Dufner leads CareerBuilder Challenge by 2

By Associated PressJanuary 24, 2016, 12:40 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. - Jason Dufner birdied seven of his final nine holes Saturday at La Quinta Country Club to take a two-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Dufner finished with an 8-under 64 to reach 23-under 193 with one round left at PGA West's TPC Stadium Course. He opened with a 64 on Thursday on the Nicklaus Tournament Course for a share of the lead and had a 65 on Friday on the Stadium Course to take a one-stroke advantage.

"I made the turn at 1 under, and told the guys we were going to have a good back nine," Dufner said. "I told my caddie and my amateur partners, 'I'm about to do something good.' So, when you start thinking like that, good things happen. So, that's just kind of where my mindset is right now."

Jamie Lovemark was second after a 65 on the Stadium Course.

"Any time you go out there and shoot 7 under, it's a good day, no matter what," Lovemark said. "I was pleased with the way I played the entire round. I'm in good position to compete for a win tomorrow."

Adam Hadwin had a 64 on the Nicklaus Course to get to 20 under. The Canadian missed a chance to get closer, bogeying the par-5 15th after hitting into the water and closing with three pars.


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


"It's just going to be a question of handling the nerves and making sure those putts kind of keep hitting the lines tomorrow," Hadwin said.

Phil Mickelson was tied for fifth at 17 under in his first start since the Presidents Cup in October and first since splitting with swing coach Butch Harmon to work with Andrew Getson. Lefty had a bogey-free 66 at the Stadium Course, holing a flop shot for birdie on the 10th hole.

"It's been a good three days," Mickelson said. "It's been a good start."

Dufner started the birdie spree on the first hole, hitting a lob wedge to 10 feet. He made a 20-footer on No. 3, hit a 9-iron out of a bunker to 3 feet on 4, two-putted the par-5 fifth and sixth, and made it five in a row with a 12-footer on 7. He rolled in another 12-footer on 9 for his 10th birdie of the day.

"I don't worry about zones and talking about stuff like that," Dufner said. "I'm just trying to hit each shot as good as I can and not let results and outcome dictate how I feel or how I think out there. ... I'm just playing golf like I should."

The 2013 PGA Championship winner earned his PGA Tour card at PGA West in 2008. He's comfortable on the Stadium Course, the Pete Dye-designed layout that is being used in the tournament for the first time since being dropped after its debut in 1987.

"Conditions are perfect for scoring," Dufner said. "I'm not too worried about what other people are saying about golf courses. I feel like I can play pretty good. You got a lot of scoring clubs in your hand on that course."

The Stadium Course had a three-day average of 70.908. The Nicklaus Course finished at 68.930, and La Quinta at 69.149. The cut was at 9 under, with 70 players returning to the Stadium Course on Sunday.

"I don't feel as though this is a similar final-round course like we've had in the past," Mickelson said. "You could get away with some wayward shots and still shoot in the 60s. But if you come out here and play a little sloppy, you're going to shoot in the mid to high 70s. It's a very penalizing course for anything less than perfectly struck shots."

David Lingmerth was five strokes back at 18 under after a 62 on the Nicklaus Course. The Swede had six straight birdies from No. 14 to No. 1, eagled the par-5 fifth, birdied the seventh and closed with two pars.

"I was hoping to catch up and get a little bit closer than I am right now," Lingmerth said.

Kevin Na matched Lingmerth with a 62 on Nicklaus Course, playing his last seven holes in 8 under with an eagle and seven birdies to get to 17 under. "Every shot was at the flag," Na said.

DIVOTS: Dufner tied for ninth in his last two PGA Tour starts, at the RSM Classic in November and the Sony Open last week in Hawaii. In between, he teamed with Brandt Snedeker to win the Franklin Templeton Shootout. ... Defending champion Bill Haas was 15 under after a 69 on the Stadium Course.

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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.'"


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


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."

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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.