Europeans using EurAsia Cup for Ryder Cup prep

By Associated PressJanuary 13, 2016, 1:25 am

Europe captain Darren Clarke was keen to stress that the Ryder Cup in September wasn't in his thoughts heading into the second edition of the EurAsia Cup this week.

''There's no Ryder Cup stuff going on in the back of my mind,'' Clarke said on Tuesday.

It seems his players see it differently.

''One of the main reasons I wanted to play the EurAsia Cup so much was to get invaluable team experience in a Ryder Cup year,'' said Irish player Shane Lowry, making it clear where his priorities lay going into the match against Asia starting in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.

''A lot of the lads on our team next week are looking to qualify for the Ryder Cup this year and (this week) gives us a great chance to show Darren what we are capable of and hopefully impress him.''

Lowry is one of a number of Europe's new breed looking to take their opportunity this week in the absence of the continent's star names - Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, and Graeme McDowell.

Jamie Donaldson, Victor Dubuisson, and Stephen Gallacher all played in the first EurAsia Cup, which finished tied at 10-10 in 2014, and went on to make their Ryder Cup debuts later that year in Gleneagles.

For maybe half of the 2016 team, the same reward is there.

Three days of competition in the sweltering heat at Glenmarie Golf & Country Club - temperatures reached 102 degrees on Tuesday - will help Clarke discover if the likes of Andy Sullivan, Kristoffer Broberg, Danny Willett, Matt Fitzpatrick, and Bernd Wiesberger can be relied on when the stakes are raised at Hazeltine from Sept. 30-Oct. 2.

What helps Clarke and his European side is that Asia has put up an even stronger team this time round.

Anirban Lahiri and Byeong-Hun An, two rising stars in Asian golf, are on the team captained by Jeev Milkha Singh. Thongchai Jaidee is also there, backing up his appearance for Team International in last year's Presidents Cup against the United States in Incheon, South Korea.

That contest counted as Ryder Cup practice for the Americans, who will be looking to prevent an unprecedented fourth straight victory for Europe in Hazeltine. Now it's the Europeans' turn.

It is also a shop window for Asia's players.

''They know that they are playing on the big stage and the world stage, and from there, they can move on and follow their dream, whether it's the European Tour or the U.S. (PGA) tour,'' Singh said.

''Having an event like this, I think, it's a big boost for golf worldwide.''

There will be six fourball matches on Friday, six foursomes on Saturday, and then 12 singles on Sunday.

In 2014, Asia came from 7-3 down to salvage an unlikely tie, and Clarke is predicting another close match, which would be a good experience for the Europeans.

''Hopefully, it will be every bit as exciting,'' Clarke said. ''I don't know how our nerves will be at the end of the week.''

The Queen of Malaysia, Tuanku Hajah Haminah, is set to play in Thursday's pro-am. She will strike a ceremonial opening tee shot before joining the players on the course.


Lineups:

Asia: Byeong-Hun An, Anirban Lahiri, Thongchai Jaidee, Wu Ashun, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, SSP Chawrasia, Danny Chia, Nicholas Fung, KT Kim, Shingo Katayama, Prayad Marksaeng, Jeunghun Wang.

Europe: Shane Lowry, Andy Sullivan, Chris Wood, Kristoffer Broberg, Danny Willett, Soren Kjeldsen, Matt Fitzpatrick, Bernd Wiesberger, Victor Dubuisson, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Ross Fisher.

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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.