Can McDowell dump the slump?

By Will GrayNovember 13, 2015, 9:10 pm

PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – Graeme McDowell was lured to the OHL Classic at Mayakoba by the prospect of a clean slate.

A fresh start, an opportunity to put a disastrous season behind him. A chance to rekindle his game and begin his charge back up the world rankings to the lofty perch he once occupied for so long.

Through two rounds in Mexico he appears to have found all of that, but make no mistake – there is still work to be done.

McDowell scorched El Camaleon on Friday, recording nine birdies en route to a 63, the lowest round of the week. At 12 under, he sits two shots clear of Si Woo Kim and appears in great position to capture his third PGA Tour win.

The easy demeanor and confident smile McDowell currently carries have been a rare sight in recent months. More than a year removed from his last top-10 finish, the Ulsterman has watched his world ranking slide from No. 15 to begin the year to No. 85 entering this week.

“I’ve had a spell here the last 18 months where making cuts has been hard, and getting into contention’s been difficult,” McDowell said.

Things bottomed out for McDowell at the PGA Championship, where a missed cut ended his season before the FedEx Cup Playoffs began. The ball-striking, he explained, had been showing signs of a turnaround since the Scottish Open in July, but he was never able to capitalize on scoring opportunities.

McDowell used the unexpected gap in his schedule to take a break from golf and take stock of the situation he had played his way into.


OHL Classic at Mayakoba: Articles, photos and videos


“About five weeks off I took after Whistling Straits, which was key for me,” McDowell said. “I needed to clear my head. I was under too much pressure. I was putting too much pressure on myself.”

After returning to action in Europe, McDowell is now off to a strong start in Mexico – but the start has not been the difficult part of the equation this year. Time and again, he has flashed his form of old, only to falter over the weekend.

McDowell opened with rounds of 67-65 this spring in Dubai, then failed to break 70 over the weekend. A similar script played out in Malaysia, where he finished T-36 despite an opening 66, and he was near the lead through three rounds of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational before closing with 73.

Even as recently as two weeks ago, when he was in the mix at the halfway point of the Turkish Airlines Open with a chance to play his way into the Race to Dubai, McDowell closed with rounds of 73-75 to fade from contention.

Amid a playing schedule that spans the globe, McDowell has only one sub-70 final-round score this year.

One good round, even two good rounds, have been achievable goals. Stringing four straight together, though, has proved difficult.

“The last few months, not staying in the present enough on the weekends, kind of getting a little excited and caring too much. Just kind of mistakes that I used to make 10 years ago when I was trying to learn how to win out here,” he said. “I’ve been going through kind of the processes of really getting there, messing it up a little bit, getting back there and playing a little better.”

Another opportunity for improvement awaits this weekend, where wet conditions will lead to more low scores. McDowell appears to have his game in order, combining a red-hot putter with vintage ball-striking. After tinkering with a new driver earlier in the week, he put his old driver back in his bag for the second round and missed only two fairways.

But scar tissue lingers from his recent miscues. McDowell asserts that this fortnight of fall golf, ending with next week’s RSM Classic, is an all-upside opportunity to get a head start on a new season.

But he also built in some less rosy rationale, just in case he is unable to buck his recent performance trends.

“This is not a last-chance saloon this weekend,” he said.

Beyond the mechanics of his swing, McDowell believes the missing ingredient of late has been his frame of mind. The confidence and positive reinforcement that inherently accompany appearances on the leaderboard and trips to the winner’s circle have simply been non-existent.

“Of course I would dearly love to be in the heat Sunday afternoon and have a chance to win here,” he said. “But like I say, I need to keep the attitude good this weekend, and I think I haven’t done that well the last few months.”

McDowell sought an opportunity for redemption this week in Mexico, and after two strong performances that’s exactly what he has created for himself.

But the toughest part of his journey back still lies ahead. It’s not assembling the various pieces – it’s keeping them together until the final putt drops.

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.