Scott (67) relies on short game to stay hot

By Will GrayMarch 17, 2016, 7:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rest assured, this wasn’t exactly pretty.

There were some frayed edges to Adam Scott’s opening round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, moments that made you wonder if he might actually return to the mortal realm.

But momentum can be a potent salve, and Scott currently has plenty of it. As a result, he turned a middling ball-striking performance at Bay Hill into a bogey-free, 5-under 67 as he looks to win his third straight start. Scott is one stroke behind Jason Day after Round 1. 

There’s never really a bad time to be Adam Scott, but right now – in the midst of perhaps the hottest streak of his decorated career – things certainly seem to be going his way.

“I didn’t play my best golf tee-to-green, but I chipped and putted really well today,” Scott said. “That’s a nice feeling when you shoot as low as you possibly can.”

When players are mired in a slump, golf can often turn into a vexing game of whack-a-mole. Fix the driver, and the short game leaves. Get the irons back on line, and the putter goes ice cold.

For Scott right now, though, it’s just the opposite. He has made his mark in recent months by covering mediocre putting with world-class ball-striking, a trend he continued en route to winning the Honda Classic. But it was his short game that salvaged his win at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, with an up-and-down on the 72nd hole, and that facet again was on full display Thursday at Bay Hill.

Scott hit only 10 of 18 greens, but he rolled in a bevy of clutch par saves. First there were the 6-footers on Nos. 10 and 14, then a 10-foot save on No. 15 and a 12-footer on No. 2.

In a few short weeks, Scott’s balky short putter – the one that held him back for so much of 2015 – has been first neutralized, and now converted into a bona fide asset.

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“It’s always good to rely on your putter. Everyone has ups and downs, and at the moment I’m putting with confidence,” Scott said. “I wish that would last forever, but, you know, the reality is it won’t. There are going to be moments where I just am out of rhythm with it or whatever, and while you’re hot you’ve got to run with it. I’m trying to do that.”

When Scott mentioned a few weeks ago that he wanted to be the best putter in the world by the time the Masters rolls around, many responded with a quizzical look. After all, this was a player who ranked 157th last season in strokes gained-putting, and whose banner 2004 season on the greens is looked upon now as an aberration.

But the stats are quickly catching up to the claim. Already leading the Tour in strokes gained-tee-to-green this season, Scott began this week ranked 43rd in putting. And after a 24-putt performance in the opening round, he was an early leader in strokes gained-putting at Bay Hill.

“I’m going to have a lofty goal to achieve what I want in this game,” he said. “I’m going to have to be a great putter to win at tournaments.”

Scott insists that he has put the wins at PGA National and Doral into the rearview mirror, and he spent four days at home last week in the Bahamas without touching a club. This event, he said, marks a fresh start in the final dash that leads to Augusta National.

But his results indicate that the residue from those wins remains. He is imbued with an unmistakable confidence, the kind that can only be derived from defeating a world-class field in successive weeks.

Scott is currently in possession of perhaps the most precious commodity in sports, and – to the detriment of the rest of the field gathered at Bay Hill – he continues to put it to good use.

“It’s good fun when you’re on it,” said Henrik Stenson, who played alongside Scott and matched his opening-round 67. “He’s put a lot of hard work in, and it’s paying off at the moment. He’s playing some great golf, and probably the game feels a little bit easier to him than it sometimes can be.”

Scott has long been one of the most even-keeled players on Tour, an attribute that helped him bounce back from a quadruple bogey and a pair of final-round doubles en route to his last two wins.

Having successfully navigated aberrations like those, a little bit of wobbly ball-striking early on wasn’t even enough reason to even break much of a sweat.

This may be a new week, but Scott is now equipped with a pair of assets as he looks to build upon his newfound winning streak.

“Confidence,” he said, “and calmness.”

Once again atop the leaderboard, he doesn’t appear likely to run out of either anytime soon.

Getty Images

Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook played a six-hole stretch in 6 under and shot an 8-under 64 in breezy conditions Saturday to take the lead at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook began the run at La Quinta Country Club with birdies on Nos. 4-5, eagled the sixth and added birdies on No. 7 and 9 to make the turn in 6-under 30.

After a bogey on the 10th, he birdied Nos. 11, 12 and 15 and saved par on the 18th with a 20-footer to take a 19-under 197 total into the final round on PGA West's Stadium Course. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player is making his first start in the event. He won at Sea Island in November for his first PGA Tour title.

Fellow former Razorbacks star Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were a stroke back. Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 on the Stadium Course. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. They are both winless on the PGA Tour.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Jon Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium Course to reach 17 under. The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3, 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.

Scott Piercy also was two strokes back after a 66 at the Stadium.

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 PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course, and Harkins shot 68 on the Stadium Course.

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 Course 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. The Southern California recruit had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over for the week.

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.

Getty Images

Mickelson 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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. 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.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.