Cochran out front at First Tee Open, Thorpe nearby

By Associated PressJuly 9, 2011, 2:01 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Russ Cochran made six consecutive birdies and shot a 7 under 65 to take the first-round lead at the First Tee Open on Friday.

Cochran had seven birdies overall and played a bogey free round in his return to the Champions Tour after suffering a wrist injury that led to a two-month layoff. Cochran was only 1 under through 11 holes before going on his run of birdies at the Pebble Beach Golf Links.

“I really didn’t know what to expect,” said Cochran, who is ninth on the money list this year. “I just haven’t been pushing it. I’ll know tomorrow how it feels but right now it feels fine. Obviously when you’re making putts and hitting good shots, it sure helps it feel a lot better.”

David Eger was one shot back at 66, followed by Brad Bryant, Morris Hatalsky and Jim Thorpe at 67. Ten others were tied at 68.

Defending tournament champion Ted Schulz struggled all afternoon and was at 1 over 73.

The three-day event is being played on two 18-hole courses on the Monterey Peninsula. Most of the low scores came at the 6,365-yard Del Monte while Cochran opened on the 6,871-yard Pebble Beach.

A two-time winner on the 50-and-under tour in 2010, Cochran had three top-five finishes in seven events before injuring his right wrist hitting a divot during the second round of the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf tournament in late April.

It’s the same wrist that Cochran previously had surgery on, and although he finished the tournament and played 18 holes at an appearance the following day, it ultimately knocked him out competition for a while. Cochran eventually met with a specialist in New York but played golf only sparingly over the next month and not on the tour.

The layoff obviously helped.

Cochran, who shot a 65 in the final round of this tournament in 2010, started on the back nine and hit his opening tee shot into a bunker but made a nice recovery and sank a 10-foot birdie putt. He stayed at 1 under at the turn, then narrowly missed a birdie putt on the par 5 No. 2 before storming to the top of the leaderboard with his stellar run.

The six consecutive birdies matches the best streak on tour this season.

“After playing nine or 10 holes without a birdie, all of a sudden they just started falling in from everywhere,” Cochran said. “If you get a couple under or par or see a couple putts go, then the golf course and the greens especially look a little different to you. I won’t say I’m shocked that I played that good. My job is going to be trying to continue to follow it up, not (just) this week.

Eger, who teamed with Mark McNulty to win the Legends event, moved into contention with five birdies over his final eight holes.

“I struggled the first 10 holes and didn’t hit many greens,” said Eger, a runner-up to Tom Watson at the Senior PGA Championship in May after losing a one-hole playoff to the Hall of Famer. “Then starting on 11 I started playing much better. The good scores are obviously going to be over here at Del Monte.”

Bryant overcame a bogey on No. 7 and closed his round with an eagle on the par 5 ninth.

Jeff Sluman, a two-time winner of this tournament, shot a 68 and was joined by Mike Reid, Steve Lowery, Jay Haas, Robin Freeman, Mark Calcavecchia, Bill Glasson, Jim Gallagaher Jr., D.A. Weibring and Jay Don Blake.

John Cook, winner of the Montreal Championship last week, was six strokes behind Cochran at 71. Cook is the only one of the top four players on the Charles Schwab Cup points list playing here.

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'It's been fun': Tiger embracing this year's moral victory

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 3:52 pm

ATLANTA – The aura of Tiger Woods has always demanded that his accomplishments, or failures, be graded on a unique scale. When your only competition is a record book and a guy named Jack, normal benchmarks just won’t cut it.

When you’ve won 14 major championships and 79 PGA Tour titles, there’s no such thing as a moral victory.

Well, there didn’t used to be. But this is different.

It was a year ago next week that Woods first offered an unfiltered glimpse into the state of his body and his game following fusion surgery on his lower back in April 2017.

“The pain's gone, but I don't know what my golfing body is going to be like, because I haven't hit a golf shot yet,” he said at last September’s Presidents Cup. “So that's going to take time to figure that out and figure out what my capabilities are going forward, and there's no rush.”

As timelines go, it’s telling that it was shortly after those matches in New Jersey that Woods reached out to PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan to ask about the possibility of being the captain of the U.S. Presidents Cup team in 2019. With Tiger, it’s always about reading between the lines, but it’s a relatively straightforward message that less than a year ago he was contemplating life as a captain, not necessarily a player.

Tiger has spoken often this year about the uncertainty he felt entering this season, about the unknowns that awaited him during this most recent comeback. He’s even suggested that for the first time in his career, he began a season with dramatically tempered expectations.

Yhat outlook began to change, albeit slowly at first, following a pedestrian West Coast swing that included a missed cut at the Genesis Open.

“The beginning of the year was such an unknown, I didn't know if I would be able to make it to Florida and to play the Florida Swing. Let's just start out at Torrey and see how it goes,” Woods explained on Wednesday at the Tour Championship.

He not only remained upright throughout the spring, but he also showed flashes of his former self with a runner-up showing at the Valspar Championship.

Unlike Justin Thomas, who studiously thumbs a lengthy list of goals into his cell phone each season, Woods keeps his vision board largely to himself. Nonetheless, there have been milestones throughout the season that have checked the right boxes.

For starters, Tiger will finish this season with 19 starts, the most he’s played since 2012. In fact, just once since 2000 has he played more than 19, which is as good a sign as any that his health, if not his game, is up to the task.


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His performance on the course has also steadily progressed. Although he’s not won since 2013, and that will always be the standard by which he’s judged, his world ranking tracks quite steeply in one direction. When he finished 15th at the Hero World Challenge, an unofficial, limited-field event in December, he was 650th in the world. Before the season’s first major, he cracked the top 100. Last month, his runner-up showing at the PGA Championship moved him back into the top 30.

That progression paved the way for a return to the World Golf Championship at Firestone and this week’s Tour Championship.

“Just to have that opportunity to be able to add a tournament, I thought I was going to be taking tournaments away, but to have added a couple and to have earned my way into Akron, I look at this year more as I've exceeded a lot of my expectations and goals because so much of it was an unknown,” he said.

This week’s start at East Lake is particularly rewarding considering it’s been five year’s since he played the finale. To Tiger, the Tour Championship is a straightforward meritocracy.

“What I've missed most about playing this event is that in order to get into this event, I would have earned my way being part of the top 30 most consistent players of the year and the best players of the year,” he said. “No exemptions into this event. Either you get here or you don't. It's a very hard line.”

There’s still plenty of work to do. On Wednesday, he talked of getting all of the pieces of the puzzle to fall into place at the same time, something that’s been an issue even during his best weeks.

The scale is always going to be wildly tilted when it comes to Tiger and for many that’s not going to change. It’s the price he must pay for unparalleled success. But for Woods and those around him, it’s impossible and frankly unfair to grade this season based entirely on wins and loses.

In sports, you are what your record says you are. Maybe when Woods calls it a career, 2018 will be nothing more than a bridge to bigger and better things. But as Tiger took mental inventory of his 22nd full season on Tour on Wednesday, the smile that spread across his face went well beyond the standings and statistics – “It’s been fun,” he beamed.

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Stanford suddenly a potential Solheim captain

By Randall MellSeptember 19, 2018, 3:06 pm

Angela Stanford’s first major championship brought more than a large trophy, a large paycheck and an extra-large jolt of confidence going forward.

It bolstered her hopes for a larger Solheim Cup future.

Stanford, 40, wondered if her Solheim Cup days were over when she failed to make the American team going to Iowa last year, but Sunday’s victory at the Evian Championship vaults her into the picture to make the team going to Scotland next year.

More than that, it bolsters her burning ambition to one day lead the U.S. Solheim Cup team as its captain.

“When you’ve played in some Solheim Cups and you miss one, it hurts,” Stanford told GolfChannel.com. “They’re very special.

“Hopefully, next year, I’m playing well enough to help the team win. I would like to play in another one, and, yes, I would like to be a captain someday.”

It was fitting Evian officials wrapped Stanford in the American flag during the trophy presentation Sunday in France. She loves team golf and playing for her country, but before winning there she wondered about more than her prospects for making another U.S. team.

She wondered about her qualifications to be captain.

“I always heard winning a major was one of the requirements,” said Stanford, a six-time LPGA winner “I don’t know if that’s true or not.”

While it’s not a requirement, LPGA officials acknowledge it’s a consideration.

There have been 11 different American captains in Solheim Cup history, and Rosie Jones is the only one who didn’t have a major on her resume, though she did have 13 LPGA titles.



So Stanford’s victory Sunday in France opens a door. She needed it because her Solheim Cup record isn’t the most stellar. She’s 4-13-3 in the matches, but the record almost doesn’t matter now with her major. Plus, Stanford created a Solheim Cup memory that trumps her playing record. She prevailed in one of the most monumental singles matches in Solheim Cup history. She took down Suzann Pettersen in the historic American comeback in Germany three years ago. That’s the year Pettersen, the undisputed European leader, was embroiled in controversy over American Alison Lee’s mistake scooping up a putt that wasn’t conceded. Pettersen was the heart and soul of the European team that appeared to be rolling toward a third consecutive team title that year.

Stanford beat Pettersen 2-and-1 during the epic American comeback.

“That really changed how I felt about how I performed on the Solheim stage,” Stanford said. “I was really hoping to make last year’s team, to ride that momentum. Hopefully, I will get another chance.”

Stanford has the memory of her role in that comeback to draw upon forever. She arrived on the first tee to play Pettersen with the same attitude she took to Evian on Sunday. Her record didn’t matter; she was going to fight to the end.

“I came out that morning in Germany with the attitude that, 'I’m sick of losing. I’m sick of being pushed around. I’m sick of coming up on the short end,'” Stanford said. “I showed up with the attitude, 'This isn’t going to happen to me again. I’m not going to be the reason we don’t pull this off.’

“I didn’t like what happened to Alison, and I really wanted to help the team.”

Juli Inkster will captain the American team for an unprecedented third time in Scotland next year. When Inkster’s reign ends, Stanford’s name will move up the short list of future candidates.

It’s a list that should include Dottie Pepper, Pat Hurst and Sherri Steinhauer, though Pepper’s history with today’s players and her heavy criticism of the Americans in the past makes her future selection highly doubtful, if she even wanted the job.

After that, the most relevant choices are Cristie Kerr and now Stanford. Like Stanford, Kerr is 40 and still very much focused on playing.

“I probably have one of the rougher Solheim Cup records in history, but personally I never looked at it like that,” Stanford said. “I look at our team record. I’ve been on three winning teams and three losing teams. I want to make it on another team and make that a winning record.”

Stanford’s confidence after winning Evian and her desire to win another Solheim Cup should make for potent fuel to drive her over the next year.

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Tiger: Back was an issue in 2012 Ryder loss at Medinah

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 2:39 pm

ATLANTA – On Tuesday at East Lake, Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round with Bryson DeChambeau, adding to the notion that the two could end up partnering at next week’s Ryder Cup.

Of course, he also played with Tony Finau. And - let’s face it - there are no shortage of potential teammates for Woods in the U.S. team room.

But DeChambeau does seem to have his interest.

“I've gotten to know Bryson very well, and what an amazing talent, and an unbelievable hard worker,” Woods said. “He has figured out a way to play this game his own way, and he's very efficient at what he does, and he's not afraid to think outside the box on how he can become better.”

After missing the last two matches because of injury, finding the right partner is a good problem to have.


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Being one of Jim Furyk’s four captain’s picks is particularly rewarding for Woods, who endured one of his toughest losses in the matches in his last start in 2012, when the U.S. team took a four-point lead into Sunday singles but lost, 14 1/2 to 13 1/2.

The ’12 matches were where Woods' back prompted him to request a late tee time Sunday, rendering his anchor match with Francesco Molinari ultimately irrelevant once Europe retained at least a share of the cup. Woods eventually conceded the 18th hole to Molinari, ending their match in a halve and allowing Europe to win outright. 

“I wasn't feeling physically well at that Ryder Cup, and it's where my back started bugging me,” Woods said. “That's the only wave I've ever missed was [that] Saturday afternoon wave, because I told [U.S. captain Davis Love III] I just really couldn't go. And I said, 'Can you put me out later on Sunday? Because I need the time to get my back organized here.'

“It was tough watching them celebrate in the 18th fairway when I thought we should have won that one."

Woods actually missed the morning foursomes session on Day 2 in at Medinah. It marked the first time in his Ryder Cup career he didn’t play all four team sessions. He finished with a 0-3-1 record for the week.

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Stenson fires back at Mickelson on gun range

By Will GraySeptember 19, 2018, 1:24 pm

The first shots of the Ryder Cup may be ringing off a target at a gun range near you.

After Phil Mickelson tweeted his long-range sniper shot, extolling the virtues of focus and measured breathing as he prepares to take on Le Golf National next week, one of Europe's top players picked up a weapon to return fire.

Henrik Stenson was added as a captain's pick earlier this month, and he'll make his fifth Ryder Cup appearance in France. But before heading across the Atlantic he had some fun on Twitter, grabbing a gun and tweeting a video back to Mickelson while taking aim at a target 50 yards away:

Ever the Twitter savant, Mickelson saw the message and came back with a reply of his own, noting that he couldn't hear Stenson's shot hit the target like Mickelson's did from much longer range in the original video:

This is your reminder that the first (golf) shots of the Ryder Cup will be struck in just nine days.