Gallacher captures Dubai Desert Classic

By Associated PressFebruary 3, 2013, 2:51 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Stephen Gallacher holed an eagle on No. 16 and won the Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday, overcoming early jitters to beat playing partner Richard Sterne by three shots.

Gallacher (71) finished with a 22-under total of 266 to take his second European Tour win and the first since 2004. The 111th-ranked Scotsman had a three-shot lead over Sterne at the start of the final round but three-putted to bogey the first, and then hit his drive far right and missed a six-footer to drop a shot on the next hole. Sterne chipped to two feet on the second for a birdie and a share of the lead.

The two traded places several times after that as each struggled in windy conditions. Sterne took the lead on the eighth hole when Gallacher missed an 8-foot par putt and found more trouble on No. 9 when his tee shot landed on sandy rough behind a tree. But Gallacher hit a blind approach 185 yards – perhaps the shot of the tournament – that cleared the trees and landed to within two feet for an easy birdie to draw level with the South African.

''I had a window of four foot and I had to cut it, hit it under the first tree and over the next tree,'' Gallacher said. ''When I came out, I saw it was two foot and I couldn't believe it. That sort of kept me going and was a catalyst to dig in on the back nine.''

Sterne sank a six-foot birdie on the 10th to go back into the lead but then fell apart with four bogeys in his final eight holes. Gallacher took the lead on No. 12 after Sterne's second consecutive bogey and clinched the win with his fifth eagle of the week. He holed a sand wedge from 115 yards that landed a foot from the hole and rolled in to give him a four-shot lead when Sterne had his third bogey.

''I've holed four shots this week but then again you have to do that these days to win,'' Gallacher said. ''The scoring is so low and the players are so good that you need that little bit of magic.''

With the win, Gallacher moved into the top 60 of the world rankings and in a strong position to qualify for the World Golf Championships for the first time. He will also get a chance to play The Masters, the one major he has never played. The 38-year-old Gallacher said he was helped by right knee surgery at the end of last year and inspired by fellow Scotsman and former British Open champion Paul Lawrie who won twice in 2012 at age 43.

''I'm actually on target because my goal was to try to get in the Top 50 when the Ryder Cup points start, because I don't think you've got a chance of getting in the Ryder Cup team if you're not in the Top 50,'' Gallacher said.

Sterne led the first two rounds and appeared poised to overtake Gallacher for his first win since 2009 but the 165th-ranked South African's short game let him down when it mattered.

''Second place is obviously pretty good, but when you're leading a tournament or tied for the lead, one shot here or there, I'm disappointed,'' Sterne said. ''Everything swung around on 16. I was one shot behind and then 17, I'm four shots behind.''

Felipe Aguilar of Chile (69) and Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark (71) finished five shots back in a tie for third. Eighth-ranked Lee Westwood (68) and Marcus Fraser (67) of Australia were a further shot back in fifth.

With Gallacher and Sterne dropping shots early on, several players attempted to make a run – none more so than Westwood.

Nine shots out at the start of play, the Englishman had three birdies on the front nine including a chip-in on the 7th. He had two more to start the back nine but then hit a poor chip on the 12th for bogey. Westwood started rolling again with two more birdies on Nos. 13 and 14 and narrowly missed a third on the 16th when his approach rolled to within two feet but he missed the putt.

Westwood birdied the 17th to draw within three shots of Gallacher but bogeyed the last after his second shot hit the green and rolled back in the water.

''I thought I needed eagle at least. On 15, I hit the wrong club and was short on 16. 18, I felt like I had to go for it,'' Westwood said after finishing fifth in his first tournament of the year and the first since moving to the United States in December.

Englishman Steve Webster (70) finished tied for seventh. He had four birdies on his first six holes to move within three shots of the leaders but then chipped over the green and into the water on No. 7 for a triple-bogey to end his chances. Fellow Englishman Tommy Fleetwood (72) double-bogeyed the ninth hole when he went into the water. He never recovered and finished tied for 10th.

Fourteenth-ranked Sergio Garcia, hampered by a left shoulder injury all week, finished in a tie for 17th after shooting 71.

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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.