Jutanugarn wins third straight LPGA title

By Associated PressMay 29, 2016, 10:59 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ariya Jutanugarn's strength and skill helped her become the first player to win three straight LPGA Tour events in three years.

The 20-year-old Jutanugarn closed with a 5-under 67 for a five-stroke victory Sunday in the Volvik Championship. She's the first player since Inbee Park in 2013 to win three consecutive tournaments and the first ever to make her first three career victories consecutive.

''Ariya is very difficult to describe, there really hasn't been a player like her in my generation,'' said 32-year-old Christina Kim, who finished second after a 71. ''The way she powers the ball, it's remarkable. And she has such imagination around the golf course and incredible touch.''

Jutanugarn finished at 15-under 273 at Travis Pointe after starting the day with a one-shot edge thanks to a closing eagle in the third-round.

She became the first Thai winner in tour history three weeks ago in Alabama and followed that up last week with a victory in Virginia. Jutanugarn isn't playing the next event in New Jersey, where she would have had a shot to become the first since Lorena Ochoa in 2008 to win four scheduled tournaments in a row.

''I just need rest right now,'' she said.

Jutanugarn will have an opportunity to resume her run at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship in two weeks in Sammamish, Washington.

''She's going to have a lot of majors under her belt,'' Kim said. ''She's peaking at the right time.''

A year ago, Jutanugarn was mired in a slump in which she missed 10 straight cuts.

''Last year, I had chance to win a few tournaments, but I didn't know how to play with pressure,'' she said. ''This year, I know how to play under pressure.''



Jessica Korda (72) and Canada's Brooke Henderson (68) tied for third at 9 under. The 18-year-old Henderson has nine top-10 finishes this season. Third-ranked Lexi Thompson shot a 67 to tie for seventh at 7 under. The top-ranked Ko a 70 to tie for 16th at 4 under.

Before the breakthrough winning streak, Jutanugarn was best known for a pair of final-round meltdowns. Last month in the ANA Inspiration, she had a two-stroke lead with three holes left and closed with three bogeys to finish fourth - two strokes behind winner Lydia Ko.

''I didn't know how to control when I got very nervous,'' Jutanugarn said. ''After that, I got a lot more confident.''

In the 2013 LPGA Thailand at age 17, Jutanugarn blew a two-stroke lead with a closing triple bogey in a one-stroke loss to Park.

Jutanugarn opened the inaugural tournament at Travis Pointe with a 65, leaving her a shot behind Kim. Jutanugarn surged into the lead by two strokes with a 68 on Friday, and finished off a 73 on Saturday with a 15-foot eagle putt for a one-stroke lead over Kim and Korda.

The powerful player didn't need a driver this week, and still often outhit the competition off the tee with her 2-iron and 3-wood, which she uses to send balls 270 yards.

''She can hit it 320, 330, when she hits driver,'' Kim said.

And even if she was in the rough or sand at the Volvik Championship, Jutanugarn's deft touch put her in position to make par-saving putts or birdies.

Lightning in the area led to a 50-minute rain delay toward the end of Jutanugarn's front nine when she was 1 under for the day after a birdie at No. 6.

Facing a stiff, flag-flapping wind, she sent a tee shot into the right rough at No. 9. Her approach left her short of the green, but she got up and down for a par.

''She does things that I can't fathom,'' Kim said. ''It's beautiful to watch.''

As Jutanugarn walked off ninth green, she stopped to shake the hand of Army specialist Zachary Loughrige, who was tending the U.S. flag that was used in hole.

She pulled away from the field with birdies at Nos. 13, 14 and 16, earning a five-shot cushion at 14 under.

''I thought she was bored because she was sitting down,'' Korda said. ''She sat down on like the 16 tee and 18 tee, sitting, chilling in the shade.''

Long before that moment, everyone else was vying for position on the leaderboard behind Jutanugarn.

Korda said she was ''speechless,'' after playing in the final group with Jutanugarn.

''As long as she can keep that ball in play off the tee, watch out,'' she said. ''Keep watching out.''

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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.