Couples leads Perry by 2 at Senior Players

By Associated PressJune 29, 2013, 11:47 pm

PITTSBURGH – Fred Couples watched Kenny Perry relentlessly sprint up the leaderboard on Saturday in the Constellation Senior Players Championship and figured it was time for his putter to start cooperating.

Three birdies over the final five holes restored some order as Couples took a step closer to his first victory of the season.

The Hall of Famer finished with a 3-under 67 and was at 15-under 195 at rain-soaked and toothless Fox Chapel Golf Club, two strokes clear of the hard-charging Perry. Couples already has three runner-up finishes this season. He has no plans to make it four.

''If I go out and play well, I have a great shot at winning,'' Couples said. ''I'm certainly not going to be thinking about second place.''

It appeared that's all the rest of the field was playing for after Couples ripped off seven birdies in 11 holes of the second round on Friday before a mid-afternoon downpour halted play for the day.

The deluge cooled off Couples a bit. He two-putted from 60 feet on the par-3 third when he returned to the course on Saturday morning, then made five straight pars before finishing off his round with a birdie on the par-4 ninth for an 8-under 62.

Tying the record for the lowest score ever in a major on the Champions Tour should have provided Couples with some breathing room. Instead, Perry made it close.

Perry began the day as a speck in Couples' rearview mirror before the Kentucky player made three birdies and an eagle over the final six holes of the second round for a 7-under 63. He backed it up six hours later with another flawless 63, using his length off the tee and a new putter to chase down the front-running Couples.

After a lethargic 71 in the first round left him frustrated, Perry switched putters to one with more loft hoping it would help keep the ball online on the soggy and cleat-marked greens.

The decision paid off handsomely as Perry set a tournament record for the lowest score in consecutive rounds. The combined 14-under 126 Perry posted in the second and third rounds is two better than the 128 Jack Nicklaus shot in 1990 when the tournament was held in Dearborn, Mich.

Perry joked that he was inspired by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He watched from the second row on Friday night as Pittsburgh crushed the Milwaukee Brewers 10-3 to move to 49-30 on the season, the best record in baseball.

''It was pretty awesome,'' Perry said.

So were most of the scores at the rolling course about 10 miles up the Allegheny River from PNC Park. The rain during the week forced officials to allow players to lift, clean and place their balls in the fairways. The quick, treacherous test the players endured during their last visit to Fox Chapel a year ago instead looked like a pitch and putt for longer players like Perry and Couples.

''We played ball in hand for three days,'' Perry said. ''You know, you just see the scores go way down when you let the guys get ball in hand.''

Duffy Waldorf birdied his final two holes for a 66 to remain in striking distance at 11 under. First-round leader John Huston briefly tied Couples for the lead but faltered on the back nine, bogeying the last two holes to shoot 68 and finish five shots back of Couples. Mike Goodes had a 65 to match Huston at 10 under.

Perry didn't falter, briefly creating a three-way logjam with Couples and Huston when Perry birdied the 12th and Couples three-putted the 10th for bogey.

The missed opportunity seemed to wake Couples up.

Frustrated he wasn't taking advantage of the soft conditions that led to Perry's assault on the par-70 layout, Couples birdied Nos. 14 and 15, then capped his round with a splendid pitch from in front of the left bunker on the par-5 18th, allowing him to roll in a birdie.

Not bad for a guy who insists he was ''outplayed'' by Huston for most of the day before the final five holes.

Now Couples heads into Sunday searching for his third major title since joining the Champions Tour in 2010. He won the Senior Players in 2011 at Westchester Country Club in New York and the Senior British Open last year. He was in position to capture the Regions Tradition earlier this month but fell one shot short in a showdown with points leader David Frost.

This time, it appears the duel will be with Perry, who is pain free after dealing with knee problems earlier in the season.

Perry, who has undergone surgery on both knees during his career and takes medicine to deal with arthritis in the joints, called his recovery over the last two weeks ''a miracle.'' He took a cortisone shot in his left knee recently and has had fluid drained out of the joint, freeing him up to walk the course with relative ease.

''If you had a needle this long stuck in your knee with a big syringe sucking all that junk out of you, that's not very pleasant,'' Perry said. ''But once they do it, immediately it gives you relief. The pressure's off, and you can actually bend your knee, you can actually walk.''

Perry will walk alongside Couples on Sunday as Perry looks for the first major title of his 31-year professional career.

''You're going to see still a lot of good scores tomorrow,'' Perry said. ''So the guys that are near the lead, at the lead are going to have to play a good round of golf. Somebody's going to have to shoot a good round tomorrow.''

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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.