Donald fires 63 to grab lead at Nedbank Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 5, 2014, 3:53 pm

SUN CITY, South Africa – A charging baboon nearly ran into Luke Donald on Friday at the Nedbank Golf Challenge.

The Englishman managed to get himself out of the way, however, and also managed to shoot a 9-under 63 to take a two-stroke lead after the second round of the European Tour's season-opening tournament.

With seven birdies on the first 10 holes, the former top-ranked player was one shot off Lee Westwood's course record at the Gary Player Country Club, giving himself a chance of a memorable end to a pretty average and so far winless 2014.

The only time Donald panicked on the course nestled in the wilderness of northern South Africa was when a large baboon came running toward him as he made his way to his ball. Donald was warned by playing partner Shane Lowry, quickly dodged out of the way and the baboon kept going.

''He didn't really pay any attention to me in the end but gave me a bit of a fright when Shane said, 'Watch out!' They are big and strong and you wouldn't want to mess with them, that's for sure,'' Donald said. ''So I got well out of the way. (I) jumped pretty high.''



Donald's round was four strokes better than anyone else and put him at 10-under 134 overall. He leads Ross Fisher (70) by two strokes, with Alexander Levy (70) a further two shots back at 6 under.

''I felt very in control,'' said Donald, who last won in November 2013 and last claimed a title on the European Tour more than two years ago. ''It's been a while since I felt like that.''

Donald found some of the form with his putter that has been missing since he became the first player to top the end-of-season money lists in both the United States and Europe in 2011. He made nine birdies and no bogeys.

South Africa's top tournament stopped midway through the round for a moment's silence on the anniversary of the death of Nelson Mandela, the country's former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Players removed their caps and bowed their heads after a horn sounded across the course for the tribute.

Brendon Todd was another big mover with a 4-under 68 to tie for sixth. Tommy Fleetwood moved into a tie for sixth with his 67, the best round after Donald.

Behind Fisher and Levy, Danny Willett is fourth at 5 under and Marcel Siem is 4 under. Fleetwood, Todd, Thongchai Jaidee, Charl Schwartzel and Tim Clark are part of the tie for sixth.

Westwood, a two-time Nedbank Challenge champion, improved on his opening 72 with a 2-under 70, while U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer, off a busy 2014 schedule, slipped down to a tie for 24th in the 30-man field with a 3-over 75.

There is no cut at the invitational tournament, which has a $1.25 million winner's check and is the first event on the 2015 European Order of Merit schedule.

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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.