Huston leads by 1 after Day 1 at Senior Players

By Associated PressJune 28, 2013, 12:23 am

PITTSBURGH – John Huston spent most of the last three months wondering when his balky back would finally let him swing a golf club without making him want to double over in pain.

Turns out, all he really needed was a handful of new stretching exercises and a scorching hot putter.

Rejuvenated after working with a back specialist whose client list includes Fred Couples, Huston fired a 5-under 65 on Thursday to take the first-round lead in the Constellation Senior Players Championship at Fox Chapel Golf Club.

''Usually in the past if I had back problems, three or four days I'm back ready to go,'' Huston said. ''This one's been a little bit more difficult.''

Huston returned last week to slog to a tie for 32nd in Illinois in the Encompass Championship. He needed a handful of days to recover and admitted he was happy storms shaved the Wednesday pro-am to a nine-hole event.

A good night's sleep and a tee time pushed back a handful of hours due to a steady downpour early on Thursday morning proved to be just what he needed.

Huston started on No. 10 and was even par halfway through his round before making a big move on the front nine. He shot 5-under 30 coming in, including four birdies and an eagle on the short par-4 seventh.

''I really didn't make anything, and then all of a sudden, the last 10 holes I made a bunch of putts,'' Huston said. ''I think that kind of turned the round around.''

And Huston is better than most at hitting the gas pedal when things are going his way.

The seven-time PGA Tour winner set a Tour record at the time when he captured the Hawaiian Open in 1998 at 28 under. He wasn't quite as hot on Thursday, but with the soft greens begging players to be aggressive, he didn't hesitate to aim for the back of the cup.

''I feel like whenever you do have the momentum, I think you've got to take advantage of it because it can turn around and go the other way just as fast,'' Huston said. ''The more birdies you get on Thursday and Friday, the bigger cushion you have on the last couple of days.''

Couples, Duffy Waldorf, Fred Funk and Russ Cochran were a stroke back in the third major on the Champions Tour schedule. Tom Pernice Jr. had three straight birdies to start his round and led a group of five players at 67.

The start of play was delayed nearly five hours because of heavy rain. When the sky cleared, portions of the 6,696-yard course remained under water. Officials sent players off both the first and 10th tees, invoked the lift, clean and place rule and moved the tees up on a handful of holes to speed things along.

Even the little nudge forward didn't always help. Tee shots plugged into fairways and approach shots went nowhere, helping bunching the field. Over half of the 81-player field finished at even or better, creating little separation.

Still, Huston found some breathing room. He got his round going with a tap-in birdie on the par-5 18th, kickstarting a stretch where he made five birdies in a span of seven holes, including a 40-footer on No. 6. He capped the run by driving the green at the 295-yard par-4 seventh and sinking the 25-footer for eagle to vault him into the lead.

Even better, when he walked off the ninth hole at the end of an eventful day, he did it with little pain.

''I didn't get tired, my back didn't get tired at the end,'' he said. ''Hopefully it's moving in the right direction.''

Couples, searching for his first victory of the season, put together three birdies on the back nine, including one on the 18th that pulled him within a shot of the lead. The Hall of Famer finished fourth on the course a year ago, faltering on the weekend to finish four shots behind winner Joe Daley.

He was joined by Waldorf, who is making a habit of getting in position early. He has led after the first round in three of his previous four events and is finally getting comfortable in his first full season on the tour for players 50-and-over.

''I've been putting better, getting those birdies in early, and that takes a lot of pressure off,'' Waldorf said. ''I'm getting off to a good start, and that's made the difference.''

Points leader David Frost, who edged Couples by a shot at the Regions Tradition three weeks ago in Alabama to capture the first major of his 32-year career, bounced around all day before joining a large group at 68.

Newly minted Hall of Famer Colin Montgomerie began his Champions Tour career with a steady 1-under 69. The 31-time winner on the European Tour started a little shaky, flying his approach shot on the 10th hole over the green. He scrambled for par and missed just one more green the rest of the day.

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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.