a computer.

From 15 feet, Johnson hit five putts with each putter. With some of the putters, Johnson was lining up 8 inches left of the hole. The putter he had been using with no line was barely left of center, but a T-line on a Spider model resulted in Johnson aiming dead down the middle every single time. When Johnson saw the data, he made the switch and won the 2018 season opener by eight strokes.

Of course who knows how long it will last.

"I don’t know if it will stick,” Sbarbaro said. “But it was a good experiment and gave him the confidence that it’s not always him. It could be the putter.”

'TURN THE CORNER': Where is Gary Woodland’s mindset going into the Sony Open?

“It’s really as high as it’s been,” Woodland told me after dropping five spots in the Official World Golf Ranking from a year ago.

Why would the 50th best player in the world be so confident? Because of a heart-to-heart talk with Harmon about getting more out of his athletic ability; a series of short-game lessons (that Harmon arranged) with Pete Cowen during the QBE Shark Shootout; and some putting advice from one of the best putters in the game, Brad Faxon at Old Palm GC.

“January 1st couldn’t get here quick enough,” Woodland said. “I’m ready to turn that corner. It’s been an emotional year, but a growing year both on and off the golf course.”

The “emotional” reference was to wife Gabby losing one of their twins in March, and becoming a father to son Jaxson in June.

“You have to put it in perspective,” Woodland said. “I’ve learned a lot. Unfortunately, I learned a lot the hard way. But after spending New Year’s at home with Gabby, we’re ready to turn the corner and get past the emotional stuff we had to deal with.”

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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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 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.