My Top 10
1. The PGA Merchandise Show: The golf industry converges on the Orange County Convention Center in January each year for three days of golfing madness. The show is enormous. All the main manufactures, clothiers and accessorizers attend, but by far the most entertaining aspect are the small niche companies peddling products that you never knew existed. I did a story this year on the bizarre wares available, which included: a weed-whacker disguised as a driver, an umbrella you wear on your head, and fruit-flavoured golf tees. The show is for industry only, but if you are ever in Orlando and can sneak in, it's worth the blisters youll get for walking the miles of floor space.
2. The Isleworth Invitational: Played during the PGA Merchandise Show each January, Isleworth director of golf Marty DAngelo invites a two-man team (pro and amateur) from the leading clubs around the world for a three-day visit to one of the worlds most exclusive country clubs. This year I was lucky enough to represent my home track, Walton Heath Golf Club, alongside head professional Simon Peaford. We didnt embarrass the Walton Heath tradition, but hardly set the place alight either. Isleworths par-3 second, which could be the toughest short hole in the world, was our downfall. Former NHL stand-out and Isleworth member Dan Quinn deserved every penny of the $3,000 or so he collected there on Day 2 with a birdie, his two being the only skin.
3. Annikas stepping away party: I made my first visit to New Jersey in May for the Sybase Classic and Annika Sorenstams bombshell announcement. I felt a really sense of history as I stood crammed into the small media center at Upper Montclair Country Club on that Tuesday listening to one of the greatest to ever play the game tell the world it was all coming to an end. As always, Annika was composed and thoughtful in my interview with her, but made it clear she was stepping away and not retiring. I had the chance to play with Karrie Webb in the pro-am that week as well. Seeing a major winner up close plotting her way around the golf course was a real bonus.
4. Coupe de Presidente: A trip to the Terre Blanche Golf Club in Provence, France was one of the highlights of the year. I played in their Presidents Trophy on a golf course in immaculate shape ' the greens were near perfect and views of the provencial countryside were stunning. Terre Blanche Golf Club is one of Europes true hidden gems ' the on-site hotel and spa are tremendous. In fact, we couldnt find any faults during our visit. Despite some solid golf, a wayward driver got the better of me and my chances of bringing the Coupe de Presidente back to Golf Channel. Still it was all forgotten once the ros champagne started flowing during the five-course prize-giving dinner.
5. Larrazabal ignites the French Open: Staying on a French theme, there was no more electrifying play than that of Pablo Larrazabal at the Open de France this year. I was hosting coverage all four days and the young Spaniard was a joy to watch. If swashbuckling can be used in golf then thats how to describe his play. Larrazabal went on to be crowned Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year on the European Tour, thanks mainly to his win at Golf National. He could be a valuable character for the tour in years to come if he can keep up this standard of play and high entertainment factor.
6. TPC Snoqualmie Ridge: These were some of the most stunning views Ive ever experienced from a golf course. This summer I made my first trip to Seattle to host a Mutual of Omaha Big Break Challenge, which was held at the TPC Snoqualmie Ridge. The course is the host venue for the Boeing Classic on the Champions Tour and sits in the Cascade Foothills. No matter what I write here, I wont be able to describe the beauty of the back-drop to this Nicklaus design. Make a trip and see for yourself.
7. Buckingham Palace grounds: I toured Buckingham Palace this summer. It's a spectacular landmark ' the interior is just how you would imagine one of the worlds most luxurious and ordinate residences to be; however, what many people forget is just how much land the palace occupies in the center of one of the worlds busiest cities. Buckingham Palace has around 40 acres of grounds, out-of-site to the prying public gaze. As I stood on the back terrace looking at the huge lawn my only thought was just how perfect it would be for a mid-iron practice range. The grass was crisp, you could just imagine feathering 7-iron after 7-iron down the garden. Such a waste. I wonder if anyone has ever had the pleasure. Im going to guess no.
8. Trevino the showman: Before September of this year I had never had the pleasure of meeting Lee Trevino. I had always been told how much of a showman he was and how there is never a dull moment in his company. I was lucky enough to host the ING Shootmakers Shootout at the Boulders Resort in Carefree, Ariz., this year. In attendance was Paula Creamer, Suzann Pettersen, Bubba Watson and the Merry Mex himself. Despite the searing 100-degree heat, Trevino was on for four hours, telling jokes and stories, delighting the assembled ING clients, and entertaining myself and the players. He is a true legend of the game, old-school but still as fresh as when he burst onto the scene as Rookie of the Year in 1967.
9. Wie at Q-School: Like it or loathe it, the Michelle Wie story still turns heads and gets people talking. On Day 2 of the Q-School final stage in Daytona, Fla., you could put aside the circus and watch pure talent put together one of the easiest 65s I have ever seen. It was Wie at her best. I only hope she keeps her head and finds the guts to pull off a win on the LPGA in 2009.
10. Rhoden putting genius: Rich Lerner organizes a charity tournament each December in Orlando and Ive had the fortune to play the past three years. This time around I was paired with former MLB pitcher turned touring pro Rick Rhoden, whos putting stroke could be the smoothest Ive ever seen. He had the vacuum turned to high power on the Champions Gate greens, cleaning-up putts from all over the place. The ball seems to just float off the face. Now if only I could learn to do the same.
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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
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.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
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.