Missed cuts give some stars extra time at Augusta

By Will GrayMarch 31, 2017, 9:05 pm

HUMBLE, Texas – The leaderboard at the Shell Houston Open will be a little light on star power this weekend.

The tournament lost Dustin Johnson early in the week, and now must face a conclusion without a number of the biggest names sticking around.

Adam Scott, Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth entered this week ranked Nos. 1-3 on the PGA Tour in consecutive cuts made. Collectively, they had played the weekend in 63 straight events.

After closing out their respective rounds Friday at the Golf Club of Houston, each heard the same sound emanate from the trunks of their courtesy cars.

Slam. Slam. Slam.

Granted, they were not alone among the Augusta-bound contingent who have some Houston hotel reservations to cancel. Henrik Stenson also missed the cut by several shots, as did Matt Kuchar and Lee Westwood.

Spieth and Scott’s second rounds were particularly peculiar given that they had both gotten off to strong starts the day prior. But Spieth chased an opening 69 with a 5-over 77, while Scott matched that second-round total after starting with 68.

It’s hardly the Masters momentum either player was hoping for, but one look at the local weather forecast and it’s clear that not all missed cuts are created equal.

Rain is heading to Houston in the coming days; it’s just a matter of when and how much. The current forecast calls for a 100 percent chance of rain Sunday with up to 2 inches of forecast precipitation, putting the tournament in an awkward position.

No event ever wants to hear the phrase “Monday finish,” but this one would be especially delicate given how many players come here specifically to prep for next week’s first major. A Monday finish has not been required at this tournament since 2004, three years before it moved to the week before the Masters.

Scott suffered a four-putt on his third hole of the day and ended up taking 36 putts Friday, but he was hardly broken up about it after missing his first cut since The Barclays in August 2015.

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“I’m going to look at the positives. I’ll be fresh for next week,” Scott said. “The weekend weather looks a bit dodgy here, so things may work out as good as they can considering it’s a missed cut. But I think I saw enough out there. I’ve got some time on the range today and tomorrow to really come up with my plan for what I’m going to do next week.”

Scott now expects to head to Augusta National on Saturday evening and will play a practice round there Sunday, as the weather forecast in Augusta on Monday is as bleak as the one for Houston over the weekend.

“An extra day there is not going to hurt,” he said. “In fact, it’ll be most enjoyable.”

Spieth had what he described as an “off day” that included bogeys on three of his final five holes, but he didn’t view his early exit in exactly the same light as did Scott.

“I was not playing this tournament just as a lead-in to the Masters. I was playing this tournament because I love this tournament,” Spieth said. “The weather in Augusta is not good on Monday, either. I’m not sure what’s going to happen with the end of this week into next week.”

Spieth’s revised plan will likely include a trip to Augusta on Saturday night to get in ahead of the weather, followed by an appearance at the Drive, Chip and Putt Contest on Sunday and an afternoon of work on the course.

Spieth was quick to point to his record from 2014, when he finished second to Bubba Watson at the Masters despite missing the Houston cut the week prior, and had seemingly wiped away any sense of lingering disappointment just minutes after completing his round.

“I think we know, and the other players that are playing next week know, that we strike fear in others next week,” Spieth said. “So that’s our idea, that’s going to be my confidence level going in, and we’ll step on the first tee ready to play.”

Granted, there will still be a few notable names sticking around for a wet finish in Houston. Rickie Fowler held the opening-round lead, while Justin Rose comfortably made the cut after rounds of 67-71.

Rose is currently planning to go home to Florida following the final round and wasn’t heading to Augusta until Tuesday, but he admitted that a Monday finish here is far from ideal for all parties involved.

“It’s tough, because it’s a big tournament in its own right, but the Tour and everyone needs to understand as well that a lot of guys play it for a certain reason,” Rose said. “If there’s an opportunity to get it done, we should try to do what we can to get it done before Monday. Because that really alters, and actually really puts you at a big disadvantage versus the rest of the field who have prepared a different way.”

For many big names, the final stages of Masters prep have been cut abruptly short. But they’ll hope to follow in the footsteps of Trevor Immelman and Angel Cabrera, who won the Masters in consecutive years despite each missing the Shell cut the week prior.

For those left in Houston to try to chase down Sung Kang, there are two more competitive rounds and the hope that Mother Nature will cooperate enough to crown a champion before flights headed for Augusta need to be rescheduled.

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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.”

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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.

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''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.

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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.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.