Kuchar leads, as Palmer misses chance at 59

By Associated PressJanuary 24, 2015, 12:23 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. - Humana Challenge leader Matt Kuchar was asked if was surprised that there have only been six 59s on the PGA Tour and that no has shot 58.

''No. We're talking about golf,'' Kuchar said. ''It's a difficult game. It's a very challenging game. Fifty-nine, that's a lot under par. That is quite an amazing feat.''

Ryan Palmer was in position to do it Friday after playing an eight-hole stretch in 10 under. Needing to go 3 under on the final eight to shoot 59, he bogeyed the next two holes and ended up with an 11-under 61.

''Walking off 10, after I got to 10 under, I was staying calm, trying not to think about anything, just trying to keep my momentum going, my pace with my walk,'' Palmer said. ''It's hard not to think about it.''

After opening with two pars, Palmer had two eagles and six birdies on the next eight holes to match the longest eagle-birdie streak in PGA Tour history. He stumbled with the bogeys on the par-4 second and par-3 third and couldn't get a couple of late putts to fall.

''Couple loose swings there,'' Palmer said. ''I guess the bogeys did kind of calm me down a little bit more and I didn't worry about, obviously, the number.''

Palmer birdied the fourth and sixth holes and made another on the par-5 eighth after missing an 8-foot eagle try. A 59 no longer possible, he missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the ninth in a closing par.

The 38-year-old Texan holed out from 97 yards for eagle on the par-4 12th to start the streak on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Private Course. He birdied the next three holes, made a 20-foot eagle putt from the fringe on the par-5 16th and added three more birdies.

''I putted well,'' Palmer said. ''I didn't make anything long, except for the eagle on 16.''


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He tied the birdie-eagle streak record set by Billy Mayfair in the 2001 Buick Open and matched by Briny Baird in the 2003 FUNAI Classic. Mayfair and Baird were 9 under during their runs, making seven birdies and an eagle.

At 9-under 27, Palmer matched the tour record for relation to par for nine holes and was a stroke off the record of 26 set by Corey Pavin on a par-34 nine in Milwaukee in 2006.

Six players have shot 59 on the PGA Tour. Al Geiberger did it in the 1977 Memphis Classic, Chip Beck in the 1991 Las Vegas Invitational, David Duval on the Palmer course in the final round of his 1999 Bob Hope victory, Paul Goydos in the 2010 John Deere Classic, Stuart Appleby in the 2010 Greenbrier Classic and Jim Furyk in the 2013 BMW Championship. Ryo Ishikawa shot the lowest round on a major tour, a 58 to win the 2010 Crowns on the Japan Tour.

Palmer had a 12-under 132 total after opening with a 71 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club. He was three strokes behind Kuchar.

Kuchar, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 11, had a 64 on the Nicklaus course. He tied for third last week in Hawaii in the Sony Open.

''Game feels solid,'' Kuchar said. ''I feel like I know where it's going, feel like I'm hitting it in the center of the clubface.''

Bill Haas and first-round leader Michael Putnam were a stroke back. Haas had a 63 at La Quinta. He had nine birdies in a 10-hole stretch, making seven in a row on Nos. 2-8.

''The putter was what's got me in the hunt,'' Haas said. ''We don't play better greens on tour than these greens here.''

Putnam shot a 67 on the Arnold Palmer Private Course.

Justin Thomas, Nick Watney and Scott Pinckney were 13 under. Thomas had a 63, Watney shot 64, and Pinckney 67 - all on the Nicklaus course.

Two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton had a 66 at La Quinta to get to 12 under.

''I'm kind of surprised, but I had a really good offseason,'' Compton said. ''I'm more surprised with my emotions and temper. It's been a goal of mine just to be as steady as I can and to control the emotions.''

Phil Mickelson was 7 under in his first start since the Ryder Cup in September. He birdied his final five holes for a 66 on the Nicklaus course.

''It took me 31 holes to get my game to click,'' Mickelson said.

The 44-year-old Mickelson won the event in 2002 and 2004. He's winless in 27 PGA Tour starts since the 2013 British Open.

DIVOTS: Defending champion Patrick Reed, paired with Kuchar, was 9 under after a 70. He's coming off a playoff victory two weeks ago in Hawaii in the Tournament of Champions. ... Blake Adams followed his opening 64 on the Nicklaus course with a 79 at La Quinta. He had hip replacement surgery in July and is making his first tour start since March.

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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.