Cochran fires 62 for Mitsubishi lead

By Associated PressJanuary 22, 2011, 8:12 am

Champions TourKAUPULEHU-KONA, Hawaii – Russ Cochran holed two eagles and six birdies in a career-best 10-under 62 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the Champions Tour’s season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship.

The 52-year-old left-hander, a two-time winner last season after going more than 400 starts without a victory, was near-perfect in his bogey-free round on a defenseless day at Hualalai to hold a two-stroke lead over defending champion Tom Watson and Ben Crenshaw.

With son Ryan on the bag, Cochran missed just one green in regulation. After making the turn in 32, Cochran had two eagles and two birdies in the next six holes to shoot atop the leaderboard.

Cochran said what helped him was taking time away from golf a few years ago to “re-evaluate … get life in better order,” and “get focused on the right things.”

“I said when I get (back) out there, I’m going to do this a bit different,” he said. “I’m certainly enjoying the moment more.”

Bernhard Langer, the three-time defending player of the year and the 2009 champion, opened with a 65 to match Jeff Sluman and Mark McNulty. Tom Lehman, Mark O’Meara and John Cook shot 66s.

Cochran went 19 years, 2 months, 5 days between wins.

He finally hoisted a trophy last September in South Korea, and went on to win the next event in North Carolina. And he’s not willing to wait around to add to his collection.

His victories at the Posco E&C Songdo Championship and SAS Championship in consecutive starts in September were among his 11 top-10 finishes. He ended up fourth on the money list with nearly $1.8 million.

The Kentucky native’s lone PGA Tour victory was at the 1991 Western Open.

“There’s a certain part of you that says, ‘I felt like I didn’t win enough and didn’t play well enough in my career on tour,”’ Cochran said. “And if I get that opportunity again, I’m certainly going to dig in and play as hard as I can.

“That’s all it is. There’s no big secrets or anything.”

Cochran’s 6-foot birdie putt on No. 15 gave him a two-stroke lead over the Hall of Fame duo Watson and Crenshaw. Cochran had birdie putts on the last three holes, but couldn’t add to his lead.

He’ll need to keep scoring with players like Watson, Crenshaw and Langer in the hunt.

Langer, the three-time defending player of the year and the 2009 champion, opened with a 65 to match Jeff Sluman and Mark McNulty.

McNulty is playing in his first official event since having right knee replacement surgery in May.

Tom Lehman, Mark O’Meara and John Cook shot 66s.

Last year, Watson birdied the final two holes last year to beat senior newcomer Fred Couples.

“I made some long putts in the pro-am and I was hoping it would continue (Friday), and it did. If that continues for the rest of the week, I might be there at the end again,” the 61-year-old Watson said.

Crenshaw, meanwhile, is still chasing his first trophy on the Champions Tour where he playing in his 167th event. The two-time Masters winner, who turned 59 this month, matched his career low on the 50-and-over circuit with his 64 and chipped in for eagle on No. 4 from 55 feet.

“He’s due to win,” Watson said. “Overdue to win.”

Just not this weekend, right?

“In Florida,” Watson replied, referring to the next official event, the Allianz Championship.

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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.