Donald takes 1-shot lead as Day plummets

By Associated PressApril 16, 2016, 10:52 pm

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. - For Luke Donald, it's another chance to end his hard-luck history at Harbour Town Golf Links. For Jason Day, it's a rare round to forget for the world's No. 1 player.

While Donald took the lead Saturday at the RBC Heritage with a 2-under 69, Day - tied atop the leaderboard entering the round - had a season-worst 79 to fall nine shots behind.

''It's obviously not the way I wanted to play,'' said Day, the winner of two of his past three PGA Tour events.

It was exactly what Donald wanted at one of his most successful courses. He has mastered the swirling wind, tight fairways and really small greens better than just about anyone since 2009 with five top-three finishes over that span. The only thing he hasn't accomplished? Victory.

He has learned from those close calls that he can't sit back Sunday and allow others - like winners Brandt Snedeker did in 2011 or Matt Kuchar did in 2014 - to zoom past him as he pars his way home.

''I can't sit back on my heels,'' the Englishman said.

Donald was at 7-under 206 through 54 holes, a stroke in front of Jason Kokrak and Charley Hoffman. Kokrak shot 68 while Hoffman had a 71. Patton Kizzire shot a 71 and was another shot behind in fourth. British Open champion Zach Johnson, after a 70, was among three at 4 under.


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Donald was a stroke behind when the round started and quickly moved up with three birdies on his first eight holes to reach 8 under. He bogeyed the 13th and trailed Hoffman by a shot. But Donald steadied his game with five straight pars over the windy back nine to get himself on top once more.

Donald has won more than $2.5 million at the RBC Heritage, the third-highest total. But he's known as much for his disheartening defeats on Pete Dye's tricky layout. Snedeker rallied from six shots behind Donald to force a playoff and win in 2011.

Three years later, Kuchar's chip in from a bunker in front of the 72nd hole capped a four-shot comeback and left Donald, whose last of five PGA Tour wins came in 2012, in second once more.

''I think it's a bit dangerous to say a place owes you,'' Donald said. ''Certainly, I've knocked on the door many times. I'd love to put that tartan jacket on tomorrow.''

One who figured to join the battle was Day, but his round went bad right from the start.

Tied for the top and playing in the final group, Day came up short of the first green and made bogey. Two holes later he drove into water after hitting some trees way right of the third fairway for a double-bogey 6. The wheels came off for good during an awful stretch around the turn - Day made five bogeys in a six-hole span.

His 79 was his highest round of the year and his worst showing in 63 rounds since an 81 last year in the second round of The Players Championship.

''I felt like there was a good score out there today if you hit it in the right spots,'' Day said. ''And unfortunately, I just kept missing it in the wrong spots.''

Day attempted to take his poor play in stride, signing autographs for fans behind the 18th green. After winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The WCG-Dell Match Play, finishing 10th at the Masters, Day said several times this week he was ready for a break - which the PGA Championship winner will get next week.

Hoffman also has a score to settle with Harbour Town. He was the 54-hole leader here in 2013, yet ballooned to a 77 in the final round. He looked like he would hold the lead after moving to 8 under, one up on Donald, with a birdie on the 16th hole. Yes, he missed a 6-footer for par on No. 17 and a 17-foot putt from the back fringe on No. 18.

''Hopefully, I can reach down deep,'' Hoffman said. ''I know I've done it before.''

Divots: Jason Bohn continued his up-and-down play in his first tournament back since a heart attack in February. Bohn ballooned to a 4-over 75 on Saturday, a round that including back-to-back double bogeys. ... Boeing, the presenting sponsor, showed off another of its 787 Dreamliners to the RBC Heritage crowd. The sleek aircraft glided along the 18th hole over Calibogue Sound before leaving. It's the fourth time the company, the presenting sponsor of the tournament, has showcased its aircraft with a flyover. ... Past RBC Heritage champion Carl Pettersson was among seven players who missed the cut after the third round. ... New pro Bryson DeChambeau briefly got himself into the mix with three birdies on his first four holes. He made four bogeys after that and stands five shots back of Donald.

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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.