Said Rahm: “I kept waiting for something good to happen on the back nine, but that chip-in was just a bonus.”
1. Patrick Reed, United States — Coming off a tie for sixth in the SBS Tournament of Champions two weeks ago despite fighting an illness, Reed returns to the California desert where he won what was then the Humana Challenge in 2014. He started with three straight scores of 63, setting a PGA Tour record of 27-under-par for 54 holes, to build a seven-stroke lead. Even though he didn’t have the same stuff in the last round, he closed with a 71 that was highlighted by a 15-foot birdie putt at the 15th hole and held off Ryan Palmer by two strokes. Reed, the highest-ranked player in the field this week at No. 9 in the world, is playing in the old Bob Hope Classic for the fourth time and a tie for 24th as defending champion two years ago is his second-best result.
2. Bill Haas, United States — It’s safe to say that this probably is Haas’ favorite regular-season event on the PGA Tour since two of his six victories on the circuit have come in the California desert. He won what was still the Bob Hope Classic, a 90-hole event, for his first title in 2010 by closing with a 64 that beat Tim Clark of South Africa, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar by one stroke. Two years ago, Haas shot 63 in the second round and eventually held off five players by one shot, saying he surprised himself since he was coming off a broken wrist that hampered him in 2014. He is playing in the event for the 13th time and also lost in a playoff to Jhonattan Vegas in his title defense in 2011, tied for sixth in 2014 and tied for ninth last year. Haas has finished in the top 20 in all four of his starts in the new season.
3. Jason Dufner, United States — The defending champion in the CareerBuilder Challenge, Duf claimed his fourth PGA Tour victory last year with a five-foot par putt on the second playoff hole to turn back David Lingmerth of Sweden. He claimed his first title since the 2013 PGA Championship thanks to a remarkable save from the rocks after nearly hitting into the water on the 17th hole while closing with a 70 (after he started 64-65-64), and then stayed alive with an 11-foot par putt on the first extra hole. Dufner is playing in the tournament for the eighth time and his best previous finish was a tie for 12th in 2012, when he shot 63 in the second round. He is playing for the third time this season, having finished 21st in the WGC-HSBC Champions, where he opened with 68-68 but played the weekend in 72-75, and he shot 65-73 to miss the cut last week at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
4. Phil Mickelson, United States — Lefty has been on the commitment list for quite some time, but he didn’t confirm until Wednesday that he will play in the tournament because he is coming off two hernia surgeries in recent months. He was going to be on the scene for one of his favorite tournaments one way or the other because he now is the CareerBuilder Challenge’s ambassador, a position formerly held by Arnold Palmer and former President Bill Clinton. Mickelson has played in the tournament 13 times previously and won it in 2002 in a playoff over David Berganio Jr., and in 2004 in a playoff over Jeff Sluman, for two of his 42 PGA Tour victories. He tied for third last year, tied for fifth in 2006 and tied for sixth in 2003. In his only start of the new season, Mickelson tied for eighth in the Safeway Open in October before the first of his surgeries.
5. Francesco Molinari, Italy — Making his first start of 2017 on either major tour, Molinari hopes to continue riding the hot streak he has been on since he captured the Italian Open by one stroke over Danny Willett of England in September for his sixth professional victory. He later tied for sixth in the WGC-HSBC Champions in China and tied for fourth in both the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and the DP World Tour Championship-Dubai. Molinari’s finish in the European Tour finale left him 19th in the Race to Dubai standings and he was the only player in the top 20 to compete in fewer than 10 events. He played eighth, while Rory McIlroy, who played 14, finished fifth. Molinari will tee it up for the third time in the CareerBuilder Challenge and he was in the hunt much of the way two years ago after opening with 64 on his way to a tie for 10th, but he managed only a tie for 62nd last year.
6. Zach Johnson United States — Following what was a down year for the two-time major champion, Johnson got 2017 off to a strong start last week when he tied for sixth at the Sony Open in Hawaii, highlighted by a 61 in round two. He posted only five top-10 finishes last season and really hasn’t played his best golf since he won the 2015 Open Championship at St. Andrews by beating Marc Leishman of Australia and Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa in a four-hole aggregate playoff. His only sustained run of success last year came when he posted four straight top-20 results, highlighted by a tie for eighth in the U.S. Open at Oakmont. Zach is making his seventh appearance in the CareerBuilder Challenge and he missed the cut the last two years after posting his best result in 2014, a tie for third. He closed with a 62 that year and wound up three strokes behind winner Patrick Reed.
7. Emilano Grillo, Argentina — The PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year in 2016 will tee it up for the first time this year and is making his debut in the CareerBuilder Challenge. He started the new season with a solid run late last year, as after tying for 26th in the Safeway Open, he tied for 17th in the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, finished solo 11th in the WGC-HSBC Champions and tied for 10th in the CIMB Classic at Mayakoba. In his first PGA Tour event as a full-fledged member, Grillo beat Kevin Na with a three-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole of the 2015-16 opener, the Frys.com Open. The Argentine got into the playoff by sinking a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole of regulation to close out a 69. He nearly became a two-time winner in his first season on the circuit, but Alex Cejka of Germany beat him and two others with a birdie on the first extra hole at the Puerto Rico Open.
8. Jon Rahm, Spain — The Spaniard earned his PGA Tour card in only five starts after coming out of Arizona State last year, most notably tying for second in the RBC Canadian Open and tying for third in the Quicken Loans National, where he impressed tournament host Tiger Woods. Rahm joined Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth and only five other players in history to earn their PGA cards on the course right out of college. He started his first full season on the circuit with ties for 15th in both the Safeway Open and the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open last fall. He showed he could play with the big boys when he tied for fifth in the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open and tied for 10th in the 2016 OHL Classic at Mayakoba, before tying for 23rd in the U.S. Open last June to finish as low amateur.
9. Charles Howell III, United States — Even though Howell hasn’t won since his second PGA Tour victory in the 2007 Nissan Open, he continues to put up good results and started the new season with four finishes in the top 25, including a tie for seventh in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba and a tie for eighth last week at the Sony Open in Hawaii. He is making his 12th appearance in what is now the CareerBuilder Challenge and came close to breaking through for another victory in 2013. Howell closed with a 64 to land in a playoff with David Lingmerth of Sweden and Brian Gay, who won with a five-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole. Howell’s only other top-10 finish in what was then the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic was a tie for sixth in 2002, the first year he played in the California desert.
10. Jamie Lovemark, United States — The 2007 NCAA champion from USC might finally be on the verge of the stardom that was predicted for him when he turned pro and was the 2010 Nationwide Tour (now Web.com Tour) Player of the Year before a back injury derailed him. He started the year with a tie for fourth last week at the Sony Open in Hawaii after tying for sixth in his previous start at the RSM Classic in November. Lovemark, who won twice on the Nationwide Tour, still has not claimed a victory on the PGA Tour, but twice has lost in playoffs, including last year to Brian Stuard on the second extra hole at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. He is making his sixth start in what is now the CareerBuilder Challenge and his best previous result was a tie for 48th in 2009 before he made a run for the title last year. Lovemark opened with three 65s, but a 73 in the final round left him in a tie for sixth
MINNEAPOLIS – (Staff and Wire Service Report) – When it comes to the 2018 Ryder Cup, the Europeans will always have Paris but they’ll need an extra half-point to capture the coveted Ryder Cup come next time around. Europe’s run of Ryder Cup victories was brought to an end as the USA won the trophy for the first time in eight years on a glorious Autumn afternoon at Hazeltine in suburban Minneapolis.
The European side came into the three-day contest looking for a fourth consecutive win but were in a deep hole after a 4-0 American onslaught in the opening session Friday morning. Europe faired better on Friday afternoon, but entered the final day trailing 9½-6½.
Open champion Henrik Stenson and rookies Thomas Pieters and Rafa Cabrera Bello put early points on the board in hope of a comeback but wins for Americans Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka and Brandt Snedeker plus a half for Phil Mickelson had the hosts on the brink of victory.
The win was sealed when Ryan Moore defeated Lee Westwood one up on the last, the pick handing redemption to United States captain Davis Love III following the Miracle at Medinah in 2012 when Europe had fought back from 10-6 behind to win on the final day.
Zach Johnson and Dustin Johnson then cruised to additional wins for the USA, then Germany’s Martin Kaymer defeated USA Olympic medalist Matt Kuchar to etch the final score as 17-11.
Brilliant up-and-downs from Reed on the 12th and 16th solidified the American determination to take the cup. Reed led the USA with 3 1/2 points through the weekend.
Lee Westwood missed a relatively easy three-foot putt on the 18th hole as the late afternoon sun set on Hazeltine on the outskirts of the Twin Cities. The miscue was a costly error that provided the USA’s Ryder Cup team an extra half point while burying the Europeans deeper into their deficit that can only be corrected with a gallant effort when the final round of singles is played on Sunday.
Americans Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reid finished off the last match of the day on 17, giving the USA a 9 1/2-6 1/2 lead going into the final day of matches. The shocking miss culminated a day when the U.S. team won three of the afternoon four ball matches, highlighted by the one half-point lost because of Westwood’s missed putt that cost he and Danny Willett in their match against J.B. Holmes and Ryan Moore.
Reed, together with Spieth, and veteran Phil Mickelson, paired with his friend Matt Kuchar, led the American side with consistent putting and clutch play all day Saturday.
Europe has won the last three Ryder Cups, including a 2012 win in Chicago when the U.S. led 10-6 going into the singles play. To make another comeback, Europe will need to win 7 1/2 points from the 12 singles matches on Sunday to retain the cup. From the USA perspective, with the three-point lead from the first two days and four rounds of match play golf, they’ll need to win five of the 12 singles matches.
The United States of America’s Ryder Cup team started off the tournament with a perfect 4-0 record as all four two-player teams defeated their European counterparts in the foursomes competitions, sweeping the session for the first time since 1981. The Europeans rebounded nicely in the afternoon, taking three of the four matches to fight back to a 5-3 deficit at the end of the first day of competition.
Americans Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed started the day and defeated Europeans Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose, 3 and 2, meaning they were up by three holes with only two holes remaining. Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler took the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to defeat Andy Sullivan and Rory McIlroy in a come-from-behind effort, winning by one.
The USA’s Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson defeated Europe’s Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer, winning the 12th through 16th holes in amazing fashion, winning 4 & 2.
The last match of the morning was the most one-sided in the American’s favour, as Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar easily defeated Europe’s veteran Lee Westwood and rookie Thomas Pieters, winning in a decisive five and four.
In the afternoon matches, the Europeans struck back at the USA taking three of the four Four Ball matches to bring the first day scoring to 5-3 after the lopsided 0-4 morning.
Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose combined with Henrik Stenson to defeat Americans Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth, 5 & 4. Meanwhile, Spaniards Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera-Bello stepped up to defeat the USA’s Ryan Moore and J.B. Holmes by a 3 & 2 score.
The United States managed to win one of the afternoon matches when the combination of Brooks Koepka and Brandt Snedeker handily defeated Martin Kaymer and Danny Willett, 5 & 4. In the final match of the day, Europe’s Rory McIlroy, the winner of the recent FedEx Cup playoffs and its $10 million prize worked with rookie Thomas Pieters to defeat the strong American side of Dustin Johnson and Kuchar, the duo who seemed invincible in the morning. The final group score was Europe up, 3 &2.
The team score after Day 1 of the Ryder Cup read USA 5, Europe 3.
The teams will tee-it-up again on Saturday morning in suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota where the USA is enjoying a considerable home advantage.