Kuchar headlines Texas Open field lacking big names

By Associated PressApril 18, 2012, 10:39 pm

SAN ANTONIO – Remembering the Alamo at the Texas Open is easy, thanks to the giant photo backdrop behind the 18th tee.

The turnout, on the other hand, is somewhat forgettable.

The Texas Open has moved around on the PGA calendar and is now at a new course, TPC San Antonio, in hopes of luring golf's bigger names. Matt Kuchar, two weeks after his near miss at the Masters, headlines a lackluster field that Johnson Wagner called even weaker than usual.

It's a disappointing truth for a tournament that is eager for a bigger profile, and will get another shot next year when the PGA moves the Texas Open date for the fourth time in five years, this time to right before the Masters.

For now, Wagner, ranked fifth in the FedEx Cup standings, sees an opportunity.

''It's weaker than most of our fields out here. But the purse is huge and the golf course is tough and takes a lot of local knowledge – it takes experience to play well here,'' Wagner said Wednesday on the eve of the opening round. ''When picking this spot on my schedule, I tagged it as a possible contention spot.''

Brendan Steele won the $1.1 million prize last year, and is back to defend his only PGA championship after missing the cut in four of his last six events.

K.J. Choi, ranked 26th in the world, and Fredrik Jacobson are other marquee names. So is Kevin Na, who returns to the site of last year's infamous meltdown on No. 9, when he veered badly off course and hacked away before finishing the hole with a score of 16.

Na arrived in San Antonio with a sense of humor, wielding a chainsaw Monday in the woods at No. 9 while being filmed for a Golf Channel parody. But there was also some truth to the spoof: Responding to Player feedback, the native areas in the rough and four greens are among areas of the course scheduled to undergo a makeover by next year.

The Texas Open changed venues in 2010, but in just two years the course designed by Greg Norman and Sergio Garcia has already earned a reputation for being one of the toughest on tour. Last year's second-round average of 75.289, for example, was the highest on the tour since the 2008 British Open. Tony Piazzi, head of the Texas Open, said one player in an anonymous survey suggested, ''You need to blow up all 18 greens.''

Jordan Spieth, the nation's top-ranked college golfer at Texas and 2009 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, was humbled by his first brush with the course.

''It's the most difficult - well, it's extremely difficult,'' said Spieth, who is making his fifth PGA tournament appearance.

Kuchar, the world's 15th-ranked golfer, has made the cut at all eight tournaments he's played this year and finished tied for third at the Masters. While his peers chose to pass on the course this time, Kuchar said he began thinking he needed to add the Texas Open to his schedule after watching it on TV last year.

''I would hope guys that are the best in the world don't say that course may be too difficult for me. I hope that doesn't happen,'' Kuchar said. ''I think there are courses that are more enjoyable to play and some may be more fun than others. You might not walk off this course thinking you've had a great deal of fun up there.''

Wagner, the Sony Open winner, put it more bluntly.

''I'm sure a lot of guys coming off the Masters aren't looking to get beat up by a golf course right now,'' Wagner said. ''The more people that complain about a golf course just means that I have a better chance of winning.''

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.