Reiter skipping classes, getting schooled at CareerBuilder
By JOHN NICHOLSON
LA QUINTA, Calif. (AP) Charlie Reiter is skipping classes at Palm Desert High to play in the CareerBuilder Challenge. He's still getting schooled, too, by the likes of Jon Rahm.
The 18-year-old Reiter, the first amateur to receive a sponsor exemption in tournament history, recently hooked up with Rahm at nearby Big Horn.
"It was definitely eye-opening," Reiter said. "We played like 12 holes together and I think he had, maybe, a one-putt almost every single hole. He made like six straight birdies. It just showed me how good you have to be in certain areas of your game to be on the tour and be a top-level golfer."
Rahm, at No. 3 in the world, is the top-ranked player in the event that starts Thursday. He chuckled recalling Reiter's power off the tee.
"He hits it far and, when I say far, I mean really far, like he can easily get it past me," Rahm said.
Rahm was second two weeks ago at Kapalua in his first start since winning the European Tour's season-ending event in Dubai in November. The 23-year-old Spaniard is the defending champion next week at Torrey Pines, and also won last year in Ireland.
"Really, really feeling good," Rahm said. "I feel like those five weeks off after Dubai not doing much was really good for my body. Trying to take things real easy, obviously, make sure I'm rested for the year."
Paired with Bubba Watson the first three days, Rahm will open at La Quinta Country Club, then move over to PGA West for rounds Friday on the Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course and Saturday on the Stadium Course. The final round will be played at the Pete Dye-designed Stadium layout.
"All three are outstanding courses and in amazing shape," Rahm said.
The former Arizona State player tied for 34th last year in his first appearance in the event.
"Everything was still kind of new to me. I did feel like a rookie, trying to learn as it went," Rahm said. "Right now, after a year and after what I've done I just feel a lot more comfortable. I feel like I have what I didn't have then, which is a developed routine of what to do each week."
Reiter also will open at La Quinta in his first start in a PGA Tour event. The University of Southern California recruit tied for 65th in the Australian Open in November in his first start in a pro tournament.
"I'm very excited," Reiter said. "I've been coming here watching this tournament since I can remember, me and my dad, and now getting the chance to play out here is definitely a dream come true."
Dave Stockton Jr. is working as Reiter's caddie this week.
"He's been my putting coach since I was 10," said Reiter, paired with former Stanford player Maverick McNealy.
Tournament ambassador Phil Mickelson is making his first start since late October. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer won the event in 2002 and 2004. He's winless since the 2013 British Open.
Recent champions Patrick Reed, Jason Dufner and Bill Haas also are in the field along with Patton Kizzire, the lone two-time winner this season after taking the Sony Open in Hawaii on Sunday in a playoff.
Reed won in 2014, shooting 63-63-63-71 to break the PGA Tour record for relation to par for the first 54 holes at 27 under and become the first player in tour history to open with three rounds of 63 or better. Haas won in 2010 and 2015, and Dufner took the 2016 title.
Hudson Swafford won last year for his first PGA Tour victory.
"It just kind of solidified to myself that I know I can win," Swafford said.
Adam Hadwin was second a year ago after shooting a third-round 59 at La Quinta. Two months later, the Canadian won the Valspar Championship in Florida for his first tour title.
"It's always nice to start the year making a bunch of birdies and getting the confidence going, especially before heading for Torrey," Hadwin said. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home, lots of Canadians."
DIVOTS: Mark Brooks is making his 803rd career start, believed to be most in PGA Tour history. The 56-year-old Brooks won the 1996 event. ... John Daly and Mike Weir also received sponsor exemption. The two major champions are paired together.
Updated January 17, 2018