ATT Championship prepares farewell to Oak Hills

By Associated PressOctober 28, 2010, 11:41 pm

Champions Tour

SAN ANTONIO – Bruce Lietzke understands the uncertainty that most players feel when a tournament moves to a new course, especially ones put together by Pete Dye.

The Champions Tour will move its AT&T Championship to the famed architect’s new TPC course next year in San Antonio, which means Lietzke and a field that includes Charles Schwab Cup leader Bernhard Langer will get one last shot at victory at Oak Hills Country Club this week.

“This became one of my favorite golf courses,” Lietzke said. “Just a golf atmosphere here. No condos left and right. There was always a hole in my resume because I didn’t win here.”

Defending champion Phil Blackmar and Kenny Perry, who tied for 35th in his Champions Tour debut a week ago, also are scheduled to play at Oak Hills. Seven of the Schwab Cup’s top 10 have entered the final stop before the season finale next week at Harding Park in San Francisco.

Also in the mix is U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin, who led through the first two rounds last week at the Administaff Small Business Classic before finishing fifth.

Oak Hills is being retired as a tour venue after nine years of Champions Tour events. There were another 23 years when Oak Hills was the site of the PGA Tour’s Texas Open, and even another year when the event that became known as the Tour Championship was conducted there.

Oak Hills has long been a favorite among Champions Tour players who also played here during the PGA Tour’s Texas Open until 1994, which is now played at the Greg Norman design at TPC.

Oak Hills is a 6,735-yard layout designed by A.W. Tillinghast, made cozy among century-old trees. Former winners are particularly fond of it, and Texas Open champions Lee Trevino, Ben Crenshaw, Hale Irwin, Corey Pavin, Mark O’Meara, Nick Price, Jay Haas and Blaine McCallister are entered for this week.

Trevino has been a vocal critic of the move away from Oak Hills.

“I ain’t playing no TPC,” Trevino said when the move was announced.

Lietzke assisted Dye on the design work at the TPC course. Lietzke said he gained a great amount of respect for Dye, who also laid out the bunker-ridden Whistling Straits that bedeviled Dustin Johnson this year at the PGA Championship.

But Lietzke formerly was in that group of players who had a hard time figuring out Dye. He once said that a rocky outcropping that Dye designed beyond a green could be mistaken for the San Diego Zoo – if only a polar bear were added.

“I’m happy to say I never got fined in all my years on the PGA Tour, and that was the closest I ever came to being fined,” Lietzke said. “I got in trouble.”

When Lietzke was a young player on the PGA Tour in the late ’70s, he became one of the first to take a shot at Dye’s controversial work when Preston Trail was the site of the Byron Nelson Classic. Lietzke, who had taken the first-round lead, said he was only repeating the line about the polar bear after he heard it from fellow player John Schroeder.

“I threw that line out there,” Lietzke said, “and you don’t get booed on the PGA Tour, but I could hear some boos and hisses. Then I went on to win the tournament. I probably wasn’t the most popular champion.”

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.